Southern Exposure: Exploring Southern Tagalog

I’ve been to some places down south but I feel that I really haven’t even scratched the surface of the our rich heritage in the Southern Tagalog region. So when the opportunity came when I got invited for a tour around the provinces of Laguna and Quezon I got really excited and said yes!

The group met up in Makati, at about half past seven in the morning the bus started rolling and off we go!

To prepare our selves for the journey ahead we stopped for breakfast at Sol Y Viento Mountain Resort in Pansol, Laguna. What’s notable about this stop is the breathtaking view of the Laguna Lake while eating breakfast. After feasting on the buffet table we decided to move on to our first destination.



First on the list is Pila, Laguna. We alight the bus at the town plaza where you have a 360 view of well preserved houses, the Municipal hall and the Pila Church all facing the square; a perfect example of a Spanish colonial town. We visited the church and one of ancestral houses facing the square, the Alavaan House.


The house still is being used today by the same family who built it. As you enter the house you will notice the family photographs carefully framed showing the generations that has gone through. One of the guests asks if the descendants still stay at the house every now and then, the lady replied with yeah but not all of them stays here if they come home here in the province, the house just have so many rooms imagine how many they are now! Hahaha… well true yeah! I can’t remember how many kids I saw on the walls there!

Visiting the Alavaa house was really refreshing, it reminded me of our ancestral house in Bulacan that had almost the same layout specially where you enter the house and look at through its windows and look at the open spaces. It was just beautiful reliving and reminiscing those days.

Around twelve in the afternoon the group traversed through a narrow road going to the Alavaa family farm for our lunch, well it’s actually a feast. We had an amazing set of Filipino food with a Southern Tagalog twist. I specially love the Fried Lumpiang Ubud because it is full of juice as you take a bite after another, you don’t even need to dip it on a sauce because it is so juicy!

Lunch was really awesome that I wanted to sleep because I feel so full! hahaha! However, we need to move now to our next destination!

Next up for the day is the Majayjay Church, we were received by the parish priest after their service. We roamed around the church to gaze at its beautiful architecture. Majayjay is also home to beautiful waterfalls but we were there for a heritage pilgrimage tour so I guess that’s for another day…. Yey!

After seeing the church we scored our selves some good items from the stores around the church like the export quality lambanog that is actually exported to the United States as well as some hand crafted blades!

Our last destination was the Town of Lucban who celebrated the Pahiyas festival just a day ago. Being a photo enthusiast I was lucky to have a chance to photograph but of course the energy of the festivities on the day it self is another thing. However, if you plan to take photographs of the entries for the Pahiyas it would be a lot better to visit a day after the feast.

That night we rested our tired body at the beautiful Graceland Estates in Tayabas Quezon. Darkness has covered the surroundings and there is nothing much to see across the horizon, so we just decided to relax inside our room, I checked my laptop and wrote several lines of a post that I was trying to finish. The bed was really comfy that I couldn’t help but fall asleep, while some of our travel mates were enjoying the well heated pool.

I woke up early in the morning put my running shoes on and raced through the paved peripherals of Graceland’s lake. The course was quite challenging specially for me who tries to lose weight as the terrain slowly slopes up to a good amount of incline. After a few laps I decided to go back to our room and get ready for the day’s activity. Breakfast was served at Memphis Cafe with the best Lucban longanisa and my personal favorite among all of them, the Bonete generously topped with coco jam!

With everyone ready and fully loaded off  we all hop on to our tour bus. Our first destination for the day was the Basilica of St. Michael de Arch Angel also known as the Tayabas Basilica. We were warmly welcomed by the church workers who guided us through the Diocesan museum, I was specially interested on their inventory of chalices and other Mass accessories that are beautifully displayed.


On our way to Sariaya, Quezon we made a special stop at the Malgonlong Bridge one of the oldest existing bridges in the Philippines (mind you they stopped using the bridge just a few years ago!) that was spared from destruction of the DPWH thanks to the Local Government Unit of the municipality! Kudos to you sirs and ma’ams!

As I stepped out of the bus upon arriving in Sariaya my heart beated faster as my feasted at the art deco houses that the Coco Barons during the American Era. We visited one of the beautiful mansions called Villa Sariaya formerly known as the Rodriguez Mansion. Our tour guide Ina then indulge us to Quezon’s beautiful tradition of Tagayan. Now, I know that most of you would be thinking like “tagayan what!?” well tagayan is more than just passing a single glass of alcohol among friends, but it is a beautiful tradition of poetry, songs and culture.

After immersing into Quezon’s rich cultural ritual we then stopped by a local store to satisfy our cravings…. I mean buy pasalubongs (gifts) for our friends and families. We went on a shopping frenzy for Bonete, Tamales and other Quezon delicacies.

With my bags full and my pocket almost empty I boarded our bus with a happy heart I was just so excited to come home and share everything!

Our final destination for the tour I should say is one great touch for this trip, a very fitting finale. A sumptuous lunch at Ugu Bigyan’s pottery and restaurant with everyone was a great experience it self, no I am not exaggerating dinning there really is an experience.


Before leaving Ugu graciously showed his pottery making skills which was extra ordinary in level as he makes it look like as easy as as  drinking water.

I am really lucky being apart of this Heritage Pilgrimage around the Southern Tagalog region it was an eye opener for me that there are so much more that I can experience down south other than the beaches and hot springs. Quezon province really is  a destination for learning more about our heritage and culture. It is a treasure chest for people seeking what was it or is really like to be a true Tagalog. Just like one of the participants in the tour said, our travel mate, no less than the former senator Leticia Shahani it is the best tour of the Southern Tagalog area that there is. Well that is true because it was facilitated none other than the Tina Decal the recognized expert for anything that has to do with the southern region of Luzon. My hats off to you Tina for the wonderful things you made us experience.


This trip was made possible by

Filipino Heritage Festival Inc.
Address: G/Flr. Museum of the Filipino People Valencia Circle, Luneta, Manila
Web: Tel.# +632 523-9692 Email:

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ian dela pena

iandelapena, the person behind the blog brownmantrips is a yuppie living in the metropolis who believes there is always something good to see everywhere in the world. This is his depository of travel memories for his not so good and maybe soon to fail memory, thus the travelogues in this blog.