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Long Way Round to Laguna

December 3, 2011

We often like to spend Saturday or Sunday mornings riding through Marilaque – that scenic stretch of road which starts in Marikina, passes through Laguna and ends in Quezon. On my birthday weekend in October, we again found ourselves riding the route to see just how far we could go. It ended up being the longest motorcycle ride I’ve done – 5 hours straight, with a few stops for gas and to stretch our legs. Final destination: San Pablo, Laguna.

Earlier this year, we went to Casa San Pablo in Laguna to attend a wedding. We didn’t stay overnight then, but we really loved the vibe of the place and thought it deserved another visit. By car, it took roughly a 1.5 – 2hour drive through SLEX to get there. By motorcycle, it was a different story.

We headed off relatively late in the morning (around 8am). It’s better to head out earlier (around 6 or 7) so the ride back doesn’t get too hot. Marikina and Cogeo are the clogged stretches of road you have to endure before getting to the highway. Here, you have to navigate between smoke-belching jeepneys, swerving taxis, and horrible road repairs which limit the lanes. But once you hit the mountains, the road opens up and it’s smooth riding after that.

It’s easy to lose yourself in your thoughts while cruising the twisty mountain roads so far removed from the grime of the Metro Manila’s congested streets. You can’t help but marvel at the refreshing scenery and stop occasionally to admire the view. You can feel the immediate change in the climate in some areas – the air suddenly gets chilly. From being in the sweltering heat of Manila – you suddenly feel like you were transported to Baguio or Tagaytay. The rhythmic sounds of the engine and the wind are all you can hear for miles. But the weather is unpredictable too and bright blue skies can just morph into gray clouds in an instant. Sudden rainshowers can force you to head for the nearest waiting shed or store to seek shelter until the weather clears or just power on through it.

We cruised through the stops that had been our previous destinations – Sierra Madre Resort and Pranjetto Hills, where a lot of bikers stop for breakfast; Daranak Falls in Tanay; Paete, home of woodcraft products; the road leading up to Caliraya, and the town of Pagsanjan. It was nearing noon and we had to decide whether to head back to Manila or push on to Laguna. Since I was getting tired and it had already been a pretty long drive, the thought of spending the night in Casa San Pablo kept me going. This involved driving further on through the towns of Santa Cruz, Pila, Victoria, and Calauan before we finally reached San Pablo in Laguna.

Touchdown was a relief. The quaint country inn was the perfect place to relax after the long drive. Casa San Pablo, which is part of the famed Viaje del Sol (Way of the Sun) route, is an eclectic mix of art and nature. If you haven’t ever been there yet, you should.

The sprawling garden, flowers, pine trees, and hammocks just invite you to relax, which is exactly what we did after getting some basic supplies (extra clothes, swim gear, toothbrushes, etc.) from SM City San Pablo since we didn’t bother packing anything except for a camera.

No two rooms in Casa San Pablo are alike and each is artfully decorated in a certain theme. Some rooms display various collections including matchbox cars, birdcages, museum posters, or paintings by specific artists. Some of the rooms allow guests to bring pets (but please inform the resort beforehand if you plan to bring any.) The villa we got (Villa No. 12) was decorated in nude charcoal sketches by the Saturday Group, a band of painters mentored by the master Mauro Malang. The spacious room has two sets of sliding glass doors that offer a great view of the garden and has a large bed, a small day bed as well.

We ended up spending a leisurely afternoon just swimming in the pool and swinging in the hammocks in the garden under the pine trees until the sky turned dark. Then, we were called in for dinner of good old comfort food – corn soup, lechon de pugon, smoked eggplant, lumpia, and ube halaya. Casa San Pablo plans their meals according to what is fresh and available in the market, and most of the dishes are recipes of Inay, the grandmother of owner and proprietor Boots Alcantara.

Signs on the table explained how ‘Inay’ would contrast salty with sweet or spicy with subtle dishes to spin different flavor themes. The rich lechon, with the smoky and sour eggplant, mild soup, crunchy lumpia, capped with delicate ube was the perfect birthday dinner and was definitely worth the long drive. Though we initially thought that the food was too much for two people, we still managed to finish the lechon as it would be a sin to let that delicious dish go to waste.

Breakfast the next day was similarly delicious and heartwarming – crispy fried danggit, garlic rice, sausage and fried eggs, with freshly brewed Kape Barako that sustained us all through the ride back.

The ride back to Manila took only four hours since we took a shortcut through Teresa and Antipolo to save time. It was a great smooth ride with just a few stops for gas, photo ops at the Pagsanjan arch, and a roadside stall for some buko juice.

People ride motorcycles for different reasons. Some have a need for speed or find the danger exciting. Others see it as just a convenient mode of transport from one place to the next. But for me, it’s the adventure of rediscovering places and seeing things differently. Philosopher Lao Tzu once said that: “A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” I look forward to traveling all around the country someday aboard a motorcycle with no real plan – just stopping by wherever we feel like it and seeing the country in a whole different light.

NOTE: Casa San Pablo is located at Barrio San Roque, San Pablo, Laguna, Philippines. Pet-friendly. No toiletries provided. All meals are served family-style or buffet at P385++ per head. Drinks are charged on a per order basis ranging from P50++ for bottled drinks and P65++ for canned drinks.  Room rates for 2-4 pax start at PhP 1,650.00++ per head. Visit their website and Facebook page for more details. Casa San Pablo: 0917-8126687 · Fax 724-7023 · 

10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2011 2:32 pm

    that was fun ah! me too, I love driving motorcycle Kara in discovering new places because of the feeling of total freedom. Unlike cars, jeeps and buses where you are situated within a cage, haha.

  2. December 4, 2011 2:18 am

    Thanks Ed! Usually when I ride a bus or van I just sleep the whole way to a place. Driving out there in the open is really a different experience. Glad to have found a fellow motorcyclist in PTB 🙂

  3. December 4, 2011 5:50 pm

    I love love love Casa San Pablo!

    Go Kara! I once met a guy who traveled around the Philippines on a bicycle!

    • December 5, 2011 12:47 pm

      Thanks Nina! When I was doing this post, I realized that I only learned to ride a motorcycle this April :p Hopefully, traveling around the country is not too far off.

  4. December 10, 2011 7:58 am

    Kara you brave girl! I have the motorphobia so scared of riding motorcycles.I am starting to overcome the fear and that’s part of my memorable journey to gutsiness as entry to the blog carnival you are hosting!!

    • December 13, 2011 4:44 am

      Thanks Mhe-anne. Will be going over all the posts this weekend. Looking forward to reading all about the PTB’s journeys around the country! 🙂

  5. December 12, 2011 5:30 pm

    Hello Kara, this is Ely (PPI). Congrats sa award! Hehe. Inggit ako sau, you have all the luxury of time to travel and post great photos. See you again soon! 🙂

    • December 13, 2011 4:48 am

      Hi Ely. It was nice meeting you. Thanks. Actually, work and other stuff keeps getting in the way and I don’t have as much time as I would like to travel, but I try to make the most of weekends. Hope to see you around again in future events 🙂

  6. March 14, 2012 1:22 pm

    Wow Motorcycle diaries. Riding across scenic highway and stopping at that lovely Casa San Pablo, will try to budget it in on a trip I’m planning for Laguna next next weekend. Laguna is mostly overlooked (by most people in Luzon) but its becoming this interesting province to further explore – just as this post shows.

    • March 15, 2012 4:51 am

      Yeah, I agree that the Laguna/Quezon area is often overlooked. I’ve been meaning to explore it more. Enjoy your trip, Marky! 🙂

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