For the second time this year, AAP Lakbay, the travel and tourism arm of the Automobile Association of the Philippines (AAP), the country’s biggest and oldest national auto club, hosted another curated, modified, and enhanced “Drive, Dine and Discover” caravan. This time the caravan went to the historical, cultural, culinary, and countryside spots of Maragondon and Silang in Cavite to help reboot domestic tourism and local enterprises.
After assembly, breakfast and briefing at Petron Macapagal Avenue, our 8-car caravan, carrying 32 passengers (including AAP Lakbay’s president and former Department of Tourism [DOT] Secretary Mina Gabor, acting DOT Region 4-A Regional Director Ms. Marites T. Castro, 19 participants, media, sponsors, escorts and guides) made the one-and-a-half hour-long, 48-km drive to Maragondon’s Church of the Assumption of Our Lady, the caravan’s first stop.
The best-preserved church complex in the province, it was listed by the National Museum as a National Cultural Treasure on June 30, 2001. Much of the church’s unique, narrow but tall and not squatty façade (chastely ornamented with the pilasters tapering upwards), the lower portion of the large convent, and the old watchtower were built with irregular river stones from the Maragondon River (Pinagsanhan area), an indication of the early level of technology at that time, and layered with stucco.
About 500 m from the church is the Museo ng Paglilitis ni Andres Bonifacio (Bonifacio Trial House Museum). This 2-story bahay-na-bato (stone house) was the site where Katipunan Supremo Andres Bonifacio and his brother Procopio were court-martialed by a military court presided by Gen. Mariano Noriel on May 5 and 6, 1897. The court found the two accused guilty of treason and recommended execution.
Built by Roderico Reyes in 1889, the house now belongs to Jose Angeles who bought it from Reyes’s descendants in 1994. On June 4, 1997, the house was designated as a National Historical Landmark by the National Historical Institute and, in 1999, was fully restored and declared as a National Heritage Site. Today, this stone, brick, and wood ancestral house has been converted into a museum formally inaugurated on November 28, 2014.
From the museum, it was a short 5-min., 1.2-km drive to Caingin Port where we boarded two gaily decorated balsa (bamboo rafts) for a two-hour cruise of the scenic Inuquit River, once adjudged as among the country’s cleanest and greenest body of water. Each balsa had a bamboo table and benches. One had a bamboo deck, accessible by a bamboo stair, as a roof.
During the cruise, we feasted on a packed lunch catered by Honorio’s Restaurant, a Maragondon culinary icon. The lunch fare consisted of sinigang sa miso, pork adobo sa patis (wherein the soy sauce was replaced by fish sauce), pakbet, and a dessert of sliced watermelon. These we all washed down with fresh buko juice straight from the shell.
Before proceeding to Silang, we made another 1-km drive, for souvenir shopping, at Likhang Maragondon Native Products & Pasalubong Center, an award-winning native products enterprise that is helping revive the town’s age-old weaving tradition and bamboo craft by making them available to a bigger market. Operating since 2019, it taps into the traditional craftsmanship of local-based and eco-friendly weaving and bamboo products made by skilled Maragondon-based weavers and sewists, most of whom are housewives. On hand to welcome us was social entrepreneur Catherine “Therine” U. Diquit, the founder of the enterprise.
From Likhang Maragondon, we made the long 36.2-km (one-hour) drive to Silang’s charming Cornerstone Pottery. A producer of world-class handmade stoneware using locally and internationally sourced clay, they make dinnerware, tea sets, mugs, chimes, vases, sculptural pieces, centerpieces, pots, tabletop fountains, and a lot more ceramic wares. At the shop, owner EJ Espiritu demonstrated, using an electrically driven potter’s wheel, how a bowl was formed from clay.
We capped the caravan with a late merienda of heirloom delicacies at the family-run, must-visit Asiong’s of Cavite. Established in Cavite City in 1960, it actually started as a sari-sari store and eventually developed into a hole-in-the-wall karinderia. Perennial flooding made them move out, from its original site in Cavite City to Silang.
We dined at the open al fresco dining area within an extensive and refreshing garden landscape at the back. Here, we tried Asiong’s famous, savory and filling best seller—pancit pusit. A different take on a paella negra, it uses vermicelli noodles cooked in squid ink and is garnished with thin slices of fresh green kamias, adding a refreshing tart taste and a different twist to the usual use of calamansi as a sour agent. It is topped with sautéed vegetables, kamias and chicharon. This was supplemented by turon (fried banana rolls) and puto. Before leaving for Manila, some of us bought some pasalubong at their cute and well-stocked Country Store, a mini deli by the entrance.
With alert levels down and people now going on “revenge travel,” Gabor said that the group is lining up more unique destinations off the beaten path, through well-curated itineraries, in coordination with the DOT and local government authorities, to spread tourism’s benefits to provincial communities while ensuring the group’s physical safety and health.
The day-long Cavite caravan, with the DOT-Calabarzon as the major supporter, is also supported by Petron Corp. (official fuel partner), Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), and Mapfre Insurance.
Image credits: Benjamin Layug Locsin