The drive to Tagaytay is a little bit more than an hour. We left at about nearly 10 AM and took the Coastal Road route. I could immediately see that we were in Tagaytay when we reached the rotunda and took a left turn. The surroundings are cleaner and greener and to the left, you can get a glimpse of the breathtaking Taal lake scenery. We stopped over at GSP and got out of the car for a stretch and a walk, taking in the grassy environment and the wonderful fresh air. We also headed for the restrooms. The adorable, playful dog was there again, running around entertaining the guests (us).
TIERRA DE MARIA
Tierra de Maria, a haven of meditation and enrichment and the home of the majestic 50-foot image of Mama Mary, was our next stop. It’s open daily from 8 AM to 6 PM. I remember coming here when I was still in high school. It’s a good place to reflect and pray for the Lord’s guidance. There are a row of benches on the side decorated with a backdrop of plants and a colourful array of religious paintings depicting the Mysteries of the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross.
There is a comfort room but it costs P5. There are also vendors of native delicacies (good for pasalubong) circling the place. The well-known Jesus Christ optical illusion can be seen everywhere. At the center is a Wishing Well where you can throw coins and wish for whatever you’re longing for as the trickling of the water soothes you.
Beside it, you can light a candle for your intentions. The Inner Peace Healing Center is like a prayer room inhabited by life-size statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Jesus Christ on the Cross and Our Lady of Manaoag.
Just follow the instructions posted outside (and inside) the Center on how to proceed. A healing ‘pray-over’ is conducted daily and a Holy Mass is held in the Center every first Saturday of the month. On the second floor, there is a big liturgical calendar covering several walls where you can find out who your patron saint is based on your birthday.
There are names under some dates (probably birthday celebrants on that particular date). On the third floor is Mama Mary’s Angels Meditation Garden (angel figurines are scattered around the place) where you can hold the hand of the huge statue of Mama Mary and marvel at the beauty of God’s creation with a view of Taal volcano.
Just try to ignore the not-so-charming property behind the Tierra de Maria. Along with the view of Taal volcano, you can also see the horseback riding adventure trail in Picnic Grove (where we will be sauntering with our horses later on). There’s another floor above, but there’s nothing much to see here except for a higher vantage point of Taal volcano. Before leaving, check out the souvenir shop for bits and pieces to complement your spiritual activities or give them to friends.
TAGAYTAY PICNIC GROVE
The Picnic Grove is just beside Tierra de Maria, located at Brgy. Sungay in the east-end of Tagaytay City. It is one of the cheapest attractions here in Tagaytay and obviously, one of the most crowded. Before we could unpack our lunch on one of the picnic tables in the area, we had to pay our parking and entrance fees in one of the big cottages used by the staff.
We paid P285 for the five of us and a car. There are no signs for parking areas so basically you can just park anywhere you see other cars park, too (but usually there are people who show you where). Just don’t park your car near a coconut tree with big, big coconuts and leaves threatening to fall sometime soon. We settled on one of the P150 picnic sheds (the price varies according to the size and ranges from P100 to P250). There were barbecue pits scattered all around the picnic area for grilling food and we wished we had brought fish and pork for some mouthwatering sinugba and inihaw.
Families and friends flying identical kites, running around the rolling terrain or simply sitting on the soft grass provided a cheerful backdrop while we ate spaghetti, fried chicken and kare-kare. On the other side was a breathtaking view of Taal Lake in all its glory.
Mmm. To top it all off, the shed didn’t cost a thing. The woman in the reception area told us that someone would come up to us to collect the payment, but no one came. So we went on our way to the Eco-Adventure Trail. But first we stopped to go up the view deck where you can get another enchanting view of Taal Lake while enjoying the breeze and taking pictures.
Right beside the view deck, is a sign marking the entrance to the Eco-Trail, a long boardwalk with a hanging bridge which spans a mini-valley replete with trees, shrubs and other vegetation.
This landscape makes it ideal for a 250-meter zipline and a cable car, giving guests a unique angle for viewing the lush scenery. Even if the zipline only lasts less than a minute.
When you’re walking along the Eco-Trail, flying people in the background is a common occurrence.
We tried out the 5-minute cable car. It’s a less exciting ride, but it goes on longer (plus you can snap pictures while on the ride ). We made the most of our time in the cable car by taking pictures in every angle.
It was a weekend so we paid P200 for a one-way ride for each of us (P300 for a two-way ride). During weekdays, the rates are lower by a hundred pesos. The fact that it’s two-way offers a scenic form of transportation (albeit a very expensive one) from one side of the park to the other. The rides operate as early as 9 AM and close at 6 PM. Visit the zipline’s official website if you’re still curious about this new addition. There is a much better cable car in Tagaytay (according to my aunt) in the Tagaytay Highlands and it was free, as far as I can recall (it was a long time ago). Unfortunately, you need a member to have access to the place. I didn’t have the chance to ride the cable car although we were inside and ready to go. The operator informed us they were discontinuing the ride because there was a storm coming. I do remember riding this downhill train-like ride but I don’t know what it’s called (my memory’s so blurry). I also remember eating in a restaurant serving a lunch buffet and having this prickly sensation when I ate their tuna (I thought I was allergic, but it was probably just bad fish). Oh, and we scoured for real estate on the market although we weren’t actually intending to buy.
Anyway, back to Picnic Grove. After the cable car ride, we went to the souvenir shops lined up near the entrance and parking lots. The items they sell include t-shirts, caps, bags, keychains, slippers and some knitted pieces for cold climates. If you want Tagaytay to be branded on every souvenir you choose to take home, then this is the place for you.
Not ready to leave Picnic Grove yet, we decided to go horseback riding and opted for the adventure trail. There’s no fun in just going around in circles in a small flat space. Big horses cost P200 and smaller ones cost P150, plus an additional P150 for the adventure trail. The guides offered to give us big horses plus the adventure trail for P300 each instead of P350 and we accepted. The adventure trail is actually just the small even field you can see from the third floor of Tierra de Maria where horses carrying visitors amble about. If you’d rather choose a narrow uneven path over the wide level field, you can ask your guide to take you somewhere else more adventurous. Our guides took us to nearby areas where we came across cows and small huts and a ridge overlooking Taal.
It was brief. We were then escorted back to the adventure trail.
The guide called the horse I was riding Samantha several times so I assumed it was her name. I’ve had little horseback riding experience. The first time I ever rode (really rode and not just take a picture) on horseback was when I was trekking in Taal. The horse I got was a bit on the rowdy side (it liked to kick other horses), but other than that, it wasn’t bad. The next time was when I went riding in Picnic Grove. The problem was with the guide. The horse wasn’t as rowdy as the first one, although it did like to eat leaves from trees and wander off who knows where, ignoring my desperate attempts in steering it to the right direction with my guide nowhere in sight. But that’s another story.
After that more recent experience, I was uneasy about horseback riding. So when coming back to Picnic Grove, I was a little hesitant to try again. But I’m always ready to take chances, so I tried again. But before we set off, we told the guides to actually do their jobs and guide us. I think that paid off. A lot.
This was one horseback riding experience that I actually completely enjoyed. At first, I was a little worried, but after a while, I got the hang of it. Plus the horse was just wonderful! She followed my cues and didn’t stray off the path. I’ll be sure to ask for her the next time around (if possible). I was starting to feel confident, telling the horse to go faster that when the time was up, I felt disappointed. I knew parts of my body were aching and tired but I didn’t feel it. I wasn’t ready to go home yet. Even so, it was beginning to be late and we had to go home to Manila, so regrettably I had to get off the horse. The experience was incredibly fun for me that it put a ridiculous smile on my face for hours afterwards and I was already mulling over the next time I would be hopping on a horse.
On the way home, we stopped at the fruit stands and pasalubong stalls along Aguinaldo Highway to buy fresh fruits and Collette’s buko pie, then made a U-turn to eat dinner at Andok’s.
We were rather worn-out at this time and I felt like dozing off right then and there, but I came around a little when the food arrived. The bumper-to-bumper traffic was unbelievable in Dasmariñas (it was somewhere between 7 PM to 9 PM). I felt like pulling my hair out or getting a good night’s sleep on the wheel or a combination of both. Thankfully, my trusty iPod still had battery left so there was music to entertain me. I get really lonely and jealous when I’m the only one awake while the others are sound asleep. So I raised the volume on purpose to keep my companions from dozing off. Hehehe. Finally, we got past Dasmariñas and everything was fairly smooth after that. Before we knew it, we were home.
After some quick Googling, I found that there’s horseback riding in Manila Zoo. Hmm…maybe I’ll go check that place out. It would be great to go horseback riding more often here in Manila. Without joining an expensive and exclusive club (Manila Polo Club, anyone?).
View pictures of the trip on Flickr.
Visit the Mama Mary’s Movement website for information on Tierra de Maria.
Contact Nos. for Tagaytay Picnic Grove Complex: