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Philippine Star
Travel Section: Rendevous
Tagaytay's Best Kept Secrets
By: Christine Dayrit

I have been to Tagaytay many times in the past, but only on my most recent trip did I discover a Tagaytay I never experienced before. Ecstatically, it was only then I unlocked its best kept secrets. The charming city, perched on a ridge 686 meters above Taal Lake and its active volcano is most popular for its panoramic views, thereby being a sought after destination for day trips. In clear weather, the South China Sea is visible from a distance. Though other times, fog can come sweeping swiftly across the lake blanketing everything in its path.

The day started with the sun illuminating the verdant trees and pineapple plantations along the road. My travelling companion Meah Manarang of Vetiver Farms drove along Aguinaldo Highway to Bag of Beans Coffee Shop and Bakery located at the Crossing West across Swiss Chalet for their delectable beef and mushroom pies. Between sips of pasiion fruit iced tea, we exchanged pleasantries with lovely couple Mr. and Mrs. Beans, who can whip up English homestyle meals, like soaps, roast beef and Yrokshire pudding and more if you call in advance at (046) 413-2724. The romantic garden is quaint and cozy, where meals can be served. We took some apple, mixed fruit pies and cinnamon bread.

We then met up with dynamic Lyndon Tan, farm proprietor of Basic Necessities ( along Km 50 Aguinaldo Highway ). A company that grows and sells to grade produce. He toured us around is fabuluous greenhouses that utilizes hydroponics. Hydroponics allows the grower to have full control of the environment of his produce. The soil-less technology eliminates the probability of diseases and bacteria from the soil. Our eyes feasted on the most colourful array of potatoes, red, green yellow and even orange bell peppers, kafir lime leaves, cherry tomatoes and more. From his garden of basil and rosemary wafted the smell of pasta cooking in the kitchen. We could just imagine all the delectable dishes we could concoct with the freshest of ingredients. In the center of the shop, we


spotted and huge apparatus being filtered with mineral water. The alfalfa sprouts (perfect for salads and sandwiches) were being sterilized. We were truly impressed with this 35 year old AIM graduate, who hails from Naga, Bicol. Equipped with determination and zest for his business, he has fulfilled his dream.

Lyndon enthusiastically told us about Ilog Maria Honeybee Farm at Km. 47 Aguialdo Highway in Lalaan, after the town proper of Silang, Cavite. This farm is the largest producer of honey and other bee products in the country.

It was beginning to rain, so we huddled in the gazebo in the garden Gracious couple Joel and Violaine Magsaysay shared their story as we sipped piping hot coffee newly harvested from the farm. We learned that the Ilog Maria flows from seven natural spring that flow within the Magsaysay family's farm. The entire town of Silang is planted to a variety of fruits intercropped with coffee trees. Such a pristine environment is perfect for keeping honeybees.

"I started keeping bees at Ilog Maria 25 years ago with just a few bee colonies and my wife is also a beekeeper," enthused Joel. "Together with our four children, we now run about 800 bee colonies and produce ripe unfiltered honey, natural bee pollen pellets, raw propolis, fresh royal jelly, scented beeswax candles, soaps, shampoo and bee venom. I remember that back in my boardsailing days, when I consumed fresh honey, bee pollen and royal jelly I had harvested, I felt so energized, invigorated and strong." True to form, their bee products which are exported abroad, promote high energy, increase stamina, metabolize fat, lift depression and many more.

They are the only producers of fresh royal jelly in the country. This is nature's richest health food which eases nervous tension, promotes restful sleep, and is even effective in the correction of cardiovascular, respiratory, nervous and reproductive disorders.

There were so many fascinating products to choose from including a complete line of beekeeping supplies. We could hardly make up our minds as to which aromatherapy oils and natural soaps to take home. It was good to know that Lyndon Tan distributes these products at his Basic Necessities branch in Glorietta, Makati. We were so thrilled when Joel showed us their laboratory and explained


how his wife took charge of processing and packing all the fresh bee products they extract from their beehives. In sheer excitement, I opted to sign up for their bee seminar this September 29. "How to Keep European Honeybees." Joel also showed us his honey-langka liquer in white brandy. Would you believe that the instructional books used in the lab are more than 60 years old. These contain knowledge of beekeeping and natural recipes since the 1800's. Dynamic duo Joel and Violaine believe in t producing old-fashioned natural products and sticking to traditions that are more effective which promote a healthy lifestyle, Before we left the farm, we had a grand time taking pictures of the gentle bee colonies. We were not stung at all!

Lunch of the most succulent bulalo and bangus in garlic followed at Glo Anns near Riviera Golf Club. From here, we proceeded to Alfonso, Cavite where we stumbled on neatly lined rows of beautiful flowers. Multi-colored chrysanthemums, eustomas and sunflowers greeted us. We felt we were at the Floriade in Switzerland. What a refreshing experience it was to harvest our own flowers.

Last but not the least of our destinations was the zoo at Residence Inn at Barrio Neogan along Aguinaldo Highway. We were met by amiable General Manager Didi Cervantes. Upon entering the zoo, we noticed the eclectic variety of birds of all sizes. Huge ostriches were parading around as we headed for the stars of the show – the Siberian Tigers. Three orange and black striped tigers were being fed with chicken. These elegant mammals consume 10 kilos of chicken daily! Mikael, a pregnant tiger, is scheduled to give gorth this month!~ With the most spectacular view of Taal Volcano and Lake, our group sat by the veranda sipping chamomile tea. Indeed the best things in life, like this view, are free.

Time to bid adieu to Tagaytay for now, as the cold mist began to affect visibility. Fortunately for us, whether the fog sets in or not, the city's best kept secrets are no secrets anymore. Check them for yourselves!

Email me at miladay@i-manila.com.ph or write PO Box 775 Dasmarinas Village Post Office, Makati, MM 1222.