By JULLIE Y. DAZA
It was 27 degrees C in Tagaytay at 11 a.m. the Saturday before Holy Week. In Manila, the temperature was boiling at 35C. That difference of 8 degrees was the main reason to be 2,500 ft high up in the hills, though we didn’t know it at the time, neither the temperature nor the elevation. That said, Tagaytay is always nice—as long as it’s not a weekend, especially not a long one, and as long as you leave Manila on a weekday and avoid the rush hour. Summer’s dry heat had scorched some of the grass and trees along the way in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, but I tried not to look at them by counting instead the fire trees and those sturdy, luxuriant trees without a name (to me, that is) and their beautiful, powder-like yellow blossoms crowning their bouffant foliage. I counted eight fire trees and 37 of the latter, which should encourage the DPWH regional head of Cavite and Laguna to plant more of the same. Their shade, not to mention their lovely flowers, are all the reason, and reason enough.
Still, the reason we were on our way to Tagaytay was to park our dusty souls/soles, in a manner of speaking, at my friend’s signature hotel, Lake Hotel. I choose “signature” because to me the hotel signifies Tagaytay, the lake, the volcanoes, the volcano within a lake, the lake within a volcano, the view, the whole nine yards of that earthy yet unearthly scenery. The hotel stands on the edge, looking down and outward at that gorgeous expanse of water exposing a crooked line of volcanoes. The sight unfolds under a blue sky laced with wisps of clouds without, alas, a promise of rain. And all the while you’re just standing on the grass at the end of the hotel lobby, or by the rim of the swimming pool that seems to go on and on, indefinitely, ending at what appears to be the lake shore.
Mariano Yupitun, the studious Buddhist and businessman who conceptualized the Wisdom Park and meditation center on Broadway, New Manila, built Lake Hotel 10 years ago simply because it was too lovely a property to keep to himself. The architecture, the space and spaciousness, the minimal intrusion of construction materials and corners, the generosity of spirit to allow the customer to do his own exploration of air, light, and empty space—they conspire and contribute
to a sense of calm.
After a good night’s sleep, another sense takes over: hunger. Thankfully, the breakfast room is just one floor under the main lobby. The day’s fare is an array of food to wake up every sense—chicken macaroni soup, tempura, danggit with grilled eggplant, spicy pork with chili, eggs cooked different ways, fried fish, salted egg with onion and tomatoes and leeks, fried banana, siomai, sausages. In all, said the restaurant manager, eight main courses, five appetizers, one soup, one salad, carrot cake, fresh fruits (mango, pineapple, melon), bread, butter, cereals, pancake, French toast. Plus coffee, tea, juice. Breakfast?Sounds more like lunch cum merienda.
If I had a big appetite (or a wider waistline) I could’ve stuffed myself and taken one meal to last me the whole day!
Thus fully fed, we chose a gentle time to leave. Alleluia, the sky was dotted with a colony of clouds, thicker and heavier as if they would keep the sun from unleashing the full force of its red hot anger. Away we went, then, wondering why we had to leave now, why not tomorrow… or another day . . . knowing full well why not.