It was a weekday on the last few weeks of January and the weather sucked. It was cloudy and raining from time to time, a kind of rain where your feet will get soaked only a few minutes in. What I had planned was a McDonald’s trip because the cousin’s wife would like to have some McDonald’s, and what better McDonalds to go to than the one in Tagaytay because what can beat scrumptious Fastfood while taking-in the Beautiful Views of Taal?
Well that didn’t happen and so did a lot of plans for this day because:
- Wifey’s condition got really bad and she had to rest
- The rain in Tagaytay got really bad that you can’t see any kind of view at all, except Fog and Cloud, so bottom line: no Taal View.
- We got off at the wrong Bus Stop.
Backtracking on #2 and 3 – I was really looking forward to that Tagaytay Ridge Taal View. While we can’t do McDonalds’ I was thinking the cousin and I could go for a Food Trip: Leslie’s for the Bulalo and Bag of Beans maybe. So the plan was: Take a Bus from Buendia to Tagaytay, do food trip, go Home. That was it. But this totally DID NOT HAPPEN and it all worked out for the best. Seriously. What happened that day was really the most fun I ever had in a random outing. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
A quick google will tell you that to get to Tagaytay, you’ll have to take a Bus and get off at Olivarez Plaza, then you take a jeep to wherever restaurant you were headed. The Cousin and the wife decided that she’ll stay at home as she needs to rest, and given the intermittent rain we were experiencing, there might be a chance that she’ll get worse. So after a Jeepney ride from Pandacan, then rode the LRT from Taft-Pedro Gil, then got off at Buendia. We rode a DLTB Bus bound for Nasugbu in their Buendia Terminal. (Yes, I just made my cousin commute through one of the more notorious places in Manila. Probably not advisable for foreigners who prefer comfort in their travels, but that’s where the adventure lies isn’t it?)
I asked for the konduktor to drop us off at Olivarez Plaza. I never did a commute to Tagaytay, and it was my first time as well, so being the paranoid person that I was – and someone was with me, I loaded on Cell Phone Internet and Prepaid Credits and followed our route through Google maps HAHA. In between checking our phones if we were there yet, the cousin and I exchanged stories throughout the whole trip: his Backpacking adventures in South America, Places to go to in the Philippines – what the other cousins and Titos back in Canada were actually like HAHA – because I never saw them until facebook came along. I was even trying to teach him the basic Filipino words on the Bus – words that I feel are particularly useful. He said that he could recognize a few words (e.g. Pogi, Gwapo – wow ha?!) but never really understood Tagalog. I still find it surreal that an actual relative of mine was living somewhere far far away and does not speak the language I grew up with.
And after Two Hours of this, the konduktor finally shouted “Olivarez Terminal!” and we got off. Not following instructions to get off at Olivarez Plaza and thinking there should be Jeepneys in there since it is a “terminal” – we got off. Lo and Behold, it was raining, everything was grey, I didn’t know what Jeepney to ride, and it was not the Olivarez Plaza that was shown in Google Maps. I panic (internally).
A Tricycle Driver approached us and asked where we were going, I think I asked him if he could take us to Leslie’s to have Bulalo and how much will it be. What we got was an offer to take us down by Taal Lake to have Bulalo in one of the lakeside places in there coupled with a Taal Volcano Trip. I was really suspicious and hesitant because my cousin really looked like a Foreigner and what he might be offering was a “Tourist Trap” place, and of course, I didn’t want the both of us to be duped. But he made a good point saying that we wouldn’t see anything anyway, if we had Bulalo in the Tagaytay ridge since it was raining, and the weather would be better by the Taal lakeside since it was a lower place. I asked the cousin for a decision – he was paying for everything after all – and we went for it.
I didn’t really have any control at this point. I was just praying that it wasn’t a scam or anything, that it wouldn’t end badly, that we were “safe”.
And so the Adventure began. I bet a 30-minute downhill Tricycle Ride down the Chicken-Innard-like Tagaytay-Talisay Road would been an experience and an adventure in itself! Wind blowing in your face, cramped a bit because of your height..and you can only experience it in the Philippines I guess? Not to mention a view of a Volcano within a Lake? Definitely unique!
We were dropped off one of the Lakeside Resorts around Taal Lake. The Tricycle Driver would wait for us and asked for a little extra since he will not be able to take any passengers while he waited for us, which was fair enough. Beside, we eventually gave him a little extra at the end since he brought us to a place WITH THE BEST BULALO EVER. AS IN! I am doing a disservice to that place for not remembering its name, but it was raining, the Bulalo was piping hot and the soup was flavorful with all its beefy-ness. It was Perfect! Seriously, if the day just ended there, I wouldn’t have minded. I would like to believe the cousin enjoyed it too, so yey! Brownie points for me!
While we were eating, they brought a laminated Brochure of the Taal Volcano tour that they were offering. There were pictures of previous joiners (?) – mostly foreigners – and the package they were offering: Roundtrip Boat Transfer to and from the bottom of the Volcano, use of Lifejackets, Entrance Fee to the site, horseback ride to the edge of the volcano, guide fee, and a Bulalo meal for 2. The price? 6000 Freakin’ Pesos. Of course I said no. Besides, it was raining then. It would’ve been risky crossing Taal Lake during that weather. So we had to pay an extra 100 for our “Hut Rental”, and 900 for the Meal (Tourist Price, I know!!!! But it was good so…)
But then the rain let up after a while, and the weather was clearing. And since we were there already anyway…
We arrived on the foot of the volcano after the 30-minute scary/fun boat ride and walked from the beach to the station where everyone needs to log-in. There was an entrance fee of 100 Pesos to be paid per person. Now from there we had two choices: It’s either we hike our way up to the crater – which was a bit far, not to mention slippery since it just rained, and we weren’t exactly prepared for a hike, or hire a horse and a guide to take us up the Volcano for 1200 pesos each (if I remember it correctly). Really, the horse is optional, there were tourists that were hiking up the Volcano that we met along the way. In our case, we just had to go with the horse.
And on the top, we were welcomed by this awesome view of the crater!
It was weird being on top of the volcano, you can actually see steam rising up from the red rocks of the area. I just had to touch the steam and feel it for myself.
(Pictures from the Cousin’s Phone)
After enjoying the view, and buying drinks for our guides (100 Peso C2s) we promptly went down with the horse again and back to the place where we ate Bulalo. On the boat ride back, we were talking about how surreal everything was because we were just just planning to have a plain Bulalo lunch overlooking Taal, and I thought it wouldn’t work out because it was raining and all, but it turned into this Unexpectedly Fun, Awesome and Unplanned Mini-Adventure! I for one didn’t know what was going to happen from that point where we got off at Olivarez Plaza, where we were going, and maybe we were probably just lucky that things worked itself out in the end, and I’m reeeally thankful it did.
So we handed off 1500 to the Boatman, and then 750 pesos (tip included) to the tricycle driver as he dropped us off Olivarez Plaza to ride a Bus back to Buendia. We probably did a little over 4000 in the end, but at that point we didn’t care.
Apparently there are no buses to Buendia anymore, and we had to get off at EDSA Rotonda. I was telling my cousin that it was one of those places I really need to be on guard, and I told him to keep an eye on his phone and his pockets. He was game for street food though, and so we ended up on the sidewalk of EDSA Rotonda, 7 PM, on the road, dark, with commuters rushing and buses speeding by, eating Piping Hot Fishballs, me explaining to him what the different Fishball sauces are. Walking to the LRT on the Pedestrian Overpass. Us nearly getting separated on the LRT since it was full already – AND WE DIDN’T HAVE EACH OTHER’S CONTACT NUMBERS. He literally almost got stuck in between the LRT doors and I was just laughing nervously (It was not funny, I know, I’m sorry, Tito and Tita were probably going to flip). If that isn’t the most authentic, chaotic Manila experience then I don’t know what else is.
But yeah, it’s important: GIVE YOUR CONTACT NUMBERS AND ADDRESSES to your balikbayans. You never know what’s going to happen. Also, talk about what you’re going to do when you get separated on the train – do you wait for each other on the next station or do you meetup at the stop where you’re supposed to get off? To add, WELCOME THE UNEXPECTED. And yeah, a daytrip to Taal Volcano and/or Having Bulalo in Tagaytay is a great idea for touring your Balibayan relatives around if you have half-a-day to spare!
What the day that was, honestly.
(Part 1 is hosted here in Wanderast – where you could also read up on other people’s Travel Adventures. Will post part 3 next week! :D)