Saturday, January 25, 2014

Getting high in Tagaytay

One day, a long time ago, when huge forests still covered the chilly parts of what is now known as Southern Cavite, a young native accompanied his father to hunt for wild boar. They searched the green ridge which fronts a silvery lake with a temperamental island in its midst called Bombón.

A long time ago, Taal Volcano was known as Bombón, an onomatopeic name given by the natives because of the volcano's booming sounds during explosions. In Tagaytay, this world-famous Batangueño volcano can be viewed from different vantage points.

After a long search for a quarry, they found a huge boar deep within the cold forests of the ridge. The chase was on. Accustomed to hunting, both father and son were nearly as fast as the boar. The hapless animal soon became aware of this, thus it had no other choice but to stop dead on its tracks, turn around, and attack its hungry pursuers. Father and son were surprised with the animal's desperate attempt for survival. In great panic, the boy alerted his father to immediately strike the beast with his bolo. "¡Tagâ, Itáy! ¡Tagâ, Itáy!"(Strike it, father, strike it!)

The frightened screams reverberated throughout the jungle, the valleys, and the ridge. It was heard by nearby residents and woodcutters. Puzzled with all that ruckus from the forest, the boy's screams soon became a hot topic among the peaceful natives. In the course of time, the surrounding area where the "¡Tagâ, Itáy!" echoed became known as "Tagaytay".

Filipinos are fond of legends explaining the origin of place names. In the Age of Information, legends like this are no longer acceptable. Nevertheless, they still titillate the minds of many. Even revolutionary Emilio Aguinaldo found it worthwhile to include in his memoirs another similar legend on how Tagaytay got its name:
While we were resting, an old friend of mine who used to hunt in Tagaytay told me how the place got its name. According to him, a Spaniard from Taal went up to Tagaytay one morning. There he met an old man and his son doing a caiñgin* apart from each other. The Spaniard asked the father for the name of the place:
"¿Cómo se llama este sitio?" (What is the name of this place?) But they did not understand each other because the old man did not speak Spanish. Because of miscommunication, the hot-headed son from afar impatiently cried to his father: ¡Tagâ, Itáy! ¡Tagâ, Itáy! (Strike him, Father! Strike!). So the Spaniard exclaimed, "¡Ah, Tagaytay!"
(From Aguinaldo's Mga Gunita ng Himagsikan; translation mine).
I wonder how deep Aguinaldo's Tagalog was. Didn't he even know that Tagaytay is a Tagalog word for ridge? Maybe because he spoke more Spanish than Tagalog. But what about Tagalogs today? How come they don't even know this? Too much Taglish and English? Anyway, the term "Tagaytay Ridge" is redundant because both words mean the same thing.

This may all seem trivial to many for what matters the most is Tagaytay's magnetic appeal: its favorable climate and relaxingly awesome sceneries. This Caviteño city by the ridge has become the favorite haunt of millions of city dwellers, particularly those from the Metro Manila area, to escape the urban heat. Because of its nippy climate and outstanding vista of the forested ridge and Taal Lake and Volcano in Batangas, it has become one of the country's most popular tourist destinations. Add to that its proximity to the National Capital Region.

We visited Tagaytay —for the nth time— last January 12 not only to enjoy the cold, refreshing air but also as a treat to Jefe who was to celebrate his seventh birthday the following day, a Monday. That's why we thought of giving him a birthday pasiál a day earlier.

A relaxing view of Mahogany Avenue. This road leads to where the City Hall complex is (to the left). We were on our way to Mahogany Market for lunch.

We arrived in Tagaytay by lunchtime, so we had to eat. Preggy Yeyette was then craving for some steamy bulaló**. The people at the Tagaytay Public Market recommended that we visit Mahogany Market which is near the city hall. So off we went there. I have to admit that I frowned upon arrival because I'm used to eating in fancy restaurants. Not that I'm "sosyál" or anything, but it's just that I'm not really used to eating in such places. And the huge crowd that met us really turned me off. However, this crowd was different. They're not just ordinary peeps but those with big, shiny cars. Some even brought with them their well-groomed dogs. And they were all dressed smartly. All these trappings betrayed their social status. This means that Mahogany Market's bulaló stalls are of good reputation. They're not just ordinary carinderia stalls. And yes, their bulaló and fried biyá*** is as at par with those fancy restaurants that I adore.

For those who do not know yet, the average altitude of Tagaytay is around 2,200 feet above sea level (FASL) which is a little less than half of Baguio's 5,050 FASL. The southern and eastern portions of this component city are covered by hills and mountains which are still generously covered by forests and open grasslands. The city lies along the redundant name Tagaytay Ridge which stretches about 32 kilometres from Mount Batuláo in the west (Nasugbú, Batangas) to Mount Suñgay (People's Park in the Sky) in the east. The ridge overlooks Taal Lake and its volcano, and this perfect vista allowed Tagaytay to enter the tourism industry. Many tourist lodges, hotels, and specialty restaurants have sprouted throughout the years (me and Yeyette had a memorable stay at The Lake Hotel during our honeymoon last year). A favorite hangout of ours is One Destination, a strip of fancy restaurants and bars, because of its relaxing view of the lake. My favorite spot there is a branch of Starbucks Coffee where I could sit all day gazing at the majestic beauty of Taal's Volcano Island while sipping some cold coffee beverage while (with some book of course). These tourist establishments have become the source of much of the city's income. 

But Tagaytay also has many other tourist spots that we have not yet visited such as the Japanese Friendship Garden, and The Puzzle Mansion, Sky Fun (where the country's tallest ferris wheel could be found), and Tagaytay Picnic Grove. Last January 12, we went to the Nuestra Señora de Lourdes Church which we have not yet visited before.

Right after lunching at Mahogany Market, we visited this sacred place.
Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Lourdes. This structure is actually a newer version as it was inaugurated and blessed only on 12 February 2003 and was consecrated on 2 February 2008. On both occasions, Church rites were officiated by then Diocese of Imus Bishop Luis Antonio Tagle who is now the Archbishop of Manila (and Cardinal-Priest of San Felice da Cantalice a Centocelle). The old church is toward the southwest of the church grounds.

Momay, Yeyette, Juanito, and Krystal in front of the original structure of Our Lady of Lourdes. Built by the Order of Capuchin Friars Minor in 1940, it is the oldest edifice in Tagaytay. Our Lady of Lourdes is a patroness of these friars. Interestingly, they used to have a church in Intramuros that was also dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. Additional trivia: I was also baptized in a church in Lucena, Tayabas (now Quezon) province which is also dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.

After a brief prayer and tour at the church, we then proceeded to our most favorite spot in Tagaytay: where else but in People's Park In The Sky?! Yes, we like it higher and colder!

The scenic "People's Park In The Sky" on top of Mount Suñgay. But due to poor management, this place is now called "Eople's K N The Sky".

 view of Taal Lake and its Volcano Island. The road below is the Tagaytay-Calamba Road which connects this part of Cavite to La Laguna province.
At 2,351 FASL, Mount Suñgay/People's Park In The Sky is the highest point in Tagaytay. On a clear day, one can see from here not just Taal Lake but also Laguna de Bay and the bays of Manila, Balayán, and Batangas.

It's not cold up here... it's FREEZING!

The park is covered with clouds. Yes, clouds, not fog. Because this place is on top of a mountain.

People's Park In The Sky was an unfinished project by former First Lady Imelda Marcos. It is situated on top of Monte Suñgay. Years ago, a couple of wiseguys who thought they were more intelligent than their house rats changed its name to Mount Nicolás Gonzales in honor of the patriot who was once stationed there. Thankfully, nobody today is buying that historical crime. Caviteños such as my father-in-law still call it Suñgay.

Anyway, the place was to be called Palace In The Sky when construction started there in 1979 (casíng bata co palá itó). It is said that Mount Suñgay was leveled to about half of its former prominence to accommodate the mansion that was originally intended as a guesthouse for former California Governor Ronald Reagan who never arrived. When the 1986 People Power Revolution broke out and toppled the Marcos dictatorship, construction was halted. The half-finished mansion can still be seen at the site. It was renamed People's Park In The Sky.

We stayed until the skies got dark and we were the only tourists left there. The place was well-lit. However, thick clouds covered the site, exuding a beauty that is both freezingly eerie and captivating at the same time. People's Park In The Sky is worth seeing this way!

The bright lights of the mist-covered Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love and the enormous statue of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ give out a terrifyingly beautiful effect. This small shrine was inaugurated on Valentine's Day 2003 and was blessed also by then Bishop Tagle.

Before going home, we had dinner at Bali Seafood Palutò. We feasted on steamed mussels with sweet Thai chili, blue marlin, tinolang halaán or clam stew, grilled eggplant salad, and leche flan for dessert. Their hot clam stew was the perfect complement to the cold weather.

But Tagaytay is more than just a tourist spot and a place for spiritual renewal. It also had its fair share in Philippine History. During the Tagalog rebellion against the Spanish regime, Tagaytay served as the connecting link between Cavite and Batangas where many rebels were situated. Tagaytay was nothing but jungle when Aguinaldo and his troops passed it en route to Talisay, Batangas where they captured the entire 72nd Battalion of the Spanish colonial army. It is also interesting to note that about a third of Tagaytay's total land area used to belong to the wealthy Laurel clan of Batangas. But they had it sold to pay for lawyer's fees when a young José P. Laurel, Jr. (who was to become the country's president during the Japanese Occupation) got involved in a stabbing incident.

This Tagaytay trip was our early birthday treat for Jefe.

We Filipinos are a tropical people. As such, we get excited whenever there is a drop in temperature because we have been dealing with the heat for most part of the year. Even during the rainy season, it almost immediately heats up right after a typhoon. That is why we love to punish ourselves whenever this time of the year arrives by going to places such as Baguio and Tagaytay where temperature becomes ice-cold from December to February.

My family has been to Tagaytay many times already as it is our favorite city, mainly because of its cool climate. We've been here several times but we never get tired of visiting it. And what makes it enticing for us to visit Tagaytay that often is because of its proximity to our place. Recently, we've noticed a spike in land development. Several villages and buildings have sprouted here and there. Nevertheless, we are thankful that Tagaytay has not lost its charm and beauty.

But hey, it's not just that famous view of Taal Volcano that makes us visit Tagaytay over and over again. It's not just the place's altitude, nor its preferrable climate, nor its strategically located restaurants, nor its very friendly people. It's Tagaytay's totality itself that makes us keep on coming back.

Click here for more photos of our cold Tagaytay escapade!


TRIVIA: Tagaytay was originally Aguinaldo's choice as the capital of the Philippines because of its strategic military value as well as its potential as a summer capital. He opposed plans of making Novaliches, a former town that is now a district in Quezon City, as the capital because it is within cannon range of battleships in Manila Bay. Many years later eventually, Quezon City became the capital of the country. Aguinaldo's choice may have been proven correct because during the Japanese Occupation on 3 February 1943, the U.S. 511th Parachute Regiment of the 11th Airborne Division chose Tagaytay Ridge as the site to airdrop military supplies and personnel. From there, they launched a massive northward offensive towards Manila.

Dark, foreboding skies. But no, it didn't rain nor drizzle during our visit.


*Clearing land of grass and trees for cultivation
** A steaming bowl of beef shanks with bone marrow usually with pechay, potatoes, corn, and sometimes a few sliced of sabá, a type of banana.
*** Dwarf pygmy goby (Pandaka pygmaea).

Special thanks to the Philippine Daily Inquirer for mentioning our Tagaytay trip!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Send us some love!