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7 Things To Do In Laguna And Quezon

Go on one last road trip before summer officially ends! These southern destinations in San Pablo and Quezon province are lush and culturally rich.

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Original Article: Paula Bianca Abiog Photography: Miguel Nacianceno Pictorial Direction: Issa Villar & Kathleen Valle

Before the new school year comes into full swing, why not take a huling-hirit road trip with your family and friends? There’s no need to book plane tickets, as the nearby provinces of Laguna and Quezon are very interesting (and less of a hassle) to visit.

Around a decade ago, fashion designer Patis Tesoro came up with Viaje del Sol, a do-it-yourself arts and culture tour that stretches from Laguna to Quezon. Viaje del Sol is an informal group of quaint gallery-cafés, charming inns, artists’ workshops, and interesting stores that promotes tourism in the area.

Most of the stops are about 30-minutes’-drive apart from one another, and are located along or are accessible from Maharlika Highway. The official website of Viaje del Sol has since closed, but the Museum Foundation of the Philippines occasionally organizes tours, or you can do it on your own and view the map on the Casa San Pablo website. All set? Here are the spots you shouldn’t miss. 

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Marvel at Carlito Ortega’s metal sculptures

Businessman-turned-artist Carlito Ortega's passion for art is evident in his workshop/home, located just off Km. 88 of Maharliska Highway. His workshop displays brass figures sculpted in the self-taught artist's trademark detail-in his words, "hammered and crude." [Though we would like to think the overall effect is graceful and dramatic.—Ed.] The workshop is open to walk-in visitors on Saturdays, when Carlito does his interactive art demonstrations. Weekday visitors need to call in advance for reservations.

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You can buy a brass figure straight out of his workshop, but most of his pieces are sold during exhibits, which are handled by Gallery 9. While you’re there, bask in the airy reception area and garden.

Carlito’s Workshop, Maharlika Highway, Brgy. Sta. Ana, San Pablo, Laguna; tel. (049) 246-3329

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Buy Ugu Bigyan ceramics

An accountant by profession, Ugu Bigyan is a self-taught ceramic artist inspired by fellow potter Jaime de Guzman, and along with other artists like Jon Pettyjohn and Lanelle Abueva-Fernando, became noted for their clay art. His high-fired and organic-glazed stonewares are in high demand, and his works are used in luxury resorts like Amanpulo and El Nido.

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Apart from housing Ugu's ceramics showcase, the Potter's Garden also has several huts in the midst of serene greenery where you can hang out and relax. Lunch, usually earthy Filipino and Asian fare plated in his own clayware pieces, is served in the huts, but reservations must be made in advance.  

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Ugu Bigyan’s Potter Garden, Brgy. Lusacan, Tiaong, Quezon; tel. (02) 545-9144 & 545-8689; mobile 0917-560-7973, 0917-560-5708


Go plant-crazy at Earthkeepers

Located right along Maharlika Highway, Earthkeepers looks like your typical commercial garden selling ornamental plants and landscaping equipment. What sets it apart from other commercial gardens along the highway is that the products are organic. Here, you can buy indoor and outdoor plants by the pot, from seedlings to full-grown plants. The owners of Earthkeepers also advocate organic agriculture, and offer training seminars for composting and organic farming. Meals are also served at their restaurant, and the menu depends on their harvest.

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Earthkeepers, Km 101 Brgy. Talisay, Tiaong, Quezon , (042) 545-7112


Stay at Casa San Pablo

This delightful bed-and-breakfast run by Boots and An Alcantara has been around for a number of years, but still maintains its quirky, off-the-beaten-track charm. Their guest rooms come in different sizes—small rooms for couples looking for some quiet time, and larger ones with multiple beds for a rambunctious family. No two rooms are alike, and are decorated in a mix of pieces of old houses, sampaguita glass, capiz windows, artwork, and toys. There are amenities like swimming pools, but guests are inclined to play board games, lie on hammocks and star-gaze at night, or simply lounge about and make new friends.

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Casa San Pablo, (02) 211-2132 (Manila Landline), mobile 0917-812-6687, 0920-967-5277


Dine at an eclectic garden-café

Filipino fashion designer Patis Tesoro's garden-café is a must-see while on the Viaje del Sol trail. The restaurant is attached to Patis's weekend home, a charming mélange of old bahay-na-bato details such as capiz windows, mismatched machuka tiles, and calado transoms peppered with family artwork and Patis’s own rich and colorful fashion creations. Here, you can dine on fresh Pinoy comfort food like ensaladang pako (fern salad) and chicken kinulob (slow-cooked chicken), and soak in the relaxing ambiance of the gardens. They also have a bed-and-breakfast with rooms decorated in the same Filipino-eclectic style.

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Patis Tito Garden Café, Brgy. Sta. Cruz, 285 San Pablo City (or click here for a map), mobile 0906-443-9092


Experience the past at Sulyap

Stop by for lunch or dinner at Sulyap Gallery Café, located at an old school compound in Brgy. Del Remedio at San Pablo City town proper in Laguna. This quaint bahay-na-bato restaurant serves Pinoy standards and San Pablo specialties, like Pinayti (micro shrimps), Pinais na Kabute, and Kulawong Talong. Right across the restaurant is the museum, which is filled with a mix of antiques and parts of old houses. Sulyap is open seven days a week, from 10am to 10pm.

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Sulyap Gallery Café, Cocoland Compound, Brgy. Del Remedio, San Pablo, Laguna, (049) 573-2907, mobile 0917-596-8760


Relax at an old-fashioned BnB

A lot of antiques from Southern Luzon, and even from as far as Ilocos and Bohol, end up at Villa Javierto (formerly called Pillar Plants and Novelties). Run by husband-and-wife tandem Emil and Redempcion Pillar, the establishment has been around for more than 15 years. "Plants and antiques, they go well," says Redempcion, explaining that the two complement each other. "Ang antiques, nabubuhay pag may plants. 'Yung plants, gumaganda din pag may antiques."

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Apart from serving as an antiques shop, they also do landscaping, and have bed-and-breakfast cottages within the compound you can stay for the night. The cottages are quaintly decorated (in antiques, of course) and some have four-poster beds.

Villa Javierto, 2497 Gulang-gulang, Lucena City, (042) 710-5753, mobile 0917-560-0281

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Read the original article ("Southern Comfort") in the January-Feburary 2009 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to summitnewsstand.com.ph/real-living for more details. 

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