Chinese New Year (Year of the Metal Ox) and Valentine’s Day are just two of the most anticipated celebrations every year. However, with the pandemic, physical distancing protocols, and other health standards still in place, there won’t be any grand events. But these shouldn’t stop anyone from travelling and making their own small plans for the long weekend.
Make any Chinese New Year or Valentine’s Day merriment memorable with these picks around Metro Manila and Laguna that will surely bring joy despite the challenging times.
Belfry Café – Make Belfry Café a choice for that long weekend or Valentine’s Day destination. It not only feeds the tummy but also feeds the soul as it’s within the Manila Cathedral premises. The café features affordable yet delicious coffee and pastries that will make anyone drool. But what will make a stay at The Belfry Café different from the rest is dining with seven large historical bells placed right at the café’s ceiling, hence the name, which adds to its uniqueness. This quaint café with its cool and calming ambiance opened very recently in time for the celebration of the 500th year of Christianity in the country. The Belfry Café is located at the ground floor belfry of the Manila Cathedral, Cabildo Street, Intramuros, Manila.
La Cathedral Café – Behind the Manila Cathedral is this charming café that makes you feel as if you’re dining under the stars in the streets of Europe.Don’t be surprised by the constant flashes of phone cameras from people who will want to catch every moment of their stay in this unperturbed destination. And the strong coffee and hearty food choices are surely worth the wait since booking for a slot can be quite a challenge so one might want to book in advance to get a seat. La Cathedral Café is located at 398 Cabildo Street, Intramuros, Manila.
Bayleaf Sky Deck – Situated atop the Walled City’s only 5-star hotel the Bayleaf Intramuros, the Bayleaf Sky Deck provides a pure, unadulterated, 360-degree view of the city and the world-famous Manila Bay sunset that will make any event at the Sky Deck truly dramatic, magnificent, stunning, yet very relaxing. Partake of their gastronomic favorites like Tapas, bar chows gulped down by their impressive wine selection, local beers, and enticing cocktails. The place is also perfect to chat with loved ones, family, or that special someone while enjoying the serenity of the Manila skyline, a perfect backdrop for those special moments and enchanting evenings everyone has long been waiting for during this pandemic. Bayleaf Sky Deck is located at the Bayleaf Intramuros, Muralla Street, Intramuros, Manila.
Palacio de Memoria – Housed in a pre-war edifice, Palacio de Memoria is a full package where one can find history, heritage, art, and sumptuous food in one place. A perfect destination for love birds, small groups of family and friends to share or create memories, and appreciate art and dine at the same time. As one enters, it’s like being transported back to another era that’s gone by, a place somewhat frozen in time. This fully restored, former 2-storey mansion (5 storeys were added ever since) and long-time symbol of elegance has become a welcome surprise in a busy metropolis. It is that perfect escape to celebrate a long weekend while appreciating art, admiring decorative pieces from everywhere around the world, and the only dining area where there are airplanes parked in this 3-hectare property’s backyard. Palacio de Memoria is along 95 Roxas Blvd., Brgy. Tambo, Parañaque City. It is open Tuesdays to Sundays, 10 am to 6 pm.
Casa San Pablo – Spend weekends in Laguna and make sure not to miss Casa San Pablo, with its sprawling garden and charming decor, it’s a place where one can stay, dine, and create lasting memories. Its nature-inspired, provincial vibe provides urbanites with an actual feel of how it’s genuinely like in countryside abodes, complete with towering trees, plants that lend a cool ambiance that you can find right in the middle of San Pablo City in Laguna. Casa San Pablo is located along Colago Avenue, Barrio San Roque, San Pablo City, and is open to local tourists and its residents.
Doña Leonila Park at Sampaloc Lake – This mini forest park that provides a remarkable view of the towering Mount San Cristobal and the world-famous Sampaloc Lake, Doña Leonila Park, named after the wife of a former Philippine president, is a sure-fire getaway destination for the family, couples, adventure-seekers, and barkadas looking for a respite after a long period of seclusion at home due to community quarantines and lockdowns. Now that travel restrictions are slowly easing up, more visitors are expected to come by the park in the very near future. Local tourists and residents are allowed to visit the park located near the San Pablo City Hall complex in San Pablo City, Laguna.
Liliw Gat Tayaw Park – If it’s shopping in the most unique way during a long weekend, the Gat Tayaw Park in Liliw, Laguna comes to mind. The location features one of the most colorful festivals in South Luzon, which showcases the town’s most ubiquitous and most popular export, the sturdy and well-designed “Liliw Tsinelas.” The entire street is adorned with colorful umbrellas overhead, while the footwear sellers’ stores along the street are all packed with adornments for a competition, thus making Gat Tayaw Street truly Instagram-able, a shopping mall under the sun. Gat Tayaw Park is open to all domestic tourists aged 16 to 65.
Tayak Adventure, Nature and Wildlife (TANAW) Park – This still a largely unknown tourist destination in Brgy. Tala, nestled between the towns of San Pablo and Rizal in Laguna called “Bikers’ Heaven of Laguna,” boasts of more than 600 hectares of protected forest area. Located 736 meters above sea level, one can find a 30-foot solid cross atop the Tayak Hill that gives visitors an enchanting and panoramic view of San Pablo City and its breathtaking Seven Lakes, the famous Laguna de Bay, and the province’s nearby towns. This eco-tourism park that is the town’s flagship project is where people can enjoy day-time trail hikes and even camp for the night. As the province is slowly reopening its economy and tourism industry, TANAW Park is once again positioning itself as a go-to destination for adventurous souls, and is now open to domestic tourists.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) has been rebuilding the country’s tourism industry as the economy tries to rebound from the devastating effects on businesses of the COVID-19 pandemic. Slowly but surely, the DOT is encouraging people to travel domestically while strictly adhering to the minimum health standards mandated by the Department of Health (DOH) and the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF).
For travelers going to Laguna, specific requirements need to be presented, such as Travel Authority and Negative RT-PCR Test or Medical Clearance Certification from the City/Municipal Health Office from the place of origin.
In Metro Manila, which is still under General Community Quarantine (GCQ), the usual health protocols are observed in restaurants, such as the filling up of contact tracing forms, temperature check, proper wearing of face masks and face shield, and at least one-meter physical distancing. Children under 15 years of age shall remain at home under the GCQ.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) already approved to relax age-based restrictions for areas placed under Modified General Community Quarantine (MGCQ) beginning February 1, 2021. Children below 10 years old and those over 65 years old shall be required to remain in their residence at all times.
Still pondering where to go this long weekend? Check this list and find quite a surprise. There could be a travel destination gem in this list waiting to be discovered.
DISCOUNTED RT-PCR TESTS
Tourists coming from Metro Manila are encouraged to apply for the subsidized RT-PCR test at the UP-Philippine General or Philippine Children’s Medical Center for as low as PHP900 and PHP750, respectively. To avail of this 50% discount, visit the site at www.tpb.gov.ph/rtpcrphtravel.
To check out up-to-date information regarding destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.