When you feel that the towering buildings of the metro are closing in on you, there is one thing you could do – escape. Breaking free to find peace of mind and have some fun does not necessarily come with a hefty price tag. A quick sojourn to Calamba, Laguna – the Resort Capital of the Philippines – is just the ticket for anyone seeking to relax over the weekend. Calamba, taken from the term “kalan-banga,” which means clay stove, is less than two hours away from Manila. The city is perfect for food crawls, historical tours, and good old-fashioned family or barkada outings. Here are the top five things you could do over the weekend in Calamba.
The City of Calamba is best known as the hometown of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Born on June 19, 1861 to Francisco Mercado Rizal and Teodora Alonso Reolanda, Jose Rizal spent his early years in Calamba with his nine sisters and one brother. The city government, along with the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, immortalized the contributions of Rizal to our country through the reconstruction of his two-story, Spanish-Colonial style house along Mercado Street and Rizal Street in Poblacion 5. Since then, the house has earned the national shrine designation. Anyone can visit the Jose Rizal Shrine from Tuesdays to Saturdays between 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free, but curators are open for any form of donation that would help them restore and maintain the residence.
A short distance from the shrine is another tourist attraction glorifying the greatness of Rizal – the world’s tallest Rizal statue. The 22-foot monument, the number symbolizing the languages mastered by Rizal, is situated in front of the Calamba City Hall. The statue was commissioned by former city mayor Joaquin Chipeco and designed by Jonas Roces.
As mentioned earlier, the name Calamba is derived from a Tagalog term for clay stove. Legend has it that during the early Spanish period, two soldiers got lost and passed through the city. They saw a lady carrying a jar and clay stove. They asked the lady for directions in Spanish. The lady thought they were asking what she was holding, so she mistakenly answered “kalan-banga.” The Spanish soldiers failed to utter the word correctly and the pronunciation stuck and became what is now known as Calamba. The people of the city commemorated this important part of history by creating the largest clay pot in the world. The Calambanga or Calamba Clay Pot is found at the City Plaza, near the Jose Rizal Shrine and Calamba Church.
Calamba is not dubbed the country’s Resort Capital for nothing. The city is peppered with hot spring resorts, from the luxurious to the budget-friendly. Bathing in geothermal hot springs has been associated with improved blood circulation, detoxification, and better metabolism. These are just a few of the benefits of taking a dip into nature’s healing pools. If you want to maximize your visit to a hot spring resort by adding more activities into your itinerary aside from just swimming, you might want to visit Doña Jovita Garden Resort along Km. 57 National Highway, Bagong Kalsada, Calamba City, Laguna, near the Jetti Calamba station.
All swimming pools found inside the resort are filled with water from the hot springs of Mount Makiling. Whether you want to relax, do some soul searching, or have an adventure, the resort is filled with activities that can keep you busy from sunup to sundown. Aside from naturally heated pools, the resort has a zipline, a small obstacle course for the active types, Stations of the Cross for the devout, and a landscape filled with flowers and animals for the nature and animal lovers.
If your idea of a vacation involves getting really close with nature and losing tons of calories, then climbing the famous Mount Makiling is just the ticket. The mountain is named after Maria Makiling, a forest nymph who is said to be guarding the mountain’s resources. From afar, the mountain resembles the shape of a woman lying down. This woman is said to be Maria Makiling. This dormant volcano is the first national park in the country and is now the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve under the protection of the University of the Philippines-Los Banos.
Climbing Mount Makiling is considered a minor one with four out of nine difficulty level. If you do decide to traverse the mountain, it will be better to schedule it during the summer season because the area is often infested with leeches during rainy days. Also, try not to leave anything behind, especially waste. According to legend, hikers who throw their trash at the mountain often find themselves returning to one place over and over again until they cleaned up their campsite.
If you are like most Filipinos, desserts are obviously a very important staple in the dining table. If you happen to be in Laguna, it is almost a sin not to buy a buko pie before you leave the province. What is the best buko pie? Most say it is The Original Buko Pie, but more pasalubong stores across Laguna are grabbing the culinary attention away from The Original like Lety’s, El Mare, and Colette’s. However, if you choose to go against the grain and ignore the norm when it comes to local sweet treats, you could settle for Mer-Nel’s Chocolate Cake. Originally from Los Baños, Mer-Nel’s cakes and pastries are now available at SM Calamba. The local bakeshop’s chocolate cake with fudge or yema filling is one of the most sought-after cakes across the Philippines. Despite the cake’s popularity among the local folks and tourists, the price of each cake is actually very affordable. If you have decided to buy this cake, best be prepared to wait in line. There is no off season for this cake. Waiting in line is challenging, but it is definitely worth it when it comes to this special chocolate cake.
With the stress of everyday life taking a toll on us, a fun and enjoyable vacation every now and then is becoming a must. A quick weekend getaway to Calamba, Laguna, the Resort Capital of the Philippines, is just the ticket for anyone seeking to relax over the weekend.