Viaje Del Sol (Laguna and Quezon)

Travel Blog by J
28 March 2009

A group of friends and I followed "The Way of the Sun" (Viaje del Sol) and found ourselves in a good mix of eclectic, historical and artistic places. Viaje del Sol is a brainchild of famous Philippine designer Patis Tesoro which includes about 40 member establishments located in Laguna and Quezon. Viaje del Sol is not a packaged tour but only an itinerary suggestion for those who would like to go on an art and culture road trip. All you need is a car, a map and a little of bit of spontaneity!

1st stop: Jose Rizal's Birth Place (Calamba, Laguna)
This isn't really part of Viaje del Sol. I just wanted to go there again. This is actually just a replica as the original was destroyed. This was inaugurated in 1950 after its construction ordered by then President Elpidio Quirino. Entrance is free.

the dining room

2nd stop: Cafe Lago by Sampaloc Lake (San Pablo, Laguna)
Owner Mandy Marino warmly greeted us when we arrived. Our beautifully set table was waiting for us under a light canopy of plants. We ordered their specialty, Dory wrapped with mustasa (mustard leaves) in Coconut Milk, Pako (wild fern) Salad, Buttered Chicken and Lenggua. His 4-storey house has a fantastic view of Sampaloc Lake, dotted by small fish pens and bancas. Sampaloc Lake is the largest of San Pablo’s Seven Lakes.

Our group with Cafe Lago's owner, Mr. Mandy Marino

pako salad

Dory wrapped in mustasa

3rd stop: Boat Tour at Lake Pandin (San Pablo, Laguna)
We then headed to nearby Lake Pandin, which was accessible only by a good 15-20 minute walk on unpaved ground. The view of the lake from the clearing was so serene. Our local guide then escorted us on a large bamboo raft which took us around the lake. We had a restful ride while sipping fresh coconut juice and listening to the local’s stories about the lake. Only by prior arrangement, one can also choose to have lunch on board the raft.

We also got to see neighboring Lake Yambo by hiking up a short steep trail.

enjoying our fresh coconut drink

4th stop: Casa San Pablo (San Pablo, Laguna)
After the boat tour, we headed back to our home base -- Casa San Pablo. We were warmly greeted by its owner, Boots Alcantara. Casa San Pablo sits on 7 hectares of sprawling gardens dotted by quaint houses, cozy nooks and hammocks. No two rooms are the same. Each has its own distinct character. Ours was a room decorated by Boots' bountiful collection of Hot Wheels and Disney's Cars! Breakfast was lovely the morning after – chicken and pork adobo, salted red egg and tomatoes, deep fried daing (a kind of fish) and hot chocolate with pinipig (pounded rice flakes).

our room had 5 individual beds and a long table;
this space can be converted into a conference room

nice pieces of furniture in every corner

5th stop: Ugu Bigyan's Secret Pottery Garden (Tiaong, Quezon)
Augusto “Ugu” Bigyan’s workshop in Tiaong, Quezon showcases his ceramic ware which include decorative pots, dinnerware sets, tiles, chimes and other accent pieces. For a group of 10 or more, a pottery-making demo can be arranged. Too bad though that we missed it by an hour. Despite that, we were welcomed to stroll in his lush garden which was obviously well taken care of. His garden reveals charming huts free to relax in, a koi pond, and fountains. Lunch can be served but must be arranged in advance.

through the arch is the well-kept garden

Balinese-inspired nook

with ceramic artist Augusto "Ugu" Bigyan

6th stop: Kinabuhayan Café Bed and Breakfast (Dolores, Quezon)
We arrived in Production Designer Jay Alcala-Herrera's Café and B&B in time for dinner. The place was made cozy with all the twinkle lights, candles and incense. A typical bahay kubo (nipa hut) serves as basic accommodation. Set meals are Php 500.00 per head which includes the main course, salad, dessert and bottomless coffee and tea. For that night, we were served a heaping plate of Osso Buco, Risotto, garden salad, pineapple upside-down cake and a glass of Lambanog (arrack). During dinner, let Jay entertain you with his anecdotes about anything under the sun!

Having our dinner during the Earth Hour.  Lights out!

Osso Buco, Risotto and garden salad

with Kinabuhayan Cafe owner, Jay Herrera

7th stop: Kusina Salud (San Pablo, Laguna)
Kusina Salud is the weekend getaway of well-known Filipino textile artist, Patis Tesoro. Her home presents an interesting mix of Filipino and Asian-inspired eclectic pieces. Their Sunday Lunch Buffet included crispy noodles, carabao shepherd’s pie, fried chicken, fish, fresh spring rolls with peanut butter sauce, and ginataang bilo-bilo (rice dough balls cooked in coconut milk). The meal costs Php 600.00 per head.

Outside is an aviary and a collection of potted plants for sale.

the main dining area


8th stop: Pillars, Plants and Novelties (San Pablo, Laguna)
This is just the novelty shop of Kusina Salud.

wood carvings sold here

9th stop: Sitio de Amor Bed and Breakfast (Laguna)
Its owners, George and Amor Bondad, showed us around their 4.7 hectare property which is home to many fruit-bearing trees and a few private casitas. Having been the choice venue for a couple of dream weddings, Sitio de Amor is still being improved and developed as we speak. In the works are an infinity pool and a few more casitas. The owners said that the best time to go back is in July for rambutan-picking.

with the owners, George and Amor Bondad

a house that can fit a large family or group -- perfect for mini-breaks


In July 2009, we took a spur-of-the-moment road trip to Liliw. My parents wanted to see the "batis of Liliw" which they used to visit even before I was born. There's no brook anymore but the quaint town is still charming. Liliw is famous for its 'tsinelas' (slippers). I was particularly looking for the 'alpombra' -- the slippers my great grandma used to wear but I didn't see one while I was there. A shopkeeper said that what they have there now are shoes made in China. So sad to hear that.

one of the streams we saw along the road

We had heard good things about Arabela Restaurant so we took our lunch there.  Arabela is one of the destinations in the Viaje Del Sol.  The place reminded me just a little bit of Serendipity III in New York because of the knick-knacks found here and there and the eclectic pieces of decor.

Their thin-crust pizza was good!

Light pasta with shrimp

cozy interiors

And since we were there already, we also visited the Catholic Church of Liliw. 

One of the things I like about driving thru the countryside is the opportunity to buy fresh fruits along the way.  It was July -- the season of rambutan!  It is not often that we find a lot of these in Manila so it was a very sweet treat that rambutan was sold everywhere here :)


There were also bananas...

and avocados...

...and a huge jack fruit!

* Photos are Skycab's own.