5 Things To Do In Laguna This Weekend When You Just Want To Chill
In the Philippines, even a quick weekend getaway requires some amount of preparation (and packing, huhu). We are an archipelago, after all, and dry bags and water-friendly shoes are a necessity everywhere. So where do you go if you just can’t be bothered to plan a trip but are itching to get out of the city? Apparently, there are a lot of things to do in Laguna even for lazy travelers.
Yes, the province just two hours outside of Manila has its fair share of lakes and waterfalls to suit any nature-loving adventure-seeker. But if you just need to spend a day or two away (and maybe take a few #OOTD shots for your Instagram feed), this province has a lot to offer too.
Here are some easy, chill activities you can try in Laguna—swimsuits, dry bags, and high energy not required!
1Go back in time in Pila
This pretty little town may just be Laguna’s best-kept secret. It’s best for randomly walking around and admiring the sights and quiet thrum of small town life. This is perhaps among the best things to do in Laguna. The National Historical Commission named the town plaza a National Historical Landmark, and for good reason.
Its dusty roads and heritage houses from the 1920s will make you feel like you’ve entered a time warp. The Spanish-era church and American-era municipal hall facing each other from across the town square makes the setup even more symbolic. You’ll definitely have a lot to ponder on—and take photos of—as you leisurely stroll around Pila.
2Dine in an ancestral home in Sta. Cruz
The food at Aurora in the town of Sta. Cruz is so good, you’ll be dreaming about it way after you’ve digested it. The restaurant serves new twists on Filipino favorites (try the 1920s Chicken Adobo). It also revives and preserves old Filipino recipes (ever heard of minanok or tinuto?).
As if the food isn’t reason enough to go there, the restaurant is located in the ancestral home of the chef-owners. Built in the 1920s, the building has had a very colorful past. Initially a family home, it was rebuilt following the Japanese occupation. In the ’50s and ’60s, the first floor of the building became a burgeoning beauty salon. In fact, the interiors of the building still have traces of its salon past, with mirrored columns and ancient perm machines on display. Now on its third incarnation as a restaurant, Aurora shows no sign of stopping.
3Lose yourself in a huge antique collection in San Pablo
For even more history and heritage, head to the Sulyap Gallery Café in San Pablo. Apart from being able to stay in reconstructed heritage houses, you can also check out the museum, which houses the owners’ extensive antique collection. The collection is so huge, you’ll feel like you’re walking through a romantic flea market instead of a museum. Remember, though, none of the pieces are for sale! The owners, who have been collecting since 1985, prize every single piece. From the art nouveau dressers to heavy banquet tables made out of centuries-old wood, every piece tells a story.
4Eat bibingka along Maharlika Highway
On a weekend, one of the best things to do in Laguna, or anywhere for that matter, is to eat. In Laguna, in particular, the bibingka from San Pablo is something to sing about. If that doesn’t sound exciting to you, you probably haven’t tried the bibingka along San Pablo’s Maharlika Highway. Some of the stalls there have been making this unique version of the rice cake for over 25 years.
What makes the bibingka here special is that they use saba banana leaves to wrap the rice cake mixture in. They then cook it over a fire fed by coconut husks. They also add in slivers of coconut that’s halfway between tender young coconut meat and tougher mature coconut meat. Topped off with a generous dollop of Star Margarine, this bibingka will make your two-hour drive from Manila worth it.
5Enjoy the breeze by Sampaloc Lake
You don’t get much in the way of fresh air when you’re in the city, so among the best things to do in Laguna is just to breathe. The perfect place to do that may be Sampaloc Lake in San Pablo. It’s the largest of the town’s famous seven lakes. The lake has recently undergone something of a renaissance. Over the years, locals have rallied to clear the area of the seedy establishments that surrounded it. Now, several parks ringing the lake make for a great venue to stroll, relax, and even have a picnic. You could also head to Café Lago, a garden cafe right by the lakefront, where you can easily lose yourself in a good book or good conversation.
DISCLOSURE: The writer’s trip was hosted by San Miguel Pure Foods Culinary Center as part of their Slice of Laguna media tour.