Tag Archive: Roadtrip

Been here. Done that. Posted photos here and there.

When friends called to ask who arranged our trip, or that they didn’t know you can swim (in the pool) and go bamboo-rafting in Villa Escudero, I began to realize that many go there just for the lunch by the falls and the cultural performance. Some didn’t even bother to do the museum tour where one finds centuries-old carrozas (floats), religious icons, family memorabilias (Escudero family), the Filipino alphabet, currency and doll collections from all over the world, and so many other antique collections of the Escuderos.




Kundiman Singing+ Carabao Ride in Villa Escudero


Narrow Bamboo Rafts. Great for rowing! Villa Escudero.



In my earlier blog on Villa Escudero, I highly recommended this trip to balikbayans, foreign guests, or simply to families longing to show their young children how life was in earlier times. It’s both a nostalgic and educational trip for the young and adults. The statues to be found there may not look so appealing but they showcase many Filipino traditions and lifestyles. Here’s where you can recount those stories of your younger days to the little ones or those born and grown in foreign lands who only read about them. The statues leave better memories. They complement the stories!




Physical (Rowing) and Soothing at the same time. Villa Escudero.


Lunch is served! By the falls. Villa Escudero.



The highways make these trips a breeze. You can leave as late as 8:30am, driving through SLEX and ACTEX till you reach the boundary of Laguna and Quezon. Soon after you pass the boundary marked by a Welcome Arch, turn left towards Villa Escudero. You register and pay P1,400 for a day tour which includes a Museum Tour, lunch by the falls, carabao rides, use of facilities like swimming pool and bamboo rafts. Senior citizens get a hefty discount and pay only P1,000!




Cultural show at 2pm. Villa Escudero


Performers are ALL employees and their kin. Villa Escudero



Arriving way before lunch, we did the Museum tour then took the carabao ride to bring us to the lunch area by the falls. Lunch was platefuls of grilled fish, chicken and pork belly, caldereta (beef), salad and banana cues! After lunch and while waiting for the 2pm cultural performance, you can take a dip by the pool and/or take one of the narrow bamboo rafts and exercise those arm muscles amidst a grand view of the cottages and trees by the water. Soothing yet physical, the activity renders you longing for a glass of halo halo or young coconut juice to savor while watching the dancers perform on stage.




Villa Escudero dancers.


Cultural show’s choreography by national artist Obusan, no less!



The cultural show ends at 3pm. Early enough to drive a few more minutes from Villa Escudero to visit Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Workshop. Getting here was a challenge. The only landmark from the Maharlika Highway driving further past Villa Escudero was the Petron Gas Station and Iglesia ni Kristo on your right. Soon after passing them, take a left and look for Alvarez Village. Ugu’s workshop, gardens cum dining place is on your left. No signs, but easy to spot the red brick one-story house with a sprawling garden as soon as you enter the village.




Ugu Bigyan Pottery workshop. Tiaong. Quezon.


Patis Tito. Formerly Kusina Ni salud of Viajes del sol fame. San Pablo City



From Ugu’s place, we drove back towards San Pablo City to check out Sulyap Cafe. On our way there, we found a sign towards Patis Tito, formerly Kusina ni Salud. Really, finding these Viaje del Sol spots is quite a challenge. We had snacks here of suman (glutinous rice) and another forgettable “kakanin” and sat there watching how unkept the place was. Guess they spruce up the place only for big groups. I hope.




Patis tito. Ex-Kusina Ni Salud



By the time we reached Sulyap Cafe after missing several turns and U-turns, we were tired but still full from the merienda. We visited the art gallery inside before an intended supper there, but found the place too gloomy to spend dinner time there. Dark, gloomy, nearly haunted. Maybe the place is suitable for romantic dates. Not for us. So we chose to simply drive back to Manila instead.




Patis Tito


Patis Tito. Kusina Ni Salud. Viajes del sol.



The entire trip to Villa Escudero with sidetrips to Ugu Bigyan, Kusina ni Salud and Sulyap Cafe & Gallery lasted from 8am to 8:30pm. Not bad. It’s a good roadtrip….. Just arm yourself with a good dose of patience looking for these spots with hardly any markers. Happy driving!




Patis Tito. Resto and garden.

Ugu  Bigyan's Pottery Workshop.

Ugu Bigyan’s Pottery Workshop.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe. San Pablo City. Viajes del Sol.

Sulyap Gallery Cafe. San Pablo City. Viajes del Sol.

Midmorning and we’re on the road towards the capital. Canberra is the country’s capital and while this is my 3rd visit to Australia, it’s my first to Canberra. Like many, I am curious why Australia chose Canberra as its capital over either Sydney or Melbourne. Perhaps there is a grain of truth to the claim that Canberra is a good “compromise”? To be honest, I am biased in favor of Sydney but then again, that wouldn’t be fair to Melbourne. I visited the latter only once, and must confess the weather then prevented me from exploring and enjoying Melbourne more.








It could have been one uneventful drive, but for one accidental detour more than hour after setting off. Goulburn’s Merino greets visitors who venture out of the freeway to drop in at what’s claimed to be the best bakery to be found in New South Wales. Well, at least the billboard on Sowerby Street said it was the best in 2008. No clues what happened in 2009 onwards. But the sizable crowd inside as well as the parked vehicles outside are obvious hints they run a good place here.








And who’s Trapper? Owner’s name is Keith Tapper, and a painting of the man who started this successful business hangs on one of the walls. The popular bakery has the usual offering of breads, pies and sinful-looking rolls. I spotted an open fireplace off a corner where a group of “seniors” seem to be enjoying a skillet of bacon strips and eggs paired with some goodlooking breads. Outside by the porch is a pack of “wild hogs” aka matured men off their big bikes, some donned in their leather jacket and pants regalia. 🙂







If I didn’t have too much coffee at home, and knowing we’re just another hour’s drive from Canberra, I would have bought coffee to take away. Now, I couldn’t tell you guys if coffee’s good in this place. But hey, the aroma of freshly-baked bread and meat pies make it an ideal pitstop. Ideally located beside the giant Merino and a gasoline station, you may even wish to stretch those legs to view some goodlooking churches around the corner. As the now familiar OZ reminder on billboards say….. “Stop, Revive, Survive!” Now, back on the road. To Canberra!






If you’re seeking some quiet time in prayer, this Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo may be the perfect place for you. We reached the place after visiting nearby Kiama but not without losing confidence we were driving in the right direction. A couple of calls to the Abbey and we found ourselves finally back on track after initially turning back. And so on to 695 Jamberoo Mountain Road.




Australia has mild winters and a walk along this tree-lined road can be quite an experience.


Last photo of my pair of shoes that has seen better days. I’m happy the pair’s last photo was this shot taken at the Abbey.



The way to the Abbey is almost magical as we drove through a lonely road lined with trees that has seen winter. Well, it IS winter in Australia in July. The scenery reminded us of the vow of silence and prayerful meditation following the rule of Saint Benedict. Quite a chore, given that we arrived with 2 little boys. The small chapel with stained glass windows kept them quiet only for a while. Curiosity got the better of the youngest boy especially once we reached the Guestry where guests are welcomed with the Benedictine hospitality.




The walkway to the Chapel where the Benedictine nuns pray and meditate.


The Altar overlooks a lovely garden.



We were the only ones in the Chapel but photo files allowed us to imagine how the Benedictine Nuns pray and meditate within this lovely chapel overlooking a garden. There were not too many chairs and pews, indicating the nun population is quite limited. The Guestry has 3 tables and the boys easily claimed 2 where they enjoyed their juice and cookies. We were served coffee and tea plus a most inspiring talk with one of the nuns. Her voice was just a couple of notches above a whisper, and we found her demeanor and quiet glee most reassuring. She listed down our names with a promise that they will include us all in prayer.




Photo sourced from the website of Benedictine Abbey in Jamberoo. At the time we visited, we were the only ones inside the Chapel.


So eerily quiet here. But not in a disturbing way. The gentle silence is conducive to prayerful meditation.



As we chatted, the boys loitered around the nearby hall and corridor. I’m sure the youngest boy was tempted to wet himself in the small pond and to blow some of the lighted candles. Thank God he didn’t as we eagerly listened to Sister telling us how retreatants are welcome to rent and stay in some of the few cottages within the complex. A family cottage is available too, and guided retreats can be arranged. Lunch will be served in the Refectory but breakfasts are prepared by retreatants inside the cottages using supplies provided by the nuns.




Photo of the Guestry sourced from the web.


Photo of the Refectory sourced from the Web.



The first word of the Rule of St. Benedict is “LISTEN”.. Sounds simple, but having just done a retreat in a Benedictine Monastery back home, I know it isn’t that simple. “Incline the ear of your heart” requires some serious finetuning of the senses if one were to feel God’s presence. The atmosphere in this Abbey and the solitude should help achieve this prayerful silence during the retreat. To quiet one’s heart can be quite a chore and may not come as naturally to most people. But one’s got to try.


(Thanks Reia, for driving us to this Abbey, plus lotsa more!)


Photo of the Abbey sourced from the Web.


Photo of the Retreat Cottages sourced from the Web.


Abbey Crafts available for sale in the Abbey Crafts Store.