The province of Laguna lies at a distance of an hour and a half’s drive from Manila, and is one of the loveliest places in the country- rich green rainforests, gushing rivers, waterfalls and lakes (Laguna has seven lakes and seven rivers). Amongst the better-known tourist spots in the area are the mountain resort of Los Baños, the thickly forested slopes of Mt Makiling (supposed to be the home of a fairy called Maria Makiling), and the medieval Majayjay Cathedral. Also within Laguna are some of Luzon’s best craft centres: Paete, famed for its excellent papier maché and wood carvings; Lumban, the main centre for embroidery in Luzon; and Pakil, where craftsmen turn woodshavings into items for home use.
An hour’s drive (60 km) from the capital lies Tagaytay, one of the most interesting topographical features in the Philippines. Tagaytay Ridge is 2250 ft above sea level and faces Taal Lake, a water body created by the eruption of an ancient volcano. Taal Lake has an island in its midst- an island with a volcano -the Taal Volcano . The entire area, the lakeside and its view, are breathtakingly beautiful and if you have the breath left for it, you can actually be ferried across to the volcano and trek up to the rim. Even if you’d rather not go to the volcano, Tagaytay itself is a nice enough place- cool, clean and quiet, and with a few nice flower farms around it.
On the way to Tagaytay and Taal Mountain, is one of the Philippines’ many examples of an interesting marriage between the east and the west - the church of Las Piñas, constructed in 1819, is a solid stone church, fairly unpretentious in itself, but with an amazing organ made of bamboo (it was made in 1824, and is unique- there isn’t another one like it). Every year, in February, a special Bamboo Organ Festival is held in the church, to which famous organists from the world over are invited to perform. Close to the church is another sight worth a visit- the Sarao jeepney factory, where the colourful and raucous `jeepneys’- so popular on Manila’s roads- are made.
The province of Cavite lies close to Manila and is generally regarded as the birthplace of the Philippine Revolution, which resulted in the country’s independence form Spanish rule in 1898. The town’s chockfull of monuments related to the revolution- bridges, churches, town halls and more are places where the revolutionaries plotted and planned, battles were fought between the revolutionaries and the Spanish, and rebels were executed. Also in the town is the home of the first president of the country, and the balcony from which independence was declared. It’s a historic town, and a place to visit if you’re interested in the Philippine revolution.
Other places of tourist interest include Corregidor, the last stand of the Allied forces during World War II- it still has old barracks, guns and a lighthouse, the beaches of Batanga, and Quezon, with its coconut plantations and island resorts. All are within easy reach of Manila and can comprise a day’s excursion.