On a road and food trip to the Lakeshore District of Batangas

ALA EH, kumusta ga?

Malambing they’re not. But Batangueños are open, friendly, and straightforward, with a temper that can be as strong and potent as the legendary kapeng barako. They are easy-going, and will always welcome a stranger who’d wander through their land steep in culture and blessed with natural attractions.

A-ah, ay ka galeng!

Through the years, government efforts to develop Batangas have resulted in excellent road networks, satisfactory infrastructure facilities for transportation, telecommunications and power. All these augured well to boost the province’s eco-tourism.

Today, visitors are continually drawn to Batangas because it is conveniently near Mega Manila, making its heritage, culture, natural resources, man-made landmarks easily accessible. Surprisingly, a day tour and even a weekend getaway are affordable to the average Juan.

So if you’re planning a trip to the Philippines and got just a few days to spend, you don’t have to go far. South of Manila just a couple of hours or even less is a destination that’s heaped with diverse attractions. And since the province is quite huge in terms of land area, you might want to take a tour of the Batangas Lakeshore District of three cities and five towns—Tanauan, Lipa, Sto. Tomas, Talisay, Malvar, Balete, Laurel, and Mataasnakahoy—that embrace the famed Taal Lake.

Its rich natural attractions—with Lake Taal, the Volcano Island, and Taal Volcano at its core—are incomparable. Its culture and heritage—vivid and intense. Its people—warm, friendly, and gracious. So what are you waiting for? Let’s go on a road and food trip in Batangas.

Handa ka na ga kabayan?

A slew of distinct, robust sing-song voices easily tell you that you’re in Batangas. From the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), make a short stop at any of the restaurants that line the highway along Sto. Tomas. This is where you’ll find the best-tasting piping hot bulalo—a Batangueño stew of slow-cooked tender beef shanks and bone marrow swimming in clear broth made more flavorful with vegetables like petchay, corn, potatoes, and cabbage.

Batangas Bulalo

After your initial taste of ala-eh cuisine, drive on to Tanauan City, the birthplace of Gat. Apolinario Maranan-Mabini. Know more about this genteel hero at the high-tech Museo ni Apolinario Mabini in Tanauan. One of the biggest museums under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the shrine exhibits the life and heroic deeds of Mabini. It is open from 8 am to 4 pm Tuesday to Sunday.

From the Mabini Shrine, head on to the Jose P. Laurel Memorial Library along Mabini Avenue, the ancestral home of the family of the late president Jose P. Laurel before it was donated to the government. This public library is open from 8 am to 5 pm.

An educational institution worthy of a visit is FAITH Colleges, located along the JP Laurel National Highway. Known for its innovation and technology-driven education, FAITH Colleges is dubbed as the garden campus of Batangas. Its expansive grounds feature the ASEAN Garden, the Japanese-inspired Serenity Garden, and the College Promenade where the statue of the Virgin Mary called Mater et Magistra (Mother and Teacher) atop a 30-ft vertical pillar watches over the entire campus.

The Mater et Magistra at the College Promenade watches over the entire campus of FAITH Colleges

FAITH Colleges is also home to notable art installations: the Tempus that stands at the heart of the ASEAN Garden and welcomes visitors to the high-tech NuSpace Center building is a work by multi-awarded artist Juan Sajid Imao.

The Tempus by Sajid Imao at the ASEAN Garden, FAITH Colleges

Designed to be interactive, the Tempus is a modernist rendition of three young individuals carrying a globe with a geodetically engineered sundial on top. Meanwhile, artist Julie Lluch created the larger-than-life bronze sculpture of Apolinario Mabini that was donated to the City of Tanauan. A replica of the Lluch sculpture may be viewed at the school’s Mabini main building. The school chapel—Mater Fidelium—is a treasure trove of artworks: here you will find the wooden crucifix and the Mother of the Faithful by Vox Angelus Bustinera, the Way of Mary by Nemi Miranda, and a wooden tableau of the Stations of the Cross by Angono artists.

Batangas Lomi

Next pit stop is the town of Malvar. You wouldn’t want to miss Batangas lomi. Check out the road side carinderias along the national highway for a taste of this authentic local noodle dish of hot soup thickened with cassava flour made more flavorful with the generous amount of meat cuts and seafood toppings.

At one of the honey bee farms of Balete

A-ah… ay ka-ganda

From here, head on to Balete for some rustic vibe. Drive to Balete through its winding rural roads dotted with honey bee farms. Farm owners will be more than glad to show you how they harvest wild honey, and offer you free taste of their produce. Of course you wouldn’t want to pass the chance to pick up some bottles of raw honey. You should also try their vinegar honey, perfect for fresh green salads.

Sacred Heart Tower Plaza, Marian Orchard

Make a full stop at Balete’s famed pilgrimage site, the Marian Orchard. Managed by the Marian Orchard FAITH Foundation Inc., the Orchard is a collection of gardens spread over five hectares of land filled with bougainvillea blooms, roses, yellow bells, and fruit-bearing trees. Points of interest are the Sacred Heart Chapel and Tower, Apostles Row, Halls of Petition and Thanksgiving, Dome of Mary Mediatrix, and the Marian Plaza where you will find the Chimes of Mary, 12 bronze-cast bells from the Netherlands. When at Marian Orchard, spend quiet moments of prayer and reflection at the Via Crucis, a linear garden with life-size statues depicting the passion of Christ, or pray the rosary at The Rosarium.

Two Hearts Promenade, Marian Orchard

After moments of reflection, it’s time to drive all the way down Balete’s national road that literally ends at the shores of the famed Lake Taal. Here, you can bask in glow of the golden sunset while enjoying a cup of a hot kapeng barako paired with suman.

Within a 5-minute drive away from the pilgrimage site Marian Orchard is the famed Lake Taal.

If you’re up to it, go kayaking or try your hand at rowing a dragon boat on Lake Taal. The more adventurous can explore the beauty of Batangas’ world famous treasure. Hop on a Taal Lake Cruise and navigate through Lake Taal to discover the numerous islands and rock formations that dot the lake on board the 30-seater Lady of the Lake catamaran, or the more romantic Queen Fisher yacht.

Go on a romantic cruise on Lake Taal onboard the chartered yacht Queen Fisher.

Enjoy nature at its best. The cruise will take you to the bird sanctuary of San Nicolas, one of the towns under the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape. Every year, migratory herons and egrets escape the cold winters and seek shelter in San Nicolas. You’ll also find kingfishers and ducks here. Find some time to go on a lava walk. The trek along the Lava Walk on Volcano Island in San Nicolas will take you over a terrain of black basaltic rocks that are actually hardened volcanic materials spewed by Taal Volcano in past eruptions. Before leaving the island, bring home some dried fish that is a source of income for the small local community on the island. Choose from biya, bangus, red tilapia, even shrimps—all caught from the lake.

Ginataang Tambakol
Crispy Tawilis

After the tour, take with you the delicious goodness of Batangas. Drop by Balete’s talipapa for some tawilis, the world’s only fresh water sardine. You shouldn’t miss sumang magkayakap, a local delicacy made from glutinous rice (kaning malagkit), wrapped in banana leaves, then bundled together. Best served with a special coconut caramel sauce. Yum!

Parine kayo!

After a full day, quiet down at Lima Park Hotel, cited as the 2018 TripAdvisor Travelers Choice and Top 25 Hotels for Families in the Philippines as voted by travelers worldwide. The first and only 4-star hotel in Batangas, Lima Park Hotel offers excellent service, well-appointed guest rooms, and unparalleled amenities.

Unwind by taking a few laps in the expansive Horizon Swimming Pool, pump up at the gym, take a spin on a bike, or jog amidst refreshing green pines while taking in the beauty of Mts. Makiling and Malarayat.The foodie in you should check out Brew Company for artisan coffee, cakes, pastries, and savory breads. The Asian Flavours serves local and Asian cuisine. On a more laid-back mood? Settle down at the La Terrazza Deck while watching the sky turn from fiery orange to a rich magenta before settling to the deep-set blue of the night. Take a nightcap at the La Terrazza Bar. Thursdays and Fridays are jazz and acoustics nights, while you can enjoy unlimited beer during happy hours every day of the week. When you are ready to call it a night, our turndown service will simply lull you to a good night of blissful sleep. May all your sweet dreams come true.

Rose Muñoz-Landicho

Peter Cons
Serica Rojas
Edison Manalo of WowBatangas.com

Lima Park Hotel
Lima Park Hotel

Lima Park Hotel is a 4-star hotel located inside the master-planned Lima Technology Center in Malvar, Batangas. It’s a 45 minute-drive from the Makati Business District via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the STAR Tollway. For room reservations and to book a tour, call +63 43 981.1555. Send an email reservations@limaparkhotel.com. Visit www.limparkhotel.com. Like us on www.Facebook.com/LimaParkHotel.

Spotlighting the growth, development, and progression of the Philippines since 2009. Balikbayan Magazine is a publication of the Asian Journal Media Group.