Saturday, December 29, 2012


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year!

Some of our Manila friends took us on an overnight to Tagaytay on Thursday and Friday.  Tagaytay and Lake Taal are about a two hour drive south of Manila and the closest cool weather getaway from the capital.  The weather was noticeably colder, similar to the temperatures and drier air we had in Hong Kong.  It’s a very different experience being tourists accompanying other locals than as foreigners on our own and our trip would be very difficult to replicate without them.  They picked us up in late morning from our apartment and we arrived at Sonya’s Garden in Tagaytay for lunch just before noon.  As the road climbed up to the ridge of the mouth of the volcano (check out the links in the second sentence on Tagaytay and Lake Taal) we passed by several shops selling handmade wooden furniture and many fruit stands, although we later learned that much of the fruit sold there is actually grown in other cities and that the prices are hiked up for all of the tourists visiting Tagaytay.  Pineapple is the one local fruit of Tagaytay and we saw hectares and hectares (no one measures with acres here) of pineapple fields.  Each pineapple plant only produces one fruit at a time and a new plant can grow simply by planting the chopped off top of a pineapple fruit.  This video shows how to twist off a pineapple when it is ready to be harvested.  We sampled jackfruit or langka for the first time at one of the fruit stands we passed.

We had a deliciously fresh lunch at Sonya’s Garden.  It’s become a very popular destination for weddings and almost all of their produce is grown on site.  Our menu featured unlimited salad and pasta, both with unlimited fresh toppings.  A simple meal but fun presentation and comforting to taste flavors from home.  It was our first time having pesto since leaving the U.S.

After lunch we stopped by Marian’s family’s vacation home on the ridge to get a view of Lake Taal.  Most of Tagaytay is located on a busy highway with no sidewalks, but the buildings on the lake side of the ridge highway really do have great views of the lake and the smaller volcano located within Lake Taal.  Still stuffed, we piled back in the van and stopped to buy dinner, including espasol, at a local market before heading over to the vacation home of RJ’s godmother, where we stayed for the night.  We had mentioned a few months ago that we would love to learn how to make turons at some point, so RJ bought ingredients and Marian taught us to make the them. 
Making turon:
We had a great time preparing them and the turons turned out well.  For dinner RJ and Noel prepared crablets and tawili—mini crabs and teeny fish.  We ate the entire crab, yes the entire crablet, claw and all.  This might be the food with the most bragging rights for being adventurous that we’ve had here so far.  Both the crablets and tawilis taste like some weird super crunchy and salty thing…

The next morning we had a nice walk through South Ridge Estates, the housing division of RJ’s godmother’s home.  We passed by some enormous houses, almost all of which are only vacation homes.  We packed up and checked out Ferdinand Marcos’ unfinished mansion at People’s Park in the Sky, which was similar to our experience at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong with its beautiful view completely blocked by dense fog.  (This mansion is part of the legacy Marcos was able to build because of his high ranking on this list. ) They took us to a fast food brunch at Chic-Boy along the ridge, which had great views of Lake Taal, and by Rowena’s bakery for some coconut tarts before we headed back to Manila. 

Ateneo is closed until January 7 and we’re planning on a quiet week of work at Coffee Bean on Katipunan until campus reopens. 

lots of fruit on side of road on way to Tagaytay
getting some langka (jackfruit) 
inside Sonya's Garden
one of the table options in one of the many gardens

cool pitcher plants
3/4 of our friends at our lunch table. inside a giant green house
it was actually a bit chilly up here
endless salad with lots of good toppings
endless pasta with lots of good toppings

Their dog, Bella. The shirt to keep her warm in this 70 degree weather says "High Maintenance."

checking out Caleruega retreat area
this is how pineapples grow, you twist off the fruit when it's ready

Caleruega church
beautiful view

back in Tagaytay. Marian's family's house is on the right
Their view of Lake Taal 
Making turon in house of RJ's godmother. first separate the lumpia wrappers
turons rolled and ready to fry
finished product
espasol - sticky rice with macapuno
lots of turons!
little crabs (eaten whole) and tawilis
fried tilapia
bulalo - bone marrow soup
view in the morning after the fog lifted
cool moth on the window
house where we stayed. Rj's van in lower right
nice morning walk in Southridge estate. Felt like California 
some huge homes
pineapple farms all over

People's Park in the Sky - once again our trip to a scenic overlook was met with heavy fog
Marcos' unfinished mansion on the highest point of Tagaytay
hard to see the views of Lake Taal today...

someone selling taho near the souvenir stands
lots of hats and scarves for the 70 degree weather
little purses made out of dead frogs

walk back down to the parking lot. Jeepneys give people ride up.
this has seen better days
lots of beautiful decaying structures

brunch along Tagaytay ridge in fastfood joint

stop at Rowena's on way out to get buko (coconut) tarts

(photo from RJ)
Bella on jeepney ride up to People's Park in Sky (photo from RJ)

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