It was still early in the afternoon when we completed the descent of Mt. Batulao. That gave us enough time to make a side trip to nearby Caleruega for a bit of sightseeing. I was looking forward to this because I’ve never been to Caleruega before and I was eager to see what the place offered.
That day being a Sunday, what greeted us at Caleruega was a huge weekend crowd of families as well as a lot of policemen who looked very sharp in their formal attire. It was obvious that a policeman’s wedding was going to take place at the iconic Transfiguration Chapel, which as become the most recognizable building in the entire place.
After paying the entrance fee, we explored the place still clad in our mountaineering outfits and carrying our backpacks. We didn’t really have a map of the area and our group relied on the recollections of those of us who have been here before as well as the direction of where a lot of people were going. There was this road we strolled on that had wooden panels on the side carved with scenes of the Stations of the Cross, which was notable for its unique design – the characters were portrayed as indigenous Filipino instead of European/Middle Eastern.
We only planned to stay here for a bit to relax and do some picture taking, and intended to wash up at some of the rental showers at the jump-off point. However, to our good fortune, Dario discovered that there are actually shower rooms open to all guests. So we spent about an hour taking turns utilizing the shower rooms before exploring further.
So once we were free from the dirt and grime of the climb, it was a much more leisurely afternoon that we had after that. Some of us replaced their trail shoes with flip-flops, and their hiking pants with shorts. (But “Bruno Mars” was still wearing jeans and his fedora.)
In the course of our stroll of the grounds, I found Caleruega to be very well planned. The buildings and gardens were built around the existing topography. Natural slopes were preserved (including a deep ravine) and there was no sign of massive artificial earth movements. Caleruega is still as hilly as the land that surrounds it.
We crossed the aforementioned ravine going to the other side by means of a 20-meter long suspension bridge which rocked up and down with the slightest step. I remember placing my BlackBerry safely in my pocket while crossing, lest all the rocking somehow makes me lose my grip on my phone.
On the other side, we encountered expansive open spaces where we observed some people pitching tents. (It was apparently allowed to go camping in the area for a certain fee. This area was also near the retaining fence that separated Caleruega from the privately held land adjacent to it. Some enterprising person from the other side built a sari-sari store right beside the barbed wire fence where people can buy refreshments, snacks and even puppies.
So we went up this hill…
To get to another expansive open space that had a chapel-like structure at one end.
…which upon a closer look has some nice-looking, religious-themed stained glass artwork.
This area at the top of the hill was perfect for just hanging out at that time in the afternoon when the sun is no longer hot and the there was a constant fresh breeze that would make one relaxed enough to want to just lie on the grass and do absolutely nothing.
This group being HLGG, there was a lot of picture taking done in this part of Caleruega. So here’s a picture of the girls:
And a picture of the girls taking a picture of the boys:
Even our backpacks had their own photo shoot:
Eventually though, we had our fill of the scenery and retraced our steps back to the entrance/exit. We didn’t want to let nightfall catch us here and we intended to leave while public transportation was still accessible. This doesn’t mean though that all the picture-taking stopped. We combed every square meter of the place to take advantage of any possible photo opportunity.
Upon reaching the exit we took separate tricycles to bring us back to the Evercrest jump-off point. One of the tricycles stalled some distance from where our companions needed to be dropped off so they were forced to walk. Once we were all complete and everyone’s accounted for, we rode a jeepney that would take us to Tagaytay. We could have opted to take a bus that would bring us straight to Metro Manila but most of us were already hungry so we decided to have dinner in one of the many restaurants in Tagaytay first before going home.
We unexpectedly met heavy traffic on the way to Tagaytay so we whiled the time away by sleeping, talking and, in Dario’s case, making new friends with other jeepney passengers. Eventually, we reached Tagaytay when daylight has all but faded. We chose Chowking to have dinner in. Allan and Jhay-Ar had to return to Manila ASAP so they were not able to join us.
I learned that dining at Chowking after an activity is sort of like a tradition with HLGG. I honored that tradition by eating a lot. As always, my excuse is that “I have to regain all the calories I lost.”, which accounts for the existence of my beer belly, even though I rarely drink.
Before long, dinner was over and we made our way to the bus stop. We were lucky that it only started to rain when we already have boarded. So that ends a very activity-filled day with my HLGG friends. I’m looking forward to the next activity.
= = = = = = = = = =
This entry is part of the Mt. Batulao III series dated January 22, 2012: