Up until 2008, I’ve never set foot in Tagaytay. That changed in February 2008, and I found myself going back several times since. When Robinson’s Land gave me a complimentary stay at Summit Ridge, their hotel in Tagaytay I gladly took this as a great excuse to go back.
Not that I need much reason to go back — I’ve gone with friends up to Tagaytay on a whim and would go in a heartbeat. The place is overly commercialized and very touristy, but it’s only 2 hours from Manila (1.5 hours on a good day) and you get that much needed change in scenery (not to mention the cool mountain air).
My friend Sunshine has been to Tagaytay before, but she haven’t had the chance to check out a lot of places. I took this chance to take her to some of my favorite places in Tagaytay. First stop in the trip was the People’s Park in the Sky. I’ve only been here once before, and I was looking forward to going back and exploring more.
The park was formerly known as the Palace in the Sky, an unfinished palace of former President Ferdinand Marcos, which was supposed to serve as a guest house for former US President Ronald Reagan during a state visit. Unfortunately, Reagan didn’t come, and Marcos fell out of power and the palace is now just a shell of its former glory. The palace is empty, save for shops selling all sorts of souvenirs, and the grounds were littered with tourists, cats and livestock. It’s the view that makes people come back, not the palace. Built atop Mt. Sungay, it’s the highest point in Tagaytay and offers stunning 360° views of the plains, lakes and mountains that surround Tagaytay.
From there we proceeded westwards, passing Mendez crossing for an early lunch at the Bag of Beans. This has been an instant hit with me, and I try to go everytime I find myself in Tagaytay. Known for their English pies, the Bag of Bean has a full menu from breakfast specials to hearty entrees. They also have rich desserts that tickle the tastebuds and coffee-based concoctions featuring the locally produced Barako beans. What makes the place endearing though, is not just the food, but also its relaxing ambiance. Set in a makeshift garden, Bag of Beans was able to create an atmosphere that can melt the stress away. Once inside, you won’t even notice that it’s right beside the busy National Highway. The dining area is mostly al fresco, but they have recently expanded to offer more covered dining areas if you don’t want to be too close with nature.
We would have stayed there all afternoon, if we weren’t too conscious of the time. From Bag of Beans, we continued driving towards Nasugbu for Paradizoo. I realize now that we ended up at Residence Inn’s mini zoo rather than the Paradizoo Theme Farm. On the way up to Tagaytay, I remembered this place a friend of mine went to before where she and her nieces fed bunnies. I Googled it, and found out that it was at Paradizoo. There was a map in the site I found, but I wasn’t able to save it on my phone. So as we were leaving Bag of Beans, I asked for directions. The boy who was selling souvenirs told me that it was just down the road, on the left side. I was puzzled by this, because I remember the directions in the map said to turn right at some point. After about 2 kilometers, we saw it on the left side, as the boy said. It bears the same name, rather, the same domain name. Is it a mini version of the farm or is it just a total rip off?
The entrance fee was only Php 100 for adults. Just inside the entrance were two cages: one for a tiger cub and one for a lion cub. Like all touristy places, you get a chance to have your picture taken with the big cats while feeding them. It’s Php50 for the bottle feeding, Php 199 for the photo if you want to buy it. The great thing about them is that you’re allowed to take photos on your personal camera. The cubs know the routine already, and they will circle you as soon as they’re out of the cage before settling on your lap for the feeding. After the cats, we went through the house where the reptiles are. I pretty much breezed through, not entirely comfortable with snakes and lizards, and emerged outside overlooking the lake.
Zip lines have been a big hit in the Philippines and you’ll be sure to see one in many destinations around the country. Residence Inn has a small zip line and cable car system that takes you from one end of the property to the other. There were shops, kiosks and a restaurant outside, as well as several more cages of animals. Bunnies, birds, monkeys, big cats, goats, miniature horses and even a llama can be found in the property, and you can feed them with fruits or veggies that you can buy for Php 20 a bag. Overall, the experience was okay, but nothing spectacular. Or maybe I’m just too old for it already.
Being night owls neither one of us slept earlier than 5am. By 4am, both our batteries were running low. We headed back towards Tagaytay’s center to check in at Summit Ridge. In Tagaytay, it’s the accommodation that are facing the lake that gets the most attention. If you’re on the other side of the road, you’d have to come up with something special to entice people. Summit Ridge compensates for this by building a high rise (not too high though, only 10 floors high), and having all rooms face the gorgeous lake. The views were partially blocked by the foliage, but overall, it’s still a pretty sight to see.
We rested and napped, and by 8pm, we were out again for dinner. We explored the shopping center right beside the hotel, but ended up driving elsewhere for the Tagaytay must-eat: bulalo. We went to Leslie’s. Because it was a Sunday night and after the dinner rush, the restaurant was almost empty. We shared a bowl of their original bulalo, and savored the warm broth and tender beef that is perfect for the city’s cool weather. After dinner, we hopped next door for tea and dessert. As we were digging into our cake, the fog rolled in. It was fascinating to see it coming towards us, and seeing our surroundings get hazy. It was a different story on the drive back — visibility dropped dramatically, and Sunshine had to drive with the hazards on. Lucky for us the Summit Ridge was distinctly different, else we’d have driven past it without noticing. The fog lights on the corners of the building helped out make out its shape in the thick fog.
The weekend was for relaxation, so after a full night’s sleep, we took it slow and just spent the morning at the hotel. Breakfast was included with the room, so we headed down to Annie’s, Summit Ridge’s in house restaurant. It was a buffet breakfast, but only the breads, fruits, cereal and beverages were spread out. Turns out they have a plated buffet, wherein you’d have to order a breakfast set from the menu, but you can order for as many plates as you want (but not in one go). This is done so that your food will come out hot and fresh from the kitchen.
Afterwards we walked around the property, mainly to check out the swimming pool. The pool looks inviting, but since it wasn’t heated and the temperature was still pretty low, we just took pictures and walked towards the Promenade. The Promenade is a small commercial complex with shops and restaurant. There’s also a supermarket, ATMs, forex, and salons. There’s even a small bazaar selling local goods from various parts of Cavite. We ended up buying souvenirs, household and personal items, even some plants for the garden. After stowing our shopping in the car, we headed back up to our room to pack up and check out.
We were taking the Aguinaldo Highway back to Manila, but we drove past it to buy pastries to take back to Manila. Loumar’s is another Tagaytay favorite of mine, and like the Bag of Beans, I make sure to drop by the shop every time I’m in Tagaytay. There was no need to check what’s on offer, I already know what to buy: one box of buko tarts, one box of apple tarts. Loumar’s have expanded their products to include English pies (sadly out of stock), and mini cheesecake to keep up with the competition.
Save for the Paradizoo stop, there wasn’t any real rush for us to go anywhere that weekend. I guess that’s the beauty of staying overnight in Tagaytay. While Tagaytay can easily be done in a day, staying for the weekend gives you more time to relax and enjoy the environment. Definitely doing this again!