Monday, December 3, 2007

Sunset on Taal Lake

Yesterday afternoon was a gloomy day in Tagaytay. Strong winds, light rain and a thin mist was the order of the day. Just before sunset, the sky cleared up and a sliver of sun light broke through making for some interesting shots.

Taal Volcano taken from Josephines

The view east from Josephines

Note: Josephines is a restaurant in Tagaytay City located West of One Destination, and a few Kilometers before Taal Vista Hotel. It has a Coffee Shop at the back and two gardens, one of which is a popular spot for wedding receptions.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

View from Antonio's

A few kilometers west of Picnic Grove and One Destination is Breakfast at Antonio's. From Breakfast at Antonio's you get a view of the Taal Lake and Taal Volcano from the edge of the western edge of Tagaytay Ridge.

Antonio's gives you a nice view of the Taal Lake and Volcano at a
90 degree angle from the view at Picnic Grove

Admittedly, this is probably the least interesting location
to view the Taal Volcano from since you cannot see the crater
from here, but it does give you the best vantage point to view
Volcano Island.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bag of Beans

Half of my meals in Tagaytay are spent in Bag of Beans. I really go there for the coffee (Php75 or US$1.65) which is bottomless at Php95 (US$2.10) and for coffee grounds to brew when I go back home. My favorite grounds, are bag of Beans Exelsa of which I always have two bags in reserve.

They do serve excellent meals too at a good price. Tagaytay is a tourist spot, which means food and services there are at a premium price. Bag of Beans offers very reasonable prices for the area.
Bag of Beans is primarily a coffee and bakery which serves a variety of English pies and freshly baked breads which complement their coffee nicely. The English pies include the Apple Pie, Beef & Vegetable, Beef & Mushroom, Shepherds Pie and Steak & Grave which go from a price range of Php55 to Php95 (US$1.20 to US$2.10). Larger 9" pies are available from Php300 to Php360 (US$6.65 to US$8.00). The bread choices consist of white bread, braided bread, whole wheat, cinnamon & raisin and country herb bread which sells for Php50 to Php65 (US$1.10 to US$1.45) for a loaf.

They also serve main course mills here. Our favorites are Roast Beef served with mashed potatoes and gravy, Fish & Chips, Chicken Alakiev, Grilled Blue Marlin and Grilled Tuna Belly. They also serve a variety of pastas. The price range of meals at Bag of Beans ranges from Php175 (US$3.90) for a Garlic & Mushroom Pasta to Php395 (US$8.75) for a Garlic Steak.
What you do not get here is a view of Taal Volcano. But it is a nice quiet secluded spot which is great for outings with friends, family and even pets. Also, with Tagaytay's growing commericialization, it is one of the establishments that is "Originally Tagaytay". One which started here and opened branches in the metropolitan areas later. It still maintains that rustic homely personal feel today.

Buffy (my dog) @ Bag of Beans

Sunday, September 9, 2007

In a recent trip to Tagaytay...

A shot of a beautiful very healthy white cat taken from Bag of Beans Cafe. She dropped by our table just to say hi.--
"White Cat"

A shot taken from outside of the Regional Trial Court of Tagaytay City--


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bean Hunt at Amadeo's Best

Our hunt for great coffee beans takes us to a small shop on Aguinaldo Highway at the heart of Tagaytay City where they sell Coffee made in Amadeo, Cavite.

The traditional Philippine Barako coffee is sold under the label "Exotic Blend." A one pound (454g) bag will cost you Php170 (US$4.00) for ground coffee. It is foil wrap and has a recommended shelf life of one year, though it actually stays fresh longer than that. Beans are available at Php200 (US$5.00) for 1lb. (454g).

The also sell the so called "Mountain Blend". This is a mixture of Arabica, Robusta and Barako beans. It is priced a bit higher than the Exotic Blend, being priced at Php200 (US$4.50) per pound for grounds and Php230 (US$5.00) per pound from beans.

The last blend they carry is the Cavite Blend, which is a mix of Robusta and Barako, beans at Php200 (US$4.50) per pound. Beans are available at Php230 (US$5.00) per pound.

Monday, June 18, 2007

One Destination

One Destination is a commercial area located on Tagaytay Ridge which houses ten cafe's and restaurants. One Destination is one of the most popular tourist spots in Tagaytay City, especially for domestic tourism. It has a great view of the Taal Lake and the Taal Volcano, and is the spot we chose to start this blog.

Most of the establishments in One Destination are actually common in Metro Manila. This detracts a bit from the charm of the place. But a cup of Mocha on the ridge seems to taste better than it does back in the urban jungle.

List of establishments in One Destination:

Cafe Lupe
Carlos Pizza
Junzi Oriental Cuisine
Mile Hi Diner
Pancake House
Teriyaki Boy
The Grill by Antonios

Mile Hi Diner

Carlos Pizza

Starbucks Coffee

One Destination Parking

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Breakfast at Antonio's

Near the western edge of Tagaytay City is a small restaurant and cafe named "Breakfast at Antonio's." Antonio Escalante, the proprietor, is probably the best known chef in Tagaytay City. He owns two other establishments, the Antonio's and "The Grill, By Antonio's."

Breakfast at Antonio's is situated on the steep ridge of Tagaytay City overlooking the town of Laurel, Batangas. It is a quiet spot located far from the commercial areas of Tagaytay City and gives an excellent view of the Taal Lake and the volcano that it holds. A mix Filipino and Western cuisine is serve here, and the food is excellent.

For Php265-295 (around US$6) you can have your choice of Pork Sausage, Bacon Strips, Farmers Ham or Spanish sausage served with a two eggs and a French panini. For a bit more (Php325, about US$7) you can have one of their Sausage & Scrambles combinations, where you can have your choice of a Schublig, Hungarian or Italian Garlic Sausage served with scrambled eggs served with cheddar cheese, a house potato and a French panini.

The viewing deck at Breakfast at Antonio's gives a nice view of the lake.

Taal Volcano was obscured by the mist durig this visit

They also serve lunch meals starting from Bacolod Grilled Beef Spareribs at Php320 (US$7), to their house specialty, Boiled Black Angus Sirloin Steak, with eggs, a potato and a panini at P950 (US$21).

The prices are on the high end. Not the kind of place I can afford to eat in on a daily basis. An 8-ounce cup of coffee here cost as much as as 16-ounce cup at Starbucks. But this is, fine dining at its best, well worth a 60km drive from Manila, just to have a meal.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Hotel on the Ridge: Taal Vista Hotel

Taal Vista Hotel

Taal Vista, means view of Taal. The Hotel that bears this name has an excellent view of the Taal Lake and Volcano, being perched on a steep at an altitude of 600 meters over the lake. Construction of the Tagaytay Vista Hotel started in 1937, making it one of the oldest structures on Tagaytay Ridge.

Taal Vista Hotel has its own backyard garden, with an excellent view of the lake...

... and the volcano (far right).

Originally a lodge, it was later expanded a reclassified as a hotel. It was renovated a few years ago and a new Tagayatay Vista Hotel is presently under construction adjacent to the existing structure.

The Taal Vista Hotel has 128 guest rooms with all the amenities you can expect from first class hotel (how many stars). Accommodations for two, with breakfast included, can be had for as low as Php4,500 (about US$100) per day, plus 10% service charge and 12% Value Added Tax. The most expensive accommodation in the hotel is the Imperial Suite, which is priced at P16,200 (about US$360) per day, but that price includes accommodations and breakfast for four.

The hotel also has its own restaurant and cafe, swimming pool, spa, gym, game room and an indoor children's area. If you feel like a little gambling, Casino Tagaytay Filipino is located right across the hotel. The ground floor of the hotel is covered by WiFi for those who need to stay connected while on vacation. The hotel is also within the coverage of the major local carriers 3G networks.

The "Lobby Lounge"


The hotel also has two ballrooms and six function rooms. The larger ballroom can accomodate up to 700 guests. It is a favorite spot to for holding conferences and seminars. Last time we were there, there where four such activities. The nice thing about having a conferrence or seminar in this place rather than in Metro Manila, is that it makes for much more relaxing environment, but being near enough to the metropolis to keep travel costs down.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Bean Hunt at Bag of Beans

Tagaytay City, Cavite, is known for its beef and coffee. Actually, little, if any, of the beef and coffee sold in Tagaytay is actually produced there. Most of the coffee sold in Tagaytay is produced in the neighboring towns of Amadeo and Alfonso, and the adjoining Province of Batangas. Notably, Amadeo is known as the Coffee Capital of the Philippines. Being a popular tourist destination for both local and foreign tourism, it is a key distribution point.

We get our coffee beans there too. One good source of Coffee Beans is aptly named "Bag of Beans". Bag of Beans is a small cafe located just after the Tagaytay Public at 3650 Aguinaldo Highway, Mendez Crossing West, Tagaytay City.

One of our favorite blends is Bag of Beans' own Excelsa (Baraco) Blend which sells for Php184.80 (a bit less US$4) for a 500 gram bag of ground coffee. Baraco coffee, is a type of coffee grown only in the Philippines, particularly in the provinces of Batangas and Cavite. It belongs to the species Coffea Liberica.

We are fond of the rich strong taste of the Baraco Blend. On every trip, together with the Excelsa Blend we pick-up a bag of Josefino brewed Barraco and Tropical Blend coffee. A bit of variety is always good.

Josefino brewed Baraco is produced in Alfonso, Cavite, and retails at Php156.80 (a bit less than US$3.50) for a 400 gram bag, ground. Tropical Blend is produced in Amadeo, Cavite. It is made from roasted and ground excelsa, robusta and arabica beans. Tropical Brew retails for PhpP120 (a bit less than US$3) for a 500 gram bag.

Bag of Beans also carries their own Arabica Robusta Blend for Php235.20 (US$5) for a 500 gram bag. If you perfer beans to grounds, they carry those too, and they sell for Php5-Php11 (US$0.09-0.19) less.

Monday, May 21, 2007

View from Picnic Grove

A few kilometers east of One Destination is Picnic Grove. From Picnic Grove you get a view of the Taal Lake and Taal Volcano from a different angle.

Picnic Grove gives you a nice view of the Taal Lake and Volcano

The Grove itself is a scenic

While looking at the scenery from one angle is enough, if you are only planning to visit Tagaytay once, I recommend you go to several different viewing points to get different views of the scene.

From Picnic Grove you get to see the volcano from the lowest point of its cone

This lets you right into the crater of the volcano

Friday, May 18, 2007

When the Sleeping Giant Wakes

It is said that Taal Volcano was originally over 5km high and that the Tagaytay Ridge was once just the crest of the mighty volcano.

Taal Volcano has erupted 33 times since its first mention in Philippine History in 1572. Most of the eruptions were minor erruption sowing little devastation. But in 1749 a major eruption occured destroying the entire Volcano (Pulo) Island and the towns of Taal, old Sala and part of old Tanauan. Ashfall was witness as far as 60km away.

This was followed by an even more devasting eruption destroying the towns of Sala, Lipa, Tanauan and Talisay five years later in 1754.

Between 3 and 4 o'clock in the afternoon of the said 29th, it began to rain mud and ashes at Caysasay [12 miles from the volcano] and this rain lasted three days. The most terrifying circumstance was that the whole sky was shrouded in such darkness that we could not have seen the hand placed before the face, had it not been for the sinister glare of incessant lightnings (History of Taal's activity to 1911 as described by Fr. Saderra Maso)

In 1911 another major eruption occured devastating Volcano Island and killing 1334 people. Ashes reached the City of Manila. The last major eruption occured in 1965, killing 200 people.

Taal Volcano is one of sixteen Decade Volcanoes in the workd identified by the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth's Interior as being worthy of particular study in light of their history of large, destructive eruptions and proximity to populated areas.

The Town of Talisay, Batangas today as seen from Tagaytay Ridge, Cavite. This town was destroyed by the eruption of Taal Volcano in 1754 (Picture from Digital Format).

Creation of Taal Lake

Taal Lake is situated in a caldera created by volcanic eruptions more than 100,000 years ago. A caldera is a volcanic feature formed by the collapse of land following a volcanic eruption. A series of violent eruptions caused the land around the Taal Volcano, and the volcano itself to sink into the ground. The caldera formed was filled by seawater from the South China Sea.

In the 16th century, a series of violent eruptions landlocked what is now known as the Taal Lake, leaving a single river, the Pansipit River, as it sole connection to the sea. Several centuries of rain and waters draining out to the sea have diluted the lake's salt water and converted it into freshwater lake.

Taal Lake

Several marine species were trapped in this newly formed lake. As the Taal Lake desalinated into a a freshwater lake many endemic species evolved and adapted to the desalinization of the lake's waters.

One of this was the Sardine. The saltwater sardine adapted and survived resulting the creation of the worlds only freshwater sardine --- the Sardinella tawilis. The Sardinella tawilis is only found in the Taal Lake. Taal Lake is also home to the Hydrophis semperi, one of only two sea snake species that live entirely in freshwater. A few other marine species have also adopted to the freshwater.

Bull sharks were among the species that adapted to the freshwater, but local fishing caused this species to become extinct in the Taal Lake.

Source: Wikipedia

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

View from Tagaytay Ridge

Located in the Province of Batangas, on the border with Cavite, is Taal Lake. Taal Lake is the not the largest lake in the Philippines, being the third largest, but it does have the distinction of being the the only lake in the country with its own volcano. On a small island, named Pulo , sits Taal Volcano. This active volcano gives this freshwater lake its high sulfuric content.

Taal Lake with Taal Volcano on the far right

Just to the north of the Pulo is the City of Tagaytay in the Province of Cavite. Perched on a steep ridge at an altitude over 600 meters over sea level, Tagaytay offers a breathtaking view of Taal Lake and the sleeping giant that it holds within. The cool clean mountain air is a welcome relief from the hot climate in the Philippines. Tagaytay, in my opinion, is the most beautiful places in my country.

View Tagaytay Ridge from One Destination

Being less than two hours from Metro Manila, the Tagaytay is my favorite hideaway when I need respite from the stress of city life. It is just near enough so that you can go there on a whim. The roads going there are good, making it is an easy drive. On several occasions I have packed my laptop and sought refuge in this serene place. Meeting a deadline is easier and more pleasant, over a cup of coffee in the cool crisp mountain air. Click the button on the browser, send the email on its way, and sit back and take your last view of the lake as twilight sets in while taking another sip of Starbucks Coffee.

Taal Volcano up close

If you are visiting my country, I urge you to take a one or two day stop in Tagaytay City. It is well worth the trip. From Metro Manila, it is just a short detour, if you are planning to visit the white sand beaches in Batangas and Mindoro. If looking at the sleeping giant is not enough, you can take a 20km trip to the edge of the lake and take a boat ride to Pulo Island. There you can get a look of the Taal Volcano up close. That I leave to the more adventurous types. Me, I am happy enough looking down at the sleeping giant from Tagaytay Ridge.

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