Even as I’ve read about it before, my personal encounter with Viaje del Sol happened during my short stay in Tahanan ni Aling Meding. That’s when I perused the VDS informative brochure deftly written by editor An Mercado-Alcantara. Viaje del Sol, meaning “the way of the sun,” is described as a map pinpointing significant spots in the highway traversing Laguna, Batangas and Quezon.
There are 16 places listed in this charming directory of must-see destinations. It’s a pity that I’ve only been to two, giving me more reason to go back soon. After all, the Labarzon area (for lack of a better word) is at most only two to three hours’ drive from Manila.
Which reminds me: there really should be more of these kinds of brochures promoting tourism in various localities because that’s the way it’s being done in other countries. If the government can spend for the junkets of its tourism officials and their padded contingent, I don’t see any reason why some of the funds can’t go to producing information materials like what we’ve seen in the Viaje brochures (shame, shame, shame!) We found the Viaje map to be outstanding with the right balance of text and graphics, complete with road directions, fees and contact info.
I thought readers of this website will find useful this directory of destinations found in Viaje del Sol:
In San Pablo –
Carlito’s Workshop– Step inside the abode of sculptor Carlito Ortega which is patterned after the great plantation homes of the American South. Watch him while at work, view his extensive collection of contemporary art, wander through his beautiful garden and sip the house’s special rice coffee. The workshop is open on Saturdays and Sundays, from 9 to 5. If you plan to go on weekdays, call (049) 246 3329.
Casa San Pablo -This is an old family compound transformed into a cozy country inn of seven rooms. Hammocks and lounging chairs outside ad to its lure; there’s also a swimming pool fed by a natural spring. Overnight stay with three meals is at P1,500 per person. Call 0917 5268628 or email casasanpablo @pldtdsl.net for reservations.
Colette’s Buko Pie – You’ve seen their commercial sign somewhere but the original base of this buko pie chain is in San Pablo. Their pasalubong store is open 24/7 and is adjacent to their very own Caffe Curio which serves various kinds of coffee, pasta and entrees like crispy adobo flakes. You can even have a tour of their baking facilities. Call Nory at (049) 5626754 or (0919) 3759009.
Pillar Plants and Novelties– A good place to shop for rustic furniture, lattice frames, capiz windows, collectible glassware, plants and native art pieces. There are three branches: one is inside the Kusina Salud Compound and two – including the main showroom – can be found in Lucena City. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m all days of the week. Call (042) 710 57 53.
Sitio de Amor Farm Resort – Spanning 4.5 hectares, one can enjoy the best of nature at this farm which is surrounded by the mountains and a river. It has been labelled as ideal for garden weddings and other large gatherings. One can enjoy a variety of activities such as horseback-riding, camping, having a picnic or just simply lazing around the vast property. Entrance fee is P100 with a minimum bill of P5,000 per group. Email email@example.com.
Successful Family Farm – Discover your green thumb by engaging in hands-on farming, hear a lecture about gardening and go harvesting – pick the best vegetables and pay for them. Lecture is P150 per head and lunch is P200. Tours are given for a minimum of 10 guests. Call Monette Dayrit Gaw at 0918- 3914922.
Tour of Sampalok & Pandin Lakes – Take a stroll down two of San Pablo’s seven picturesque crater lakes. Enjoy the park and the mansions surrounding Sampalok while in Pandin, take a 20-minute guided tour, ride in bamboo rafts and eat by the lake. Order a day ahead for the super-fresh & delicious ginataang hipon or bituol . Call environmentalist Mandy Marino at (049) 562 7404.
In Pansol, Laguna –
La Vista Pansol – Found in this huge complex are a five-storey water slide, 7000 square meters of natural warm spring swimming pools, seven conference halls, the Tree House Restaurant and their animal sanctuary which is home to some rare birds and animals. Call 5216078 (in Manila) and (049) 834 1121 (in Laguna.)
Pettyjohn Pottery Workshop – This place is perched on the foothills of Mt. Makiling with a great view of Laguna de Bay. You can have a demo conducted by Jon and Tessy Pettyjohn themselves but it must be arranged by appointment. Call 8120766 or (049) 545 1608.
In Tiaong, Quezon –
Villa Escudero Plantations & Resort – A popular tourist spot which gives guests an overview of hacienda living in the early 1900s.
Ugu Bigyan Potter’s Garden – High-quality glazed/ceramic pottery for sale. Comfy massages in native huts. AndI would like to try the lunch of fresh mussels, squid sisig, grilled tilapia and inihaw na liempo served in the house’s own hand-made plates and bowls. Telefax (042) 545 9144.
Earthkeepers’ Garden & Restaurant – Buy here houseplants and landscaping materials or sample organic fare at their restaurant. Especially recommended is the tinola using native chicken and the appetizer kulawo made of banana blossoms in coconut milk. Open from 6 am to 6 pm. Call (042) 545 7112.
In Dolores, Quezon –
Kinabuhayan Cafe – Drop by here if you’re on your way to Mt. Banahaw, sample their massage and cuisine. Bed & breakfast is P500 per head.
In San Jose, Batangas –
Casa Rap – Primarily described as a “greenhouse cafe in the midst of a self-sufficient and successful organic farm.” Savor here dishes identified with Batangas such as tawilis, kinilaw na tilapia and ube-buche paired with tanglad tea. Breakfast consists of lomi, pugon bread, and suman sa lihiya served with barako coffee. Set menus are P300 per head and rice toppings are also available. Open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call (043) 726-2873.