It was a gloomy day. Turbulence welcomed me while I was still in the plane. Wet pavements was the city’s red carpet and I, despite the dark and eerie weather, felt light and happy. I was wearing my new havas (thanks to Girlieanne)–white and gold, too pure to step on muddy streets. But slippers are slippers, and they are meant for the feet. And when they are for a pair owned by someone like me, the flops, cherished and loved, will be contested to endless wanderings.
In a recent break in Manila, my feet took me to Tiaong, Quezon. It’s a two hour drive from Manila and known as Mt. Banahaw’s home. My first stop was in Pulang Lupa (because of the red volcanic soil found in the area). Pulang Lupa is a complex of buildings with a library, an art gallery, a courtyard, and a small 350-seat outdoor duarter ampitheater. It has five guestrooms, billiard/entertainment rooms, and an outdoor chapel.
This place is full of stories. Known as a flag site for japanese soldiers where they held this place as a stretegic position during World War II, local folklore talks of hidden treasures, tunnels (still undiscovered to this day), and caves. The building was said to be constructed to hush furtive diggings in 1998 and visits from japanese clients with authentic-looking maps, security measures, and finally, the division of treasures are being whispered about Pulang Lupa. Beyond its mysticism, Pulang Lupa is a sanctuary for many birds and abundant in medicinal plants where the local community sources for concocting traditional remedies.
A Note: send an email for Pulang Lupa first before visiting —[email protected] as the owner may not be there and the place may not be ready to welcome you.
This is not my first trip to Quezon, but definitely my first stop in Tiaong. Girlie’s family came from Infanta (a first class municipality in Quezon says wikipedia)– marked, in my imaginary map, with rice fields and carabaos. I tagged along with Girlie when she came over for a visit after one eerie night in Davao, when she was all alone in her apartment, a pair of cold dead hands lovingly touched her feet. Her grandmother died and she didn’t visit her wake. Scared as sh*t, she, the morning after, decided to drop by Quezon to make her peace.
The Quezon province is popular for its Lambanog. Tiaong boasts of it,as well as Infanta –but it was in the latter that I have had my taste of it. Boasting, Girlie said that lambanog will not give us any hangover no matter how many bottles we take. Like an idiot I rejoiced at this news. Along with her aunt and her friend, three bottles of recycled Johnny Walker bottles were opened where the curdling coconut vodka was stored. I remember raisins and jackfruit in it as well. The drinking spree started around 2 in the afternoon and ended around 9 in the evening. The alcohol’s strength was subtle but nonetheless strong. And yes, it was true, no hangover the next morning, but moments after we stopped drinking, Girlie anne and I were tossing and turning, restless and crying, because our heads felt like it was hammered with an axe. I cannot remember how we slept, but it was not without difficulty. Miraculously, we woke up around four in the morning–fresh and light headed, as if last night was all but a bad dream.
So in my visit in Tiaong, I stayed away from the lambanog and tried other local delicacies instead. Every four in the afternoon, a market bazaar happens at the local market where local food is served. Dinner was cheap. For 50 pesos, you can order a stick of two big chicken breasts (bbq) — add 5 pesos and you get rice. I saw the long line of stalls and was hoarding food, skipping from one stall to another (yes, I am a pig). Everything was cheap because it was a bazaar for the locals.
This one is called dynamite. Siling labuyo (green finger chili) stuffed with ground meat and vegetables. I surprisingly like it.
For the night I found a sweet (not to mention affordable) place to stay in San Pablo City. Accommodations in Tiaong are kinda limited. Look for the A&P Suites Inn. It’s a sweet, “greek-revival” boutique hotel that is worth every penny :) Trust me on this.
The next day for breakfast, I went to Si Christina Gateau Sans Rival in San Pablo City. It is this little cafe near the rotunda that offers homemade sweets and good pasta.
I had baby back ribs, the classic burger, and of course, a ravioli.
had a coffee macchiato while skimming the desserts menu…yes, i was taking my time.
I told myself that I’m not gonna eat until dinner time so that rationalizes the desserts I ordered. I had red velvet cheesecake, red velvet cupcake, brazos de mercedes, and their own Si Christina Sans Rival.
The next stop was Ugu Bigyan Pottery Garden. Ugu Bigyan is a local artist in Tiaong and his workshop is a cluster of quaint huts, brick paths, and a lush garden. It reminded me of this pottery place I visited in Vietnam years ago– the pottery is also very similar to the ones BWL likes.
Pottery lessons are being offered every summer. Register as early as December for the master potter will only choose 4 students for his pottery sessions.
Lunch is also being served but reservations for lunch must be made with a minimum of five persons. Telefax (042) 5459144. Mobile (0917) 560 5708
How to get there: Drive past the Tiaong Public Market and watch for the Tiaong Elementary School. Five minutes from the school, watch for a sign pointing to Lusacan National Highschool, to your left. Turn left on the road near the sign. Follow the road and turn left on Alvarez Village. The house is the red clay house to your left.
Next stop was Sulyap Gallery.
It’s a mini-museum that showcases local furniture and other interesting facts and things about Quezon. This is my favorite place. My dad’s house, a two story, 8-bedroom house, once had furnitures like these. Growing up in an old house with sturdy narra chairs and cabinets, these bring good memories of my childhood.
…A porcelain water jug. In the “room” of Former President Marcos and of the First Lady.
And who could forget the wooden toy horse? Every Filipino family had this in the 80’s and 90’s for their kids to play with. I once had a blue version of this — a smaller one though. In my next visit, I will scour local antique shops for this kind of horse…if it is affordable , I might purchase one for the kids.
They also have a bed and breakfast for travelers staying overnight.
How to get there: Look for the Cocoland compound. All tricycle drivers know it. Exact address is Brgy. Del Remedio, Cocoland Compound, San Pablo City Laguna. Tel. nos. 5629735 / 5629740, Mobile nos.: Smart – 0920-9519185, Globe – 0917-5968760. Email: Email: [email protected]