Where to bring the kids–long ziplines, koi ponds, puzzle mansion, mini zoo
Sculptor-designer Jinggoy Buensuceso and wife-“mompreneur” Mutya (Crisostomo) believe that the best way to develop their children, Mayumi, 4, and Malaya, 2, is to bring them on excursions to the world of nature and animals.
On weekends, the Cavite-based family goes on an adventure—discovering places and dining destinations in the provincial south.
Jinggoy says their explorations feed the senses—seeing plants not found in their backyard, smelling flowers or the cool breeze, petting animals, hearing the sounds of birds, and smelling and tasting good food.
The visceral experience makes children feel they are part of the environment.
The Buensucesos believe studies by experts who say that formative childhood years, with enough mental stimulation, leave positive imprints on the mind.
Once, this young family took a trip to Taal Volcano which involved a boat ride across the lake, horseback riding to the top of the volcano, and enjoying the view from a vantage point of the crater.
The recent Typhoon “Luis” didn’t put a damper on the Buensucesos’ family outing with Inquirer Lifestyle.
The weather was muggy with scattered rain showers. Still, we managed to take nature walks, fondle the cows and speed across the zipline under overcast skies. In the Puzzle Mansion, which has become a tourist destination, we admired the world’s largest puzzle collection while keeping ourselves dry.
Deli de San Honore
Deli de San Honore is a new weekend restaurant touted as the best pizza place in Tagaytay.
Set in a modern house, it is run by chef Jeremy Joson, a product of the French Culinary School in Manhattan. He ferments the dough for a week instead of using yeast.
The pizza is baked in a charcoal-fired brick oven, with a temperature of 600 degrees. The result is a puffed-up dough with burnished sides.
Another come-on is its charcuterie or prepared meat products using local pork and beef—country paté with bourdelaise sauce, sun-dried tomatoes, jamon blanco with arugula and truffle oil.
The sausages—smoked farmers’, French andouile and Polish keilbasa—are unique and mouth-watering. They bear a smokey flavor produced from chips of apple and cherry trees.
Then there’s the bread line—pumpernickel, pan de leche and the hoagie, similar to a baguette with pork lard and sugar.
A typical menu consists of appetizer of farmer’s ham, capicola or Italian cold cuts, guava jelly and white cheese for P280; baby shrimp pasta with pesto sauce, stuffed chicken breast with whipped potatoes and molten chocolate lava cake with homemade chai ice cream.
Joson also offers comfort food such as corned beef made of US brisket that has been cured for a week, then boiled for hours until tender. It comes with garlic fried rice, sausage, tomatoes and sweet pickle chips.
For kids, he can make carbonara and chicken fingers.
(Zambal Road, Barangay Neogan, Tagaytay; tel. 0915-9591675)
Built by the Dominicans, Calaruega is known not only as a place for spiritual retreat set in colonial-style buildings, but also for its nature spots.
Masses are held in the brick chapel atop the hill facing the pine tree-covered slopes.
The adventure is the climb to the apex that gives a panoramic view of the Batulao mountains and the forests.
Children will enjoy feeding the koi in the pond of the terraced garden that has ferns and flame trees. They can discover the varieties of trees and hear the symphony of birds.
They can make a wish on the wishing well, learn about new plants in the nursery and greenhouse.
Aside from the koi ponds, children will love the trek on a hanging bridge that leads to another hill.
(Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas; tel. (043) 7060348 or 0821-8304226)
Mini zoo at Residence Inn
The mini zoo and the shows are the main attraction of Residence Inn, a modest hotel by the ridge.
Kids can buy bags of lettuce and bananas at the gate and feed the animals.
The initial foray is into a roomful of creepy scorpions, turtles and snakes kept in glass cases. An albino python can safely wrap itself around children. Siberian and Belgian tigers, an Arabian camel and white lion laze around their cages.
On a clear day, toddlers can ride the ponies or the the 133-meter zipline which is the longest for children in Tagaytay.
The real fun begins in the weekend shows that highlight the animals and fairies. “Animal Encounter” features coral snakes, iguanas, tarantulas and jumping cats. Animals are trained to perform tricks and faithfully follow instructions of the trainer. Visitors are invited to guess the animal that he or she will pet. It can be anything from an iguana to a 12-foot Burmese python.
Residence Inn presents seasonal shows such as Halloween Black Magic today, Oct. 25; the White Magic Christmas Show on Valentine’s; and Green Magic during Easter.
(Km. 65 Barrio Neogan, Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Tagaytay; tel. (046) 413-1376)
It takes at least two hours to experience Paradizoo, a 10-hectare theme farm which has livestock, ornamentals and vegetables.
Children can appreciate colors in the floral garden with its sun flowers and Mickey Mouse plants. They will learn about vegetables in the patch of eggplants, squash, cucumbers, lettuces and calamansi.
There’s a butterfly farm and a bee farm for kids to know how these insects come to be.
There are unusual animals such as the five-legged cow, the hybrid sheep goat and the wild boar from Masbate which has been tamed by the trainers.
Like the Residence Inn mini zoo, its sister company, Paradizoo allows kids to buy food to feed the chickens and rabbits. They can watch how the sheep is being sheered or a goat or cow is milked.
Pet owners can bury their animals in the Pet Cemetery—with matching tombstone.
(Emilio Aguinaldo Highway, Tagaytay; tel. (046) 413-1244)
Red Bus diner
The best hamburgers in Cavite are made with Australian Angus beef. These are prepared in a kitchen behind a 1970 red-and-white Volkswagen Kombi.
The Red Bus started out as a food truck offering burgers that were filling and delicious but very affordable.
Dr. Jose T. Jose, a foodie, used his VW Kombi from his vintage car collection to go around Tagaytay until he settled down in a duplex along the highway.
The classic burger recipes are given a twist: El Meji burger is piled with salsa, tomato and jack cheese and comes with crispy potato wedges; the Red Hogg is a quarter-pound blanketed in Canadian bacon and onions.
The piece de resistance is the Triple Chiz Pwiz, melt-in-the-mouth beef buried under mozarrella, gouda and melted cheddar. These patties are in soft homemade buns.
All come with baby potato chips shaped like hubcaps, sweet American tomatoes and Tagaytay greens.
For a size that packs a wallop, these burgers cost P160 to P170.
There are also burritos with homemade tortillas and loaded with beans, guacamole, onions, ground beef and Mexican spicy rice.
Creamy milk shakes complete the meal. If you’re vegetarian, call in advance for a special burrito or salad.
(Duplex 2, One Destination Hotel, Tagaytay-Nasugbu Highway, Tagaytay City; tel. 0933-6648614)
This museum/bed-and-breakfast place holds the Guinness World Record for having the largest collection of puzzles in the world.
At last count, the museum has over 1,500 puzzles.
The focal point is Keith Harring’s puzzle mural which broke the Guinness World Record. Composed of 32 of Haring’s artworks, it has 32,256 pieces, making it the world’s largest puzzle.
Three decades ago, garment entrepreneur Georgina Gil-Lacuna gifted her then 2-year-old son with a 5,000-piece puzzle of Mickey Mouse’s racing team.
Realizing that assembling it was too daunting for a toddler, she ended up completing the puzzle herself in 70 hours. Lacuna also saw it as an opportunity to bond with the family.
Through the years, she has collected a variety of puzzles that come in crystals, woods, globes, three-dimension, double sides, baskets, retablos and trays.
The puzzles are representations of such masterpieces as Velasquez’s “Las Hilanderas,” which is displayed at the Prado Museum in Spain. The puzzle has 10,000 pieces.
The gift shop sells all kinds of puzzles—elegant woods, lanterns, spheres, children’s woodcrafts, maternity clothes and fashion accessories produced in Lacuna’s factory.
Although the place is ideal for older children, toddlers will also be entertained. They can learn about shapes and colors and enjoy the famous coconut cream pie with whipped cream and a coconut crust.
(Purok 4 Cuadra, St. Barangay Asisan, Tagaytay City; tel. (02) 6610019 or 0905- 2250229)
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