Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Whirlwind Tour That Fascinates an Urbanite: Nagcarlan-Liliw Tour

As modern day encroaches ever further into our leisure time and technology changes the way that we go about our lives, there is still that undying  feeling of going back to the basics, back to nature, back to simple rural life.

With this, a group of Paranaque residents, businessmen and supporters was able to come up with tours specifically designed to please nature–lovers, Philippine travel and culture advocates and just anyone who wants to experience a different take on enjoying the sights, the country has to offer, without the burden of spending so much.

 ASSAP Aktibong Samahan sa Paranaque is the group’s name.
For their pilot trip, the group went to Nagcarlan and Liliw, Laguna.  This is the Day tour itinerary:
1. Nagcarlan’s  Underground Cemetery
2. Lunch and Tour around Villa Sylvia
3. Nagcarlan barangay’s Eco-farm tour
4.  Liliw Municipal Hall
5.  St. John the Baptist's Church
6.  Liliw's Footwear Shops and trade industry

Nagcarlan’s  Underground Cemetery

   If there's one place Nagcarlan is most famous for, it's probably the Underground Cemetery.   Accentuated with a lush, perfectly laden grass, the sight is easily noticed because it is just along the main road of Nagcarlan, Laguna which leads to the town proper.

   As you enter an arched gate with winged iron grills, you can immediately notice that the place is surrounded by walls with niches.  In the middle is a path leading to the main chapel, Baroque in style, has windows on each side covered by iron wrought grills. The altar has intricate wood carvings. Old red floor tiles mixed with red and blue porcelain tiles extended to the wall as a foot-high panelling design.
   The cemetery was built by Franciscan missionaries in 1845, it's one of its kind in the Philippines and is now a national historical landmark.
   What used to be the cemetery for the rich Spaniards during those times has its historic character, integrity and ambiance well preserved by the people of the province.
   However, due to the wars that had redecorated our History books, it was so evident that a few elements of the church’s original design was missing.

   A visit would not be complete, without getting the experience of being in the crypt, situated below the main chapel.  It was said to be a secret meeting place of Laguna’s revolutionary leader during the Revolutionary era.

Villa Sylvia Resort
   An out of town drive has to have a soothing dip in the cool mountain water of Nagcarlan, and one that the group could not miss.  However, an hour or two is not enough to conquer the place.  With its spacious land that is good for camping and trails, 5 swimming pools, two of which are for kids.  Quite noticeable also is their long twin slides that entice you as you enter a woven nipa revolving gate.
   In time for lunch, the tour guests were led to a hall, overlooking the swimming pools.  It was like finding a gem in the forest.  The feel was like you were led somewhere that’s far off, away from the city pollution, the noisy crowd and city’s addicting technology.  At the end of the hall is a buffet sumptuously prepared by the town’s people headed by the Barangay captains of 5 neighbouring barangays.

Regional Dishes that sure captured the palates of the ASSAP

   We can actually tell what probable dishes we can find at Nagcarlan by just knowing their produce.  We all sampled dishes which are typical day to day viands.  But there is something very special in these dishes, though served in the simplest manner, they evoke true hominess and these are the dishes which bring back memories from our grandmas and parents, dishes that are down-right delicious and nutritious.

   Laguna is rich in coconut trees, no doubt therefore why they have a wide range of dishes soaked in rich and creamy coconut milk.  Such dishes are Sinantulan, Ginataang Budbod, Laing and Ginataang Pako at Kuhol.
   Sinantulan, though looks like shrimp paste, it is actually chopped Santol, sautéed in garlic, onion, and chilli and infused with coconut milk then preserved.  Ginataang Budbod, however is the tender inner stem of a banana trunk, which have been cubed and cooked with coconut milk.
   Laing, on one hand, is a dish made out of taro leaves, coconut milk and chillies.  Though more familiar in the Bicol region, they too have their rendition of this famous green-looking dish.
   Snails may not be that appealing to you but for many it’s a gourmet.  Some know it by its French name- Escargot.  Laguna is not only rich in vegetation, it’s main bay, the Laguna Bay, is also a nesting ground for Tilapia (St. Peter’s fish) and kuhol or big snails.  Famously eaten with coconut milk, Nagcarlan tweaked it with "pako" or fiddlehead ferns.
   We can see the variety in the dishes prepared, but there is one fact that makes them similar, in a way.  They are all prepared from fresh, organic ingredients and without preservatives.
Nagcarlan Farm Tour

   To understand more of how the people suffice with daily living from their produce, we were granted the opportunity to visit one of the barangay’s farm.   According to Amy Malabag-Hernandez, Councilor of Nagcarlan, they have opened the tour to help her fellow townspeople sell their crops to visitors.  They however supply some other towns outside Nagcarlan, but they admit that they need more help.  With this they are open for collaborations for supplying weekend markets or directly selling it to local tourist with  what they call “bolante” or farmer’s market.
   It was all a surprise to us seeing bags full of beautiful looking vegetables, freshly picked, cleansed and ready to be taken home.  More exciting was knowing how cheap the vegetables are being sold, which are five times less than the price in Manila, or even lower.

The Warmest Welcome Ever: from Liliw

It’s not an average day when you get to be welcomed by a marching band complete with the town’s official mascot.  But in Liliw, Laguna, tourists are hailed and the people are congenial.
It’s not also normal for a town mayor, to leave his office and be the first to greet you on your first descend to a place that had been captured in time.
How about walking on the street where it seemed like the mountain awaits for you, while on the side walk are the town’s delicacies and quality products all for you to take home for your loved ones.
Well, I don’t mind expecting such kindness and flair from a quiet town.  We can get used to it, but only with an ASSAP tour.

Where Old World Charm Blends in with Life as We Know It 

   Liliw, known as Laguna’s shoe capital or "tsinelas factory" gets a boost in their known industry, as tourists from Paranaque gets to wander off around town and get to imbibe the culture of the people who are meek yet artsy in their own right.
   But what was also apparent are the antique houses splattered around like stars in an old, unassuming town. Preserved in their original glory, some of the heritage houses are as old as the American era, but we can also see some that are dilapidated.  According to the tourism representative, they try as much as possible to regain the olden structure of the whole town and make it scenic and to be a heritage town.  But of course, that would mean extra budget and effort on the government.  The bringing in of the local tourists and eventually paving ways to more business opportunities to both parties, may be able to develop the funds for a restoration project.

   I instantly fell in love with the merging or old world charm and modernized needs of the people.  As you go about seeing these ancestral homes with details of past architecture, with the ground floor used for businesses or rented as stores and the above are homes to the natives of Liliw, one can realize that there can always be harmony even in a busy and fast-paced life like what we now have.
Photo credited from the photo's link
   One best example is the well-known foodie attraction, Arabella.  A café and restaurant that serves, urbanized-quality Italian and Continental dishes, with the right touch of rural character.  Situated at the lower-level of the Carmello residence, it’s a quite low-ceiling and a wee cramped venue to enjoy food sitting down.   But you will be amazed; you will be transported to a different place once you enter a door with a bell tasselled on its knob, a Bohemian joint with the aroma of a gourmet café.
  Too bad, we don't have enough time to check out their offerings.  What way better reason to go back in Liliw.

Watch out for more updates on this travelogue brought to us by ASSAP.


I would love to hear your thoughts on my post, care for a comment?