2020 started off rather explosively and was followed by an outbreak.
The eruption of the long-dormant Taal Volcano in Tagaytay marked January and February, with the volcano expelling ash within a wide radius. This was followed by the Covid-19 pandemic that began in mid-March with the enhanced community quarantine declaration for the entire Luzon landmass (which is still ongoing.)
Many companies established work-from-home setups in compliance with the declaration, which included the company I currently work for. My work shift is from 6:00 am to 3:00 pm – not a problem for a morning person like me. To stave off boredom brought about by isolation, I decided to work on a lot of pending entries including this one.
This two-part series will tackle our family trip to Tagaytay in January of last year (2019). We went there from Thursday to Saturday as my mother wanted to celebrate her 60th birthday differently. It has been more than a year since that trip (mom is 61 now), and I figured that this quarantine period would be a good time to finally work on publishing this.
Without further ado, let me begin.
3 January, 08:00-11:00
We left the house at around 8:00 in the morning. EDSA was the usual jam-packed highway that it was, but it was smooth sailing past Shaw Boulevard to SLEX. Southbound traffic was relatively light, given that it was just Thursday. The traffic flow to Tagaytay would usually start piling up at around Friday. At around 11:00, we were already at the Tagaytay Rotunda looking for a spot to have lunch. We then decided to have lunch at JT’s Manukan Grille, with an overlooking view of Taal Volcano and the surrounding lake.
JT’s Manukan Grille is a Filipino restaurant serving inasal (roasted chicken) and other dishes from the city of Bacolod, Negros Ocidental. The restaurant takes its name from the initials of owner and actor Joel Torre, who set up JT’s with his wife. Food Wars Asia featured JT’s Manukan Grille in its Chicken Inasal episode, with the joint scoring a victory.
Given Torre’s acting chops in the local film scene, the restaurant features posters of movies he appeared in. (Personally, I still like his role as Simoun in the late Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s “Jose Rizal.”)
3 January, 11:30-14:00
We then proceeded to Taal Vista Hotel with full bellies and proceeded to confirm our reservation. Check-in time was 2:00 in the afternoon so we walked around the hotel. We usually stopped by the hotel in previous visits to have some photos and enjoy the view. I never thought that we would be staying here after merely putting it as a stopover.
Taal Vista Hotel is the premier five-star hotel in the area. It is conveniently located along the Tagaytay-Nasugbu highway, the city’s main thoroughfare. Its history goes back to the Commonwealth period under Manuel Quezon, with the actual structure being built in 1939 as the Taal Vista Lodge. It became a popular destination in the 50s and 60s but fell into dormancy after that. Among the lodge’s visitors was a young Henry Sy – the taipan behind SM Group – who then acquired the hotel in 2002 and renovated it in the style of the original lounge.
We headed to our room as soon as the staff confirmed our reservation and gave the keys to our room. Dad then took a nap for a short while since he was driving for a good chunk of the day. While he was asleep, Mom asked us for any points of interest we could visit later in the evening. I suggested two places: Museo Orlina (an art space featuring the works of glass sculptor Ramon Orlina) and Puzzle Mansion (a museum home to the largest puzzle collection), as we didn’t want to visit another mall.
3 January, 16:30-17:30
Mom told Dad about Puzzle Mansion after he woke up. I then looked up the locations for both; the Puzzle Mansion was nearer. It was then decided – to Puzzle Mansion we go. The road going there had a lot of twists and turns but directional signs made it easier to find. We reached the place, paid the entrance fee of P100/person, and enjoyed the puzzle displays.
What exactly is the Puzzle Mansion? This museum-cum-bed and breakfast holds the puzzle collection of the late Georgina Gil-Lacuna (d. 2014), who currently holds the Guinness World Record for the largest puzzle collection. Originally a private rest house for the immediate family, it was opened to the public after she passed away. More than 1,000 puzzles in different forms and sizes can be found there, featuring signature artworks to pop culture icons.
The upper floors of the mansion are host to mural-size puzzles patiently assembled by Lacuna, including one by New York artist Keith Haring. In addition, the entire complex employs locals and gives them a source of income. One of the tour guides there (his name escapes me right now) left a good mark on me. He wore many hats: tour guide, photographer, museum marshal, maintenance staff, and more. In addition to his multiple trades, he was rather knowledgeable – telling me that he needed to be since his children look up to him. Kudos to you, good sir!
3 January, 18:00-22:00
From Puzzle Mansion, we then headed over to Robinsons Tagaytay (across Josephine’s Restaurant) for a supply run. We bought bottled water, instant coffee, and some snacks so we won’t have to take a lot from the in-room pantry.
We then headed to Shakey’s to have dinner. Dad had a Shakey’s Supercard, which became handy in this instance. After dinner, we checked the different outdoor stalls and strolled around to help the food go down. It was early January, and the weather still necessitated wearing rather thick outerwear.
Once the post-dinner throng of people started dwindling, we returned to Taal Vista Hotel and called it a day.
That sums up the first part of this Tagaytay trip. Until the next post, watch out for part 2!