The TANAW Park in Rizal, Laguna. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.

With Laguna endowed with the bounty of nature—numerous mineral hot and cold springs, majestic waterfalls, and protected forest areas teeming with great diversity of flora and fauna, the province is an important cluster of destinations for eco-tourism, wellness, and leisure activities.

After launching the Green Corridor Initiative (GCI) in December, the Department of Tourism (DOT) brought members of the media in some of the destinations included in the “Buhay Laguna” Tourism Circuit, so they can get a sample of what sustainable tourism is like in the region.

Dubbed as the City of Seven Lakes, San Pablo is rich in natural resources, cultural heritage, and historical landmarks. Sampaloc Lake is one of these beautiful lakes. Though not one for swimming (it’s mostly for fishing), the lake features a 3.7km circumferential road, that has become an ideal jogging and biking path among locals. A portion of the area has also been developed for people to chillax. There are bike rentals, vendors selling isaw, as well as several restos and hotels for a drink or two.

The Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario.

Another lake which is included in the GCI tourism circuit for Laguna is Lake Pandin. An emerging eco-tourism destination, Lake Pandin offers swimming, camping, and boating around the lake. What draws tourists to this lake is the experience of being paddled around the lake by local women (mostly wives of fishermen in the area), as well as the sumptuous lunch that includes salad na pako, inihaw na tilapia, and ginataang hipon

Tourists should also include Sulyap Gallery Cafe and Casa San Pablo to their list of restos to try. Both of these awesome dining destinations serve heirloom dishes. We recommend trying out the kulawo and kare-kare in Sulyap, and the dessert options (such as macaroons and macapuno) at Casa San Pablo. (More on these on a future article).

Another worthy destination in Laguna is the TANAW (Tayak Nature, Adventure and Wildlife) Park in the municipality of Rizal. Often called the “Biker’s Heaven of Laguna,” the hill is a favorite destination of bikers for its challenging yet fun terrain, as well as pilgrims because of a view deck called Noah’s Ark. The latter affords a view of Laguna (that’s if the fog doesn’t obscure the view) and gives devotees a place to reflect, with a huge cross overlooking everything.

Then there’s the municipality of Nagcarlan, known for the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery, the only one of its kind in the country. It’s a burial site (of mostly priests) located beneath a church. The church itself is rich in history, having served as a meeting place of the revolutionary leaders of the Katipunan in 1896. 

Slipper-making demo in Liliw. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario

Nagcarlan is also known for espasol, a local delicacy. Made fresh every day, the humble and delicious espasol sells for P35 each for five pieces, but costs more when brought to different pasalubong centers in neighboring places.

Completing the “Buhay Laguna” tourism circuit is the municipality of Liliw. Known as the “Tsinelas Capital of the Philippines,” tourists can find some of the nicest collection of trendy (and very sturdy) slippers and shoes. Footwear costs as low as P60 each, with many of them costing twice or thrice when bought at a mall.

Travelers from Manila can visit San Pablo, Nagcarlan, Rizal, and Liliw in a day trip, as these CGI tourism circuits are located relatively near each other. An easy hour-and-a-half drive away from Manila on a good day.

Espasol is a favorite pasalubong from Nagcarlan. Photo by Kenneth M. del Rosario