Bed and Breakfast–and Bulalo–in Tagaytay
An impromptu trip for some steaming hot bulalo yields a great bargain rental find.
Tagaytay is a popular place for spontaneous food trips and nippy drinking nights--and with the wide range of convenient and cheap accommodations, there's always somewhere safe to stay afterwards. Freelance architect KC Castillo discovers one such gem along the ridge.
It was one of those brilliant spur-of-the-moment trips borne out of the consumption of a healthy amount of beer. I was out with four drinking buddies at past 3AM and our watering hole was closing, but nobody was inclined to go home yet.
Someone suggested going for some steaming hot beef bone marrow stew. Where better to get some authentic bulalo but in Tagaytay City? Soon we were dropping off extra rides, had squeezed ourselves into a single pickup truck, and were on our way to Tagaytay at 4 in the morning on a weekday with nothing but the clothes on our backs and big silly grins on our faces.
Tagaytay is a popular destination for urban city dwellers looking for a quick getaway. Located just about 55 km south of Manila, it only takes approximately one and a half hours to travel via car between Metro Manila and Tagaytay under the best weather and traffic conditions.
We made a quick pit stop at the Petron Station along SLEX to gas up, to use the bathrooms, and to purchase toiletries, water, and candy for the trip. We made it in good time--just after 5AM, we were at the 7-Eleven store along Aguinaldo Highway (by the rotunda) to get more supplies: a couple of bottles of local vodka, soda, snacks, and more water to tide us over until we managed to find our holy grail of hot bulalo. Thus armed, we set out to find lodgings where we could stay, drink in peace (and relative safety), and rest as we waited for the bulalo places to open.
We decided to check out a budget hotel along Tourism Avenue (the street down the ridge side across the Santa Rosa highway junction). We took a wrong turn looking for the building entrance, and we found Bed and Breakfast instead.
We came across this modern-looking house with a huge lit sign up front: "Bed and Breakfast: Rooms for Rent." Another tarpaulin panel draped across the metal gate declared "Room Rate at 1,500/nite 12nn checkout time" in bold red letters.
Looking up at the balcony of the main house, we asked Mang Romy, the caretaker and our host, if there were rooms available and he offered to show us the second floor and attic that could be rented for P5,000. (The room for P1,500 advertised in the sign was Room 1, which was good for two people.)
We loved it! P5,000 included the use of the front upper sections of the main house: the spacious second floor comprising the living and dining areas, the kitchen, a toilet and bath (with hot water, a must in Tagaytay!), the balcony, and the attic/bedroom.
The attic, accessible from the second floor via a spiral stairway, had a window-type air conditioner and three single beds. We had the option to add three extra mattresses (two air beds and a foam mattress) for an additional P100 each.
The living area had sulihiya furniture, glass- and marble-topped low hardwood tables, and a television set with cable service. For an extra P500, a DVD component could be hooked up for guest use. Sliding glass doors opened up to the balcony. The balcony spanned most of the structure's front façade, overlooking a small garden and affording a spectacular view of the Taal Lake. Although narrow, it was deep enough to accommodate lounge chairs and a small wooden table--perfect for hanging out and drinking with friends, and quietly contemplating nature while enjoying the fresh cool Tagaytay breeze.
The dining area featured a rectangular hardwood table with four chairs, but could still comfortably seat eight people. The kitchen was equipped with a refrigerator, a gas range, and a sink. We had the option to prepare our own meals (provided we cleaned up after ourselves), with kitchen utensils available free of charge. There was also a small charcoal grill at the back of the house (charcoal and other supplies were available at a wet market nearby, but we didn't plan to cook our own food--we were waiting for our bulalo!).
Standard check-in time at Bed and Breakfast is at 2PM, with check-out at 12 noon. Since it was a weekday when we arrived and there was no standing reservation for the space, Mang Romy was pretty flexible about our check-in and check-out times and even agreed to let us come back to use the facilities after we set out for our meal.
On weekends, though, the place is usually booked to full capacity. If you plan on staying over the weekend, calling ahead for reservations is highly recommended. With several other rooms that can accommodate between 2 to 6 people, Bed and Breakfast can house up to around 30 people.
Later that day we headed off in search for the dish that started it all--bulalo. Although no one in our party had eaten there before, we picked Leslie's Restaurant. It seemed pretty popular, and their location along Aguinaldo Highway had an excellent view.
We chose a table at one of the individual nipa huts away from the main dining area and closer to ridge side with a view of the lake. We ordered the Bulalo Special, Inihaw na Liempo (grilled pork belly), Inihaw na Tawilis (grilled local sardines), Piniritong Tawilis (fried local sardines), and a platter of steamed rice. For drinks it was bottled water all around.
Our orders arrived in about 15-20 minutes. The bulalo was not bad--the beef was tender, the vegetables crisp. We got free refills for the clear broth.
The liempo was a little too sweet for my taste, but tender. As for the fried tawilis, it was okay, though I've had better. When the grilled tawilis arrived, I was a little surprised--it didn't look grilled to me, but it tasted pretty good.
A group of in-house singers with string instruments and shakers went from table to table, serenading diners and accepting requests for songs to be played.
According to their menu cover, Leslie's offers "Nothing to overwhelm the taste buds, just the taste of the real thing," which pretty much sums up the food experience. Leslie's Restaurant offers diners a good view of the lake, clean restrooms, and rustic ambiance.
We left Tagaytay City at around 6PM and got caught in the tremendously heavy traffic on the way to Sta. Rosa. We reached SLEX just after 9PM, and stopped by the Caltex station at San Pedro (along the northbound lane at SLEX) for a quick bathroom break and some drinks at Starbucks.
By the time we reached Manila it was well past 10 in the evening. It was a great mini-vacation, and as this was not my first trip to Tagaytay, I'm also sure it won't be my last. Hooray for serendipitous finds, and cheers to kaladkarin friends!