One thing we loved about our travels in the Philippines is the touts… or the absence of them. People we’ve met so far are generally quite “chilled”, so there’s just not that much hustling going on.
All that changed when we crossed over the Tablas Strait onto Luzon proper. We had taken an overnight ferry over to Batangas and from there we headed to Tagaytay – our last stop before going to Manila to catch our connecting flight out.
Despite what some people might say, journeying through the little provinces of Philippines. is generally hassle free and at times, really pleasant The locals were friendly and we never felt unsafe at any point in time. Even so, the locals we met constantly warned us that we should not trust others so easily once we are closer to Luzon and the capital city of Manila.
The change in atmosphere was very apparent once we hit Tagaytay. Where once we had to wake trishaw drivers from their afternoon naps to get a ride anywhere, we now had numerous touts chasing us around on their trishaws with repetitive shouts of “TAAL VOLCANO?”, “People’s Park?”, “Hotel?”
Probably because of our proximity to Manila, my paranoia had, at this point in time increased 100 fold. I wouldn’t talk to strangers, I curtly refused all offers from trishaw riders and I would even blatantly lie that we already had another ride waiting for us just to get them off our backs.
Looking back, my behaviour bordered on the psychotic, but at that point in time, I really thought that there was no harm in being overly careful.
Coincidentally, that’s also the story of how we walked two hours UPHILL to visit the People’s Park in the Sky.
To be fair to me, we were helped along this dark path by the security guard at our friendly 711, who told us that the Park in the Sky was “just ten minutes away”. Yeah. Our local 711 had a security guard… armed with a friggin rifle. Anyway, he probably forgot to mention that it was ten minutes BY TRISHAW, and I couldn’t validate his information with anyone else because I was in my “No Talky To Stranger” mode. (I was also afraid of asking him if he was sure… because he had a rifle)
We had many chances along the way to amend this mistake.
Trishaws would pass us by every few minutes and they would ask if we are going to the Park in the Sky (since that’s the only place the road lead to). I would ignore them. They would continue saying that it’s X kms away, it would be better if they take us. I would think that they are trying to scam us. They would continue shouting at us. I would tell them to buzz off (nicely). The less persistent ones would laugh as they ride off.
That should probably have been a warning bell for us.
After two hours and (about) 100 of such incidents, any sane person would probably have given up and just take them up on their offer, but paranoid me sincerely believed that they were going to literally, and figuratively take us for a ride. So I stuck to guns (in spite of Jo’s increasingly withering stares), and gave the lame excuse that we really wanted to “just walk” to dissuade the more persistent trishaw drivers.
Granted, it was a really good walk around the outer caldera of Taal volcano. We had panoramic views of the gorgeous Taal Lake and Volcano islands for most of our walk. But, no matter how you looked at it, it was:
a) A two hour walk
b) Hot as hell in the noon day sun
d) A walk
Other than these, the experience was not altogether unpleasant.
And at the end of the road, there was the People’s Park in the Sky.
The Park was originally conceived to be the summer “palace” of former President Ferdinand Marcos and his wife, Imelda. The “palace” was half complete when they fell from grace in 1986.
In fact, it was taken over by the municipal government, and it remained half completed to this day.
Today, the “palace” had been re-opened as a public park. A small fee of 15PHP grants access to the highest point in Tagaytay City. It’s a great vantage point overlooking Tagaytay city, as well as Manila Bay, Laguna Lake, and the Taal Lake (with its volcano islands).
It’s a great place to hang out, and even have a picnic or beer.
Wish we could say the same about the interior. It remained pretty much in the same state as it was when it was abandoned almost three decades ago.
But after all the fun is done, there is still the little problem of getting back…