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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Things to do in Tagaytay : Puzzle Mansion

by Shawi Cortez

If you are looking for a place in Tagaytay your kids will love, then bring them to the Puzzle Mansion.

Even if you're not bringing any children with you, but you yourself are a kid at heart, then this place will wow you.

Holding the Guinness World Record for having the largest collection of jigsaw puzzles, Georgina Gil-Lacuna received this award and recognition last November 29, 2012.

Ms Lacuna has completed 1,028 sets of puzzles by herself.

The first jigsaw puzzles in London were originally created by painting a picture on a piece of wood, and cutting it into small pieces with a jigsaw. So the original puzzles were wooden pieces.

Through the years, the modern jigsaw puzzles are made out of cardboard.

There are also three-dimensional puzzles and puzzle globes (which are spherical in shape).

Housed in this mansion is the world's biggest puzzle. Before passing away, Ms Georgina Lacuna has completed 70% of the biggest puzzle in the world, the rest was finished by family members and installed on the second floor of the museum.

the Keith Haring Double Retrospect set, a 32,000-piece puzzle

Inside the museum are different collections.

By far, my favorites are : Gustav Klimt's The Kiss.

And St Basil's Cathedral in Moscow Russia.

Is completing a jigsaw puzzle just for kids?

Not so. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, it's one of the many activities to help keep your brain active and may help in reducing the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

Located on the second floor, is a shop where you can buy puzzle to bring home for yourself or your kids. Get those brain cells working!

Take care when driving. It's a bit steep!

Entrance Fee : P100.00 (same rate for kids)
Address: Purok 4 Cuadra St. Barangay Asisan, Tagaytay City, Philippines
Telephone: (02)425-5195
Email: puzzlemansion@gmail.com

Friday, July 10, 2015

Weekend Guide: 30 Hours in Laguna

by Shawi Cortez

What if you only have thirty hours to spend on a weekend and you don't want to go very far, but want some place within an hour to two hours' travel from Metro Manila?

Laguna is your best best. This province is located southeast of Metro Manila, and is known as the birthplace of the Philippines' national hero Jose Rizal. It's famous for several attractions, like the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus, hot springs of Pansol, footwears of Liliw, and Nagcarlan's Underground Cemetery.

Here's a quick guide on how you can cover all those and more.


1. IRRI | 11 a.m.

The International Rice Research Institute is a research and training organisation based in Los Baños. You may not be a rice farmer, but a trip to IRRI is worth visiting.

abstract art depicting rice culture

There is a museum open to public which showcases traditional and modern rice farming and processing, byproducts of rice, and more. Entrance is free of charge.

Deep water rice plant is taller than me.
This type of rice is perfect for flood-prone areas.

the greener the leaf, the better

Traditional method rice farming and processing

Modern method rice farming and processing

Rice byproducts

winnowing device

vats for brewing rice beer

Winnowing fan

Being Asians, rice is our diet's staple. Shown in a framed post is this short paragraph :

Rice is Life
For people in rice cultures,
rice means just about everything
that is important;
birth, death, wealth, power,
strength, fertility, virility, vitality…

…life itself. 
Rice is Life

2. Trolley Ride | 11:30 am

This is an insider's secret you probably do not know. On your way out from IRRI, notice the train track.

You just might chance upon "trolleys". These are make-shift cabs that looks like a bench with wheels. Notice also that the trolleys are not machine operated but are being pushed by locals. It's one of their means to make extra money.

For a twenty minute ride, we each paid P20.

enjoying our trolley ride
photo by : Jonas San Luis

we are one with nature
photo by : Jonas San Luis

and we're afraid of the sun
photo by : Jonas San Luis

photo by : Jonas San Luis

3. Lunch at Bonito's | 12:30 pm

No, we did not push the trolleys, but it sure made us hungry. Instead of eating at the crowded commercial complex in front of the campus, we drove farther out and dined at Bonito's.

They serve set meals with a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade for an affordable price ranging from P100 to P120.

4. Museum of National History (MNH) | 2:00 pm

MNH is a research organisation to document Philippine biodiversity. There are different exhibits inside showcasing the country's rich flora and fauna.

Entrance fee : P20


She sells seashells on the seashore



kamp kawayan

pamatay fungi

Forest. Gump.

UP Elbi Iskolars in action

because it looks artsy fartsy to me

two of my favorite colors

under the sea
photo by Jonas San Luis

5. Makiling Botanic Gardens | 3:00 pm

Upon entering its huge iron gates, I already felt at home. By far, this was my favorite place inside the campus.

i think that i shall never see
a poem as lovely as a tree

yes you are in the Philippinensis


Look up!

Had it not been for our scheduled "outside classroom session", I would've loved to explore and hike this huge park.

our outside classroom

finance guru Nolan Lazaro teaches us how to spat scams

hike na!

Now I have a reason to go back.

Babalik ako!

Entrance fee : P20

6. Kesong Puti Animal Science | 5:00 pm

A trip to UPLB is not complete if you have not tasted their kesong puti (white cheese).

Kesong puti along with other dairy products can be bought at the Philippine Carabao Center inside the Institute of Animal Science.

Aside from kesong puti, the Dairy Corner also sells fresh milk, mozzarella cheese, flavoured yogurt, and pastillas.

If you bought cheese for pasalubong, bring a cooler with you to store your goodies. Otherwise, you must eat 'em within 3 hours, else it will spoil.

What better way to eat it, than to pair it with warm, crusty, fresh-from-the-oven pan de sal. Mmmm. Mmmm.

7. University of the Philippines Los Baños campus | 6:30pm

The UPLB Campus brings a certain charm at sun down. Match it with a drizzle from the skies, and you get a picturesque, other-worldy experience of enjoying the early evening scene.

Given the fact that its location is biodiverse, what can you expect from a campus located within a forest reserve? More trees!

virtual professionals on the loose

"Oble" UPLB Oblation

dusk at Elbi

8. Dinner and night swimming Pansol Laguna 7:30

A perfect way to end a rainy day is a dip into Calamba's hot springs.

Head to Brgy Pansol for an array of resorts. We picked La Vista because we were drawn to their world class water slides and their "big wave" pool.

Before heading to the resort to spend the night, we bought supplies for dinner from the nearby shops and eateries.

Dinner was late at 10pm. So by the time we hit the pool, the slides were closed for operation.


9. Pila | 9:00 am

Checkout early to make the most of the day. No fancy breakfast, we grabbed whatever is left of our supplies-- instant coffee, bread, banana-- and we're ready to hit the road.

Our travel to Pila was pretty straight forward. One bus ride. Get off at Pila Plaza.

Pila plaza.

Pila is on fire! Painting the town red.

The main attraction happens here. We were here for two things : The Church of Pila (also known as San Antonio de Padua Parish Church) and the old houses.

The Church of Pila is said to be the most beautiful church in the province of Laguna.

The Church of Pila

The old houses are reminiscent of the preserved houses dating back to the colonial times in Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Taal, Batangas.

Pila Museum

White House

old architecture

7-11 in Pila

10. Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery | 10:30 am

Built by Franciscan missionaries, this (Libingan sa Ilalim ng Lupa ng Nagcarlan) is the only underground cemetery in the Philippines. It also served as a secret meeting place for the revolutionaries in the 1800s.

What sets it apart from the usual Filipino cemeteries, is its circular wall made from bricks. At the centre is the chapel and the crypt.

Leading into the steps, are these words :

Go forth, Mortal man, full of life
Today you visit happily this shelter,
But after you have gone out,
Remember, you have a resting place here,
Prepared for you.

with Conz and Gracie

11. Nagcarlan Bunga Falls | 11:00 am

Beat the sweltering heat, by heading to one of the many waterfalls in Nagcarlan. The most popular is Bunga Falls.

Also known as Twin Falls due to the identical cascading of water side by side, this is only 15 meters in height.

Twin Falls

It was not crowded when we arrived, but there were a handful of locals already swimming in the pool or floating on tubes. Cottages are available for rent at P250/day and there's also an improvised shower / dressing room.

One way fare from the market is P60/pax. Since transportation is hard to come by, you can ask the tricycle driver nicely to wait for you, and add a premium for it.

12. Lunch at the market | 12:00 nn

Eat like the locals. Back in Nagcarlan market, home-cooked-no-frills lunch of rice and viand can be had at an affordable P50.

13. Liliw shoe shopping | 1:00 pm

You're only 8 km away from the province's shoe capital. From Nagcarlan, take an P8 jeep and ask to be dropped off at the main drag.

shoe shoppers' haven!
closed from traffic. for shoppers only!

During the weekend, that entire street is closed to motorists to give way to shoppers.

hungry from shopping?
this, and many restaurants along the main drag.

not buying any pair of shoes?
how about a magnet for souvenir?

ok, this has nothing to do with shoes.
i just saw this fruit vendor and am attracted to the colorful fruits!

Knock yourself out to affordable, quality shoes. Don't forget to bring home a pair of tsinelas (slippers) for your family members as pasalubong. You can get 3 pairs as low as P100.