This will be my last Flashback Friday for the Philippines adventure. I’m back in Seoul now and want to keep you all updated on my adventures here. But I had one last area to talk about and that is Laguna.
No, not that clown show Laguna Beach on MTV. It has nothing to do with that.
Laguna hugs the southern shores of Laguna de Bay, the largest lake in the country.
Laguna is notable as the birthplace of Dr. Jose Rizal, the country’s national hero.
Two big reasons to go to the Laguna province is 1.) the hot springs of Los Banos and the surrounding area and 2.) Pagsanjan Falls.
Los Banos has many hot spring resorts to choose from. I recommend getting a private one for small or large groups. We went as two couples and the four of us had a blast in the hot water. All the pools are filled with water from local hot springs. Some say the hot springs have healing powers and I believe it! My boyfriend was really sick on the first half of our trip in Batangas but as soon as he went swimming in the hot springs he was back to normal the next day!
Los Banos is also famous for it’s Buko Pies. Buko means young coconut in Tagalog. The pie is not like coconut cream pie, because it doesn’t have cream or custard filling. Instead it’s made with slices of buko meat and condensed milk. We went to Orient- The Original Buko Pie. It’s the best buko pie in Los Banos.
I met the owner of the shop, a sweet lady named Tita Helen (I think that’s what she told me, it’s been so long I forgot) who’s sister created the recipe for Buko Pies! She immigrated to the US and Tita Helen continued her sisters recipe and shop!
We also went on a river rapid adventure to Pagsanjan Falls. It was the location of the final scene of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now.
There are many places in Pagsanjan to rent a boat and boatmen to take you to the falls. Be sure to bring extra cash, it’s customary to tip each boatman at least 50 pesos if not more.
A bit of a history lesson…
March 16, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, sighted the island of Samar Island, a large island located in the Visayas. Then in 1565 European colonization began and they formed the first European settlements in Cebu. Colonization of course spread all over the archipelago. Today, many of these Spanish colonial are gone due to wars, revolution, and age. However, one still stands and that historical town is called Vigan City.
In 2007, Vigan City was listed by UNESCO as the best preserved example of Spanish colonial towns in Asia. Its architecture is the conglomeration of cultural elements from the Philippines, China, and Spain, making it unique to the rest of the world.
I hope to go back there someday and really experience it. We missed out on eating Empanadas and riding a kalesa which are both a must! We did go shopping in the little shops and bought some souvenirs and even some antiques. We also went to Vigan Cathedral and listen to mass.
During our trip, we took a long road trip to Northern Luzon.
The Philippines is an archipelago comprising 7,107 islands, the Philippines is categorized broadly into three main geographical divisions: Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. Manila the capital is located on the largest island Luzon. Luzon is the only island of the archipelago that I’ve been on. Until now I’ve only been around the Metro Manila area and CALABARZON Region (formerly a part of Southern Tagalog)
My mom’s friend took us on a three day adventure to the north. She hired a driver, which is the best idea to tour around the Philippines. You have the freedom like having your own car but you have your own personal tour guild. Many of these driver know the areas and can set up activities for you to do. They also give you a sense of security and help to make sure you don’t get a shady deal. If you’re think of going to the Philippines please look into this option! Also for bring cash, once you move away from the big cities, ATMs are rare and usually out of cash or offline.
Here are some of the highlights of our road trip:
Kabigan Falls (meaning friend) a 120 meters of crashing white water is worth the 30 minute hike through farmland and jungle. Located in the town of Pagudpud it’s part of the tricycle tour and only cost 20 pesos per person. You will be assigned a guide to walked you to the falls. They even stick around while you swim and walk back with you.
Blue Lagoon in Pagudpud is know as a part of the “Boracay of the North.” White sand and blue water, it’s beautiful! There are a few local land marks around the beach area like Dos Hermanos islands and Bantay Abot cave. There are a few beach resorts around and several houses and huts to rent.
As I said before, if you want a safe and easy trip around the Philippines I recommend hiring a private driver. You can search for one or here is the email of the driver we used Ricky Daymil. Kuya Ricky was so nice and takes people all over, not just Luzon. email@example.com
Tricycles are one of the most common means of transportation in the Philippines. Used everywhere, except on busy highways, they are cheap and usually a fast way to get around. Tricycles are a side car build onto a motorcycle, hench tri-cycle, three wheels. Some are small and some are big, I read somewhere that some can seat 9, but they would have to be small people, like me! Tricycles are colorful and decorated like jeepneys. Chad and I loved riding in tricycles during our stay in the Philippines. I was a big fan of taken pictures of the different colored ones. It seemed like certain areas had special colors for tricycles, but I’m not sure. Here are some of my favorites.
There are four Baroque Churches of the Philippines. These are UNESCO World Heritage sites, this means they are protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization. One of my goals in live is to visit as many as these sites as I can.
Three out of four churches in one vacation isn’t bad!
Why are these church important and protected? According to UNESCO’s website:
This group of churches established a style of building and design that was adapted to the physical conditions in the Philippines and had an important influence on later church architecture in the region. The four churches are outstanding examples of the Philippine interpretation of the Baroque style, and represent the fusion of European church design and construction with local materials and decorative motifs to form a new church-building tradition.
To read more about these Baroque Churches visit their website.
The first one we went to was The Church of San Agustín in Paoay, Ilocos Norte. This church is know as “Earthquake Baroque” because it was build to withstand earthquakes. Construction on the present church began in 1694 and it was completed in 1710.
The second church was Church of Nuestra Señora de la Asuncion in Santa Maria, Ilocos Sur also located in the northern part of the island of Luzon. It’s unusual because it’s build on the top of a hill and surrounded by walls. The mission at Santa Maria was founded in 1765.
The third was close to our family’s home, only an hour drive into the heart of Manila’s old city, Intramuros. The Church of the Immaculate Conception of San Agustín was the first church built on the island of Luzon in 1571, immediately after the Spanish conquest of Manila.
The only one I’m missing is The Church of Santo Tomas de Villanueva at Miag-ao, Iloilo in the Western Visayas region.