Art/Style/Travel Diaries

Must-visits in Laguna, according to the experts

Scenographer Gino Gonzales and designer Patis Tesoro share spots you shouldn’t miss in this beautiful province close to Metro Manila

Taka from Buhay at Hugis

Buttermilk pancake with bacon and eggs at Ted’s Laguna

Miss Universe 2018 Catriona Gray in a field of water lilies, the indigenous plant used in Laguna handicrafts

As the Philippines emerges from the lockdown lifestyle, more families who have been confined at home are becoming adventurous again. Barring traffic, Laguna is a two-hour drive to a bounty of culture, history, churches, crafts, cuisine, and nature grazing. Designer/artist Patis Tesoro shares the list of where she usually entertains guests. She doesn’t just stick to her adopted hometown, San Pablo City.  Scenographer Gino Gonzales, who frequents the place, favors creative spots. The highway is lined with roadside stalls selling kitchenware, hats, furniture and the like.


Luis Ac-ac’s work in progress

Museo Ac-ac, Paete, Laguna
Manila East Road, Brgy. 4 Quinale, across Paete Landmark (highway side), near Seaoil Gasoline Station, Paete, 4016 Laguna
Contact person and tour guide: Look for Lemon. They also have an FB account
There’s a small but well-appointed museum featuring the works of master carver Luis Ac-ac. You can also watch him and his apprentices work on carvings at the workshop behind the museum. His subjects include tipos del pais, slices of rural life, folk tales. There’s a separate section on nudes.

Patis Tito Garden

Patis Tito house

Patis Tito Garden Café, San Pablo, Laguna
285 Sta. Cruz, San Pablo City, Laguna
Mobile: (0927) 308-5339
Landline: (049)543-5971
The by-reservations-only restaurant and bed-and-breakfast place is a whimsical assemblage of antique pieces and folk crafts. There’s a shop selling works by Patis Tesoro from kimonas, appliquéd dusters, and evening wear alongside locally-produced stevia, balms, organic fertilizers. The home-cooked food uses ingredients plucked from the garden. Arrange for a visit to see workshops where embroidery and patchwork are done. Patis is into permaculture and a tour of the vegetable garden is an educational experience.

Los Filipinos Bakery
43 M. Leonor St. San Pablo City, Laguna
Contact person: Grace B. Cortez, tel. No. (049) 5210326
Established in 1947, this bakery is owned by the family of director Alex Cortez. Aside from the delicious breads (pan de coco, monay, hopia, pinagong, etc.), which one has to buy before they are wiped out at merienda time, a glimpse of the old pugon behind the store front is a must. One gets a better appreciation of traditional food culture.

Sitio de Amor Leisure Farm
Maharlika Highway, Barangay San Vicente, San Pablo City, Laguna
Contact: George and Alma Bondad
Surrounded by mountain views, gardens, and fruit trees, this estate is special for the restored ancestral homes turned vacation villas. Guests will enjoy the luxury of space. One of them is the 1920 house of Don Tomas Morato, the mestizo mayor of Calauag, Quezon and the first mayor of Quezon City.

Casa San Pablo al fresco dining

Laguna clay art from Casa San Pablo

Casa San Pablo
Colago Ave, San Pablo City, Laguna
Contact: Boots and Ann Alcantara, tel. no. (0917) 812-6687
Aside from country lodgings amidst greenery, it is also an art space featuring clay art by former magazine editor and book writer Ann Mercado Alcantara. It’s one of the cleanest and most efficiently-run bed and breakfast places in San Pablo, with a sprawling lawn for dining al fresco. You can book a culinary tour to the place or just enjoy local delicacies such as chicken in peanut sauce, freshwater shrimp in coconut milk and smoked eggplant salad. Plus, you can take home Casa San Pablo’s clay storytellers, cute, colorful clay figures representing Filipino life.

Villa Escudero

Villa Escudero Museum
Tiaong, Quezon
Contact: Tel. no. 8521-0830
There are three exhibit spaces on colonial objets d’art and icons, and two are currently open to the public. At the turn of the 20th century, hacendero Don Arsenio Escudero and Rosario Adap were avid collectors of Filipiniana and many other things, from archeological artifacts, folk art, ecclesiastical art, clothing, and taxidermy, to weapons, amulets, furniture, and many curiosities. Their son, the late Conrado Escudero, transformed the coconut plantation into a cultural theme park. Every Pinoy must visit the museum at least once to learn more about the ilustrado lifestyle.

Badong Footwear / Josmar Shoes
341 Gat Tayaw Street, Liliw, Laguna
Contact: Tel. nos. (049) 5631048 and (0995) 270-9609
Liliw is famous for its shoe industry. Badong Footwear is a shopaholic’s haven for very affordable kocho or alpombra slippers, made of organic materials. Situated on a quaint street where some heritage houses still stand, Josmar shoes makes faux leather slides, slip-ons, sandals, wedges, and accessories.

San Cristobal mural

San Santiago Apostol Church
Paete, Laguna
The church was built in the 17th century but was destroyed several times by an earthquake. The present church was erected before World War II, and was used as a dungeon during the Japanese Occupation. Also known as the Church of Paete, it is famous for the striking images of the Passion of Christ. Aside from the retablos carved by Paeteños, one must see the two murals of San Cristobal and an earlier painting of the Last Judgement, circa 1720s. During Holy Week, collectors bring out their prized antique religious icons.

Pang Buhay at Hugis sa Paete woodcraft and papier-mâché
Quezada St. Brgy Ilaya del Sur, Paete, Laguna
Contact: Tel. no. (0926) 630-3177
It’s one of the few stalls that still produces traditional taka or art (horses, carabaos, tipos del pais, facsimiles of native fruits) at very affordable prices. Owner Lino Dalay, a production designer, makes papier-mâché products for commercial displays


Japanese comfort food at Shin Hana

Shin Hana Japanese Restaurant
National Highway, Brgy Sampalocan, Pagsanjan
Contact: Tel. no. (0917) 875-2165
Located near the arch of Pangsanjan, the restaurant is owned by a Filipino Japanese culinary artist. It specializes in comfort food—shabu-shabu, tamago, tempura, sushi, and sashimi served in bento boxes.

Ted’s Laguna
Kilometer 83, National Highway, Sta Cruz, Laguna
Contact: Tel. no. (049) 501-6858
Not for dieters, as the food is calorific. The family-owned country-style resto offers comfort foods such as chicken wings and special occasion cakes. Their avocado cheesecake was listed in Inquirer Lifestyle’s Best Desserts of 2017. Enjoy crepe benedict, Japanese style strawberry shortcake, Neapolitan pizza, brown sugar milk tea, mushroom soup, buttermilk pancakes with bacon and eggs, and breakfast sandwiches such as Angus beef and cheese and onions. When Sen. Manny Pacquiao went on a campaign sortie, the presidential candidate and his wife Jinkee stayed at Ted’s bed-and-breakfast place.

Matteo Guidicelli visits Rolyolikha Handicrats and meets owner Renel Batralo.

Rolyolikha at Iba Pa Handicrafts /Antigo Furniture
National Highway, Purok 4, Pila, Laguna
Contact: Rolyolikha: tel. no. (0908) 344-1051; Antigo: tel. no. (0921) 480-0894
Rolyolikha is run by Renel Batralo, one of the Department of Trade and Industries’ recipients of the One Product Next Generation Program, a training program to level up the quality of crafts and professionalize business. This social enterprise supports Laguna weavers who make baskets, placemats, bags, area rugs, and mats, made from water lily.
Antigo Sash Furniture produces furniture from old wood and wagon wheels and specializes in capiz windows sashes. The capiz is likewise used in doors and cabinets.

Laguna Kuan Yin stone sculpture by Anchit Mammah for Patis Tito Garden

Anchit’s Garden
National Highway, Calauan, Laguna
Contact: Tel. no. (0919) 372-8024
Landscaper and plant supplier Francisca “Anchit” Dayang Mammah sculpts stones into religious icons, mushrooms, planters, animals and dragons. “I went nuts in my house,” says Patis, who ordered a lot for her garden. Her Stations of the Cross sculptures are exported to Taiwan

Itlog ni Kuya
National Highway, Victoria, Laguna
Contact: Tel. no. (0917) 370-1158
Duck farm owners Leo and Josephine Dator raise Peking ducks, and sell Laguna’s signature salted eggs and balut.

About author


She is a veteran journalist who’s covered the gamut of lifestyle subjects. Since this pandemic she has been giving free raja yoga meditation online.

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