Just over an hour drive from Mega Manila, one can be up in the mountains enjoying the view of Manila’s skyscrapers, getting the vibe of the distance but not really being away from the Metro at the same time.
More than this, as the melting pot capital of the province of Rizal, Antipolo is a haven of arts, food and distinct destinations combined, something that many would find worthy of checking out for more than just a day or two.
According to Antipolo City Tourism Officer Mar Bacani, the goal is exactly that: To bring in more tourists and make them stay longer. “Tourism is one of our top priorities. It is our goal to make Antipolo at par with other leading Philippine destinations because we can offer good food, art, experiences and even accommodation.”
To prove so, the local tourism draws up tours highlighting various destinations and local businesses which greatly contribute to the continued rise of tourism possibilities in the area.
For a weekender trip
Here’s a sample guide on scoring the best of what Antipolo City has to offer:
Day one. Hop in a van and head to Antipolo for an early-morning breakfast at Café Cristina in the mountain resort Cristina Villas. The café, perched on a hill, welcomes the cool, gentle breeze while giving a distant view of the metropolitan skyline.
After sipping on a cup of freshly brewed coffee or chocolate drink, a quick tour around the area won’t hurt. While it takes a few uphill steps, one can kick-start his Antipolo adventure with a thrilling zip line ride, overlooking the 2.5-hectare property’s main amenities, such as swimming pools, spa, gym, function areas and hotel.
The property is just a stone’s throw away from one of Antipolo’s main attractions—Hinulugang Taktak. Legend has it that, during the 16th century, a local priest was forced by the local people to drop the bell in the river due to its harsh and unbearably loud sound when rung during Angelus; thus the name “Hinulugang Taktak,” which literally means “where the bell was dropped.” Today, the legendary site is one of the most important landscapes in the province of Rizal, and is must-visit for first timers in Antipolo.
Come lunchtime, best to check out The Bistro at Le Blanc Hotel has to offer. Savor some good old Filipino-Asian cuisine from sisig, kare-kare, and sinigang to rib eye steak and Korean Beef Stew. After which, it’s time to freshen up and check in to Luljetta’s Place Garden Suites, the new addition to the growing accommodation and recreation services of Loreland Realty And Development Corp.
Antipolo’s best-kept secret hideaway is probably the Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens, a spa offering various health and wellness services, situated on the cliff of the mountain. In the afternoon, after all the strolling and gastronomic adventures, it’s time to rest and relax while admiring the serene and picturesque backdrop of mountains, and a commanding view of Bataan and Laguna de Bay.
Start by having a dip in its infinity pool or resting your feet at the Dr. Fish Spa. There is also an option to avail yourself of either a head and back massage or foot reflexology. When done with the massage, one can go to their secluded meditation lounges and lush gardens for some quiet time.
For people who are into visiting food parks, the new 11 Circle Food Hub and Events Place is just about the go-to place to end your day. Food stalls offer international food—from ramen, pizza, chicken wings, burgers and pasta, to booze and sweet delights.
Day two. The next morning, have a hearty breakfast buffet at Luljettas Place. A quick dip into its lap pool is also option before packing your things. Never miss going to Antipolo without catching a Sunday mass. A nice option is the frequently flocked Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary along Taktak Road.
If dining with a spectacular view is preferred, Café Lupe Antipolo is a nice place to grab lunch. Situated in Sumulong Highway, the café offers a good view of the Manila skyline while you enjoy their fresh signature and crunchy brick oven pizza. A number of house specialties include Paella ala Lupe, Chicken Ala Mexicana, Pasta Bolognese and Glazed Pork Belly. Café Lupe Antipolo also houses KTV rooms, bed and breakfast, events venue and a boxing gym.
Before heading home, have a quick side trip to Pasalubong Center and sample Antipolo’s famous delicacies. One should never miss trying out Antipolo’s suman wrapped in ibus. It is usually dipped in latik or coco jam and sprinkled with roasted and grounded cashew nuts for some added texture. Other delicacies worthy of bringing home as pasalubong are broas, peanut brittle, cashew nuts, mangoes, polvoron, turrones de mani, lengua, uraro and glazed peanuts.
For romantic ‘I dos’
Sprawled across the city are several beautiful churches and lovely wedding venues, an attraction to engaged couples and their families to book for several days and go for that wedding ceremony held in the highlands.
The Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary is one of the most preferred churches for the wedding rites because of its modern architecture fitted with all white and glass panels designed by Architect Dominic Galicia. Its contemporary design is surprisingly in contrast with the natural landscape which makes it more appealing and romantic for exchanging vows.
It is so popular that wedding date reservations on a weekend this year up to the next is close to impossible since all dates had been already reserved early on.
Other good options are the Boso-Boso Church, Saint Joseph the Worker Chapel, Saint Antony of Padua Church, Saint John Mary Vianney Parish Church, Antipolo Cathedral and more.
For wedding-related activities, more and more hotels and resorts around Antipolo offer such amazing promos. One is the Le Blanc Hotel, an all-white hotel dedicated to Hon. Komong Sumulong, the former Majority Floor Leader of the 8th Congress (1987-1992) representing the First District of Rizal. It’s minimal yet classy ambiance makes the perfect background for the prenuptial shoots, on the day wedding preparation and reception.
For more than just day trips
According to Bienvenido Tours owner Ramon Marinas, the leading tour operator in the province of Rizal and a proud local himself, Antipolo has all there is to be a thriving tourism destination.
He says, “They only come here to go to church, dine and for some sightseeing. We want them to stay longer, that’s why we are developing more tour options, to give them reasons to do so.”