When you are free on a day, wanting to momentarily break away from work and wander somewhere, you may want to explore and experience Laguna. Laguna is close to my heart because of the richness of its culture and nature. In this article, I am featuring the spots in three towns which I and my friends, Marco and Lenie, visited on separate days in 2015. Our first stop is at Liliw town, which begins this travel plan.
1. Admire the age-old Liliw Church. The old Church of Liliw, Saint John the Baptist Parish Church, attracts its visitors with its baroque architecture adorned with brownish red bricks. Research showed that the construction of the stone church began in 1643. Notice the intricate designs of the church façade and the curvatures of the roof edges.
2. Buy footwear at the Liliw business district.
You know you are in Liliw when you see a huge Slipper mounted on a building at the plaza, a walking distance from the Church. Liliw is the Footwear Capital of Laguna. Neighboring shops, small and medium enterprises, sell locally-made quality slippers, sandals and shoes at budget-friendly prices. 🙂
The shoe stores offer voluminous designs to choose from. Businessmen get their wholesale products here. Even tourists endure the long travel to bring home the latest and hottest designs. The famous store in Liliw is Badong’s Footwear Factory. I canvassed for authentic leather shoes and saw one sold at P700.00.
3. Dine at the famous Arabella Café in Liliw. After strolling along the business district, turn to the corner of Rizal Street and satisfy your taste buds with comfort foods from this cozy, Italian restaurant owned by Bobby and Tonet Camello. The café opens just in time for lunch. It offers steaks, pizzas, pastas, salads, pastries, cakes and coffee.
When we arrived, the cafe was jampacked with customers. The place exhibits a bohemian ambience, but is rather small and ceiling is a bit low. Nevertheless, food is great.
Beside the cafe, you may buy pasalubong from a group of vendors selling espasol, kamote chips, banana chips, macapuno balls, pastillas, and many more native delicacies. A lady sells paco leaves and at times, talangka (small crabs) and suso (freshwater shellfish).
4. Reconnect with history at the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery
This Spanish colonial architecture never stops to amaze me. The National Historical Institute has declared the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery (Sementeryo sa Ilalim ng Lupa ng Nagcarlan) as the “only one of its kind in the Philippines.” It was built by the Franciscan missionaries led by Fr. Vicente Velloc in 1845.
History tells us that this national heritage served two functions many years back, that is, as burial site and as secret meeting place of the Filipino revolutionaries. The chapel found at the entrance was where the priest used to hold the funeral rites of the deceased before the burial. The crypt, aside from being a burial site, was where the Laguna revolutionaries planned for their battles against the Spaniards in 1896.
The cemetery is open to the public from Sundays to Tuesdays between 8:00AM to 4:00PM. Entrance is free, but donations are much welcome. Guests are encouraged to register in the guest book provided at the entrance of the chapel.
Features (please click the pictures to view captions)
I thought the crypt was long and wide. Its area was rather small and with few tombs… so I suggest not to expect much 🙂
5. Visit Nagcarlan Church. The old stone church of Nagcarlan, San Bartolome Apostol Parish Church, was built in 1752. Inside the church, a model of a classic royal balcony (for one person) hang on the left walls.
Several review articles told that the 2005 Filipino soap opera television series Kampanerang Kuba (starred by Anne Curtis) inspired from its movie in 1974 (starred by Vilma Santos) were both shot in this ancient church.
6. San Pablo Cathedral.
7. Bike around Sampaloc Lake in San Pablo City.
Sampaloc lake is one of the famous seven lakes of San Pablo City. We hired a bicycle at P20.00 and breathed fresh air as we biked around the 3.7 kilometer lane that encircled the lake. We came across these high-spirited kids diving and enjoying the cool lake waters.
Hungry or thirsty? Food stalls offering barbecue, snacks and drinks line up along the lakeshore. If you are biking, midway you’ll find a store selling fishballs, squid balls, kwek-kwek, softdrinks and mineral water.
Other lakes include Mohicap, Palakpakin, Calibato, Bunot and the twin lakes of Pandin and Yambo.
8. Don’t miss the Spicy Halo-Halo of San Pablo City.
Spice up your trip with the mouth-watering Spicy Winter Halo-Halo at Ben’s Halo Halo Ice Cream in Brgy. Bagong Bayan. It is a great summer treat at P75… and a rainy day treat too as the siling labuyo mixed with gelato will warm the body during the cold season.
The owner, who was formerly an OFW in an Italian restaurant, mixed the Italian concept of gelato ice (instead of shaved ice) and Pinoy ingredients, giving the halo-halo a distinct creaminess. The halo-halo is loaded with saba, macapuno, white bean paste, and the gelato is topped with ube, langka and leche flan, with chili powder and siling labuyo for a blast!
The snackhouse also offers variation of coolers such as Ben’s original halo-halo, macapuno con yelo, banana con yelo and mais con yelo (prices ranging from P65-P75). The unique Burghetti, a combination of burger and spaghetti filling, pastas, sandwiches and rice meals are also served at affordable prices ranging from P65-P150.
Travel Tips (based on the above itinerary)
- Commuting to Liliw from Manila: Ride buses like DLTB Co., JAM transit or HM Transport bound to Sta. Cruz, Laguna (around P140.00). Tell the conductor to drop you off at a place where you can ride a jeepney to Liliw (around P30.00+).
- To Liliw Church: Ride a jeepney to Liliw and tell the driver to drop you off at the church.
- To Liliw Plaza and Business District: Walk downtown from the church.
- To Arabella Cafe: Within the business district, turn to the corner of Rizal Street. Arabela cafe is noticeable with its orange signage and light orange store walls.
- To Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery: From Arabela cafe, turn left to the waiting area for jeepneys bound to Nagcarlan (P8.00). Ride a tricycle and tell the driver to drop you off at the cemetery (P10.00).
- To San Pablo Cathedral: From the Nagcarlan plaza, walk towards the jeepney terminal bound to San Pablo City (P25.00). Tell the driver to drop you off at the Cathedral.
- To Sampaloc Lake: From the Cathedral, you may walk or hail a tricycle going to the lake. If you walk past the Iglesia ni Kristo Church, you are near the lake.
- To Ben’s Halo-Halo Ice Cream: Hail a tricycle and tell driver to drop you off at Dona Leonila Street in Brgy. Bagong Bayan (P15-P20).
(Post updated in June 5, 2016)
Laguna is great for a roadtrip. Be safe and enjoy your travel in Laguna! 🙂