Get a dose of the Rizal culture and its interesting art and adventure scenes. Local and tour operator Ramon Mariñas leads the way.
Rizal province is a place to be for a dose of art, culture and inspiration while keeping it really close to Manila. It’s home to homegrown artists, some of which made it really big like in the case of National Artists for Painting Vicente Manansala and Carlos “Botong” Francisco, and National Artist for Music Lucio San Pedro.
Get art inspiration
Angono’s numerous art galleries, museums and street art will give you your creative fill. Here you will find houses with muraled walls and sculptures depicting paintings of the late artist Francisco.
But for a total sensory stimulation, check out the old Angono-Binangonan Petroglyphs, which contain etchings of human and animal figures on the rock wall that date back to 3,000 BC; Carlos “Botong” Francisco Gallery where you can see all things Francisco’s, from painting paraphernalia to awards he received; Second Gallery of Carlos “Totong” Francisco II, which showcases abstract expressionism masterpieces that he specialize in; Blanco Family Museum, which houses realism art portraying Filipino culture and tradition as well as rural life; Nemiranda Art House Atelier Cafe, a café-cum-gallery where you’ll see some of the works of artist Nemesio Miranda’s imaginative figurist art along with the works of other Angono artists; Perdigon Vocalan Foundation Gallery which features an extensive collections of sculptures, painting and other art forms done by the late Perdigon Vocalan and other independent artists from Angono and neighboring Rizal towns;and Tiamson Gallery run and owned by painter and transmedia artist Orville Tiamson.
Loreland Farm Resort is another notable attraction and basecamp of ARTipolo, a community of homegrown local artists who bond to showcase their artwork. Further out is Cloud 9 Hotel and Resort, which showcases Antipolo’s history and a collection of Philippine antiques. Artist Otho Neri who lives here has a gallery with a 36-degree view of Rizal and the metropolis.
Crescent Moon Café and Studio Pottery is a place for learning and getting creative with wheel and clay. It’s owned by potter Lanelle Abueva Fernando, reputed for her functional, handmade stoneware ceramics. Vis-à-vis learning pottery, you can munch on some Southeast Asian fare served at the cafe or enjoy a drink or two at Glass Bar, a watering hole within.
See interesting churches
You don’t have to travel very far to see some of the Philippines’ notable churches, wonderful for their being centuries-old and unique.
Named the Pilgrimage Capital of the Philippines, Antipolo is where you’ll find the Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage, also known as the Birhen ng Antipolo, enshrined at the Antipolo Cathedral. The church, established in 1591, is busy year-round but peaks during the Maytime Festival that starts on May 1. It is also a place for worship for devotees and travelers. Devotees pay homage to the miraculous Virgin during the Alay Lakad (walk offering) on the eve of April 30 where travel by foot from Quiapo Church in Manila to Antipolo Cathedral.
Tanay’s Regina Rica of the Dominican Sisters has gained a large following since its opening in 2009. The 71-foot statue of the Queen of the Holy Rosary is the church’s centerpiece.
Other Rizal churches note stopping by are Nuestra Senora dela Annunciata (Boso-Boso) Antipolo, St. Jerome Parish in Morong, St. Joseph Church in Baras, St. Ildefonsus of Toledo Parish Church in Tanay, Nuestra Senora de Aranzazu in San Mateo, Sta. Ursula Parish Church in Binangonan, Our Lady of Light Parish Church in Cainta, and the St. John the Baptist Church in Taytay.
Antipolo is home to some of the most exciting places to have Asian cuisine and international dishes. Try Vieux Chalet Swiss Restaurant, a beautiful restaurant set in a more remote area of Taktak that specializes in Swiss cuisine; Casa Nieves Bistro, which serves Filipino, Spanish, and Italian favorites in an IG-worthy setting at Robinson’s Place; Kampai Sushi Bar, a Japanese restaurant great for sushi; Luljetta’s Café, where you get a sweeping view of Antipolo’s landscape as you munch on fresh, organic garden salad or other healthy-vegetable meals; and Yellow Lantern Café, a brightly-colored restaurant that serves intercontinental cuisine.
Take a hike
Rizal is coveted for its hike trails so hiking is a definite must do. Two of Tanay, Rizal’s top hiking trails are Mt. Mamara, remarkable for its forested trail and beautiful sunrises, and Mt. Daraitan, which gives you the thrill of seeing a sea of clouds from up above. The two mountains are easy trails and therefore good for beginners. After climbing Mt. Daraitan, head to Tinipak River. Its pristine clear water and white marbled rocks make it a favored stop by mountaineers’ after a long day’s hike.
Masungi Georeserve in Baras: another favorite destination for hiking and adventure. Masungi has carefully designed trails leading you to get up close to high-grade limestone rock formations and a breathtaking view of the Sierra Madre Range.
Rizal is a place to stock up on IG-worthy waterfall snaps on top of experiencing these wonderful wonders too. Tanay’s Daranak Falls is a 14-meter high waterfall with water-pressure coming out from Sierra Madre mountain range, allowing you to enjoy some natural massage. There’s also Hinulugang Taktak Falls in Antipolo, notable for its cool clean water. Wawa Dam in Rodriguez is a favorite of photographers because of its picture-perfect rock formations.
For the adventurous feet, another thing to try in Rizal: caving. Check out Antipolo’s Mystical Cave, so called because of the miraculous events that happened in the place and the stalagmite and stalactite holy images. Tanay’s Calinawan Cave has seven levels but only two are open for tourists while its Tinipak Cave features a jacuzzi-shaped pool with freezing cold water. Meanwhile, Rodriguez’s Pamitinan Hanging Bridge, an 80m long bridge, will lead you to Pamitinan Cave, historic for it’s where Filipino hero Andres Bonifacio and his men declared independence from the Spanish empire. Proof of fact is the Viva La Independencia Filipina inscription found on the cavern wall.
Choose where you’d want to hold your next vacation without really leaving the city. Rizal hosts some of the most exciting resorts such as Timberland Sports and Nature Club in San Mateo, a family-oriented property which offers camping, biking, wall climbing and a whole lot more, and Thunderbird Resort in Binangonan, a mountainside resort atop south of the Sierra Madre mountain range.
Antipolo’s Luljetta’s Hanging Gardens Spa—the first of its kind in the Philippines—has been making noise for a while. It is set on a cliff with a commanding view of Laguna de Bay and Metro Manila. Luljetta’s is a destination of its own notable for its water features and meditation lounges, and offers nature massage and natural scrubs in a tropical inspired setting.
From Makati, get on a bus going to Starmall Edsa-Shaw. From there, there are FX and jeepney terminals that ply to the different destinations in Rizal province including Antipolo, Tanay, Rodriquez, Bingangonan, and Angono among others.
Bienvenido Tours offers packaged tours that are customized to tourists’ interests. They offer town tours, pilgrimage tours, heritage and cultural tours, art tours, culinary tours, eco tours and adventures.
Who is Ramon Mariñas?
Ramon Mariñas is the managing director of Bienvenido Tours, operating for five years now. He is a true blue Antipolo local actively involved in various tourism-related organizations. He is currently Board of Trustee at the Association of Travel and Tour Agencies of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal & Quezon, Incorporated (ATTA-CALABARZON,INC). In 2017, he chaired the Rizal Tourism Summit, an annual event that ushers in tourists and stakeholders to Rizal province. He was also a Board of Trustee of the Philippine Tour Operators Association Inc (PHILTOA) from 2016 to 2017.
Photos courtesy of Ramon Mariñas