TAAL VISTA HOTEL REVIEW | I lost my favorite Philips earphone that day. I may have let go of it during the hustle of arriving. Receiving a gift for me has always been akin to meeting angels: such is the beauty because it comes with a terrible loss.
I’ve always resorted to listening to music to look within myself and keep the world at bay. But I realized, coming to Tagaytay City on a Sunday and staying in Taal Vista is already just that – looking within oneself and keeping the world at bay.
The Lake Wing
Taal Vista has two wings: the lake wing and the mountain wing. I got to stay at a premier queen room in the lake wing, with my room directly above the #TaalVistaHotel sign where many guests pose to mark their stay.
At home, I live seven steps from the shore. When I see the wind skimming over the waters, I always think of the Spirit of God hovering over it. Here the lake is so serene there is no need for hovering. The Spirit is everywhere.
Taza Fresh and the Veranda
One of the things that wowed me immediately (and wows me still) was the kind of food they served. I had lunch at Tāza Fresh Table, tāza originating from the Arabic taaza, meaning fresh. Not only do they serve green, healthy food, they also get their produce from local farms all over the country to serve food directly from farm to table.
I got so excited over my salsa verde with pancetta that I immediately called my mother to tell her about it even while I was eating. My parents have always been advocates of green, leafy vegetables (as I think all parents are) but they became even more so after Nanay’s mastectomy and radiation therapy three years ago and Tatay’s mild stroke a year after that. I could just imagine their thrill over the phone when I told them I’ve found pizza that has more vegetable than dough! And I haven’t even started with the alugbati salad. I loved everything they served me in Tāza: the tomahawk pork chop for the entrée, and molten chocolate cake (my personal favorite) and olive oil ice cream for dessert.
The same goes for the Veranda where I had dinner. They serve continental and Filipino dishes not just with a view but with good music too! But I was only able to see the last part of the cultural presentation which goes on at around 12:30 pm, and the harana men didn’t come to my table, so I contented myself with my mango panna cotta and their voices from afar. Still a great dinner any day, but due to my parents’ vote, I think salsa verde wins hands down for this one. ☺
(Just a quick note though: with such grand meals at Taal Vista, you would want your family with you every time you come. I will surely bring mine next time. ☺)
The Mountain Wing
Keeping the world at bay is so easy at Taal Vista because it has a world of its own. You can even stay in your room the whole day and just cuddle with a book. But it’s the first time I’ve been here so I decided to walk around.
The mountain wing houses most of the area where the activities are. It has a spa, an outdoor swimming pool, gym, recreation room, and even a kids’ club. But it’s the recreation room that surprised me most. Open until 10:30 p.m., I initially just read the day’s paper when I came at nine, but there was one other guest with me there, so we tried billiards and table disc hockey. We both failed spectacularly at billiards but I won in the mini hockey match. Ha! To think that I went there just to read!
The Place and the People
Taal Vista is not home, but it’s close to. Here the hillocks remain hillocks, and the whole area melds with the rise and fall of the land. That is a big part of its charm, because some people level hills to make plains, and others build hills out of nowhere. The Taal Vista area is breathtaking in itself and naturally suffused with light, and the owners have put that into good use.
And of course, there is the staff, who made up for the cool mountain climate with their warmth. From Ms Sheena who showed me around the place and very kindly waited till 7 p.m. before going home just to usher me to the Veranda for dinner, to Ms Joiada Sinclair, a gracious hostess at Tāza Fresh Table, and Ms Kim Tesoro, who gave me delicious jars of coco and pineapple jams straight from their Cakeshop (the jams wouldn’t be launched until later this year) and gave me a letter for entry to Skyranch (because yes, they have a tie-in and it’s a three-minute walk to the gate at the Lake Wing), and all the other hotel staff who made my Sunday stay so comfortable even though they were all so busy with the overflow of guests for the long weekend. A place can feel like home but it’s the people who make it warm.
Lord of the light, Lord of the night
I came to Taal Vista with a slight cough after two days of grueling school work. I was down with colds the day before but I did not stop until I finished everything because I knew once Sunday came, I’d drop them all and go off the grid.
Just for one night. Because I’m in Tagaytay, and I’m in front of Taal, and nothing else matters. The world stops outside, and a new universe stirs.
In my room back in Manila, there is relentless light. But today my body needs darkness, needs its own dark, timeless space. Here, the Lord of light is the Lord of night, unfolding Himself in the tiny, whispering heart, the dance of leaves touching each other, this gracious moment when only the cicadas are abuzz in the pervading silence of the mountain.
The city lights are distant and here is a new vista of things: when you’re drowning and up to your ears in water, go up a mountain and get an overview of things. This is where the heart slows to a murmur and listens to itself, where the soul hides and looks within.
Come, thou words of the spirit, come to me. Stay for a day and then go, but let me have you again tomorrow.
Tomorrow, the circle goes on. With each joy a sorrow, and each eternity a moment. To introspect, to intuit, to enter into things. And to leave, ever wandering along the seeking path.
At Taal Vista, I only stayed for one day. But I would gladly keep coming back for more.
How to Get There:
Tagaytay is just 1.5 hours away from Manila, making it easily accessible by bus, van, or private car. When commuting, the fare usually doesn’t amount to more than Php 100.00, depending on starting location. With a private car, there are plenty of exits along SLEX, Aguinaldo Highway and Daang Hari road which lead to Tagaytay.
Roaming around the city can be done through tricycle or jeepney. Jeepney fares start at Php 8.00 while tricycle fares are negotiable depending on your destination.
P.S. Tourist spots are quite far from each other so it’s best to plan your itinerary before you go out, or better still, just walk around and find your way through the city. Just make sure to remember where Olivarez Plaza is so you can orient yourself with whichever direction you’re going.
What to do when all you have is one day in Tagaytay:
Mahogany Market is home to garden and farm produce and also has a bulalohan, where you can be warmed by a steaming pot of bulalo, a perfect antidote to the mountain coldness.
On your way home, stop by Rowena’s Pasalubong for buko pie and tarts, or Good Shepherd Convent for ube jam.
Try naming all the herbs you see at Mahogany Market. Have a short trek from the main road to Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm at Silang, sit at the swing near the bee dome, and don’t forget to try the different organic soaps they have for sale. Or go to the Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, to the Convent of the Pink Sisters or to any expanse of land facing the lake and keep time with your soul.
3. Have fun.
Sky Ranch is just next door to Taal Vista Hotel and if you’re a guest at Taal Vista, you can be assured free entrance to this leisure park featuring the Philippines’ highest Sky Eye.
For those who want more outdoor experiences, you can go picnicking and horseback riding at Picnic Grove, or buy souvenir items at the People’s Park in the Sky where you can see the fog descend on most afternoons.
4. Stare, stare, stare at Taal.
You can stare at this splendid volcano almost anywhere in Tagaytay. The light won’t hurt your eyes here.
5. Breathe slowly and deeply.
You’re on a mountain ridge. The world looks small and far away from up here.