Or 10 reasons why spending the first half of my Holy Week in Tanay, Rizal totally rocked!
1. Located along Marcos Hi-way, it's just a one-and-a-half-hour drive from Metro Manila (more or less, depending on traffic along Aurora Blvd-slash-Katipunan Junction and how you cruise the "isaw/bitukang-manok" road). Getting there is already one hell of a roller-coaster ride. Turn off the aircon, open all the car windows, and enjoy Laguna Lake to double the fun on the zigzag route.
2. Akin to the Banaue Hotel overlooking the Banaue rice terraces, the resort's verandas overlook the green Sierra Madre range. The refreshing mountain breeze and breath-taking panoramic view are already worth the trip.
3. Get to meet gods and goddesses in the Greek Garden, pond and gazebo (with painted ceiling a la Sistine Chapel). Perfect background for tying the knot, entertaining wedding guests, or wooing someone you love (after all, Venus IS there).
4. With room rates starting at P1,500 (2 persons) to 2,500 up (4+ pax/suite/overlooking), why not pitch a tent, camp out, and have a picnic for only 350/head overnight. Barbecue/cook your own food, drink to death (then puke your guts out as Romans do), and all the world is your toilet--that is, if you're not afraid to do it in the dark.
5. Beat the summer heat and take a dip/pee in 4 swimming pools (P150/head): 1 kiddie (or was it a jacuzzi?), 2 adult+chlorinated as hell (chemi-kill blue), and 1 with free-flowing fresh ice-cold mountain water (algae green) in Spring Valley. Then rinse off with the ONLY hot shower in the 4 and watch all the work week's grime swirl down the drain.
6. If you're into shooting (practical & balls), there's a firing range if you're feeling Lito Lapid (P200/hour, bring own gun+ammo), an 18-hole golf course if you're feeling Zobel de Ayala (200/player), and billiards if you're feeling Bata Reyes (100/hr). But if you're not so into live ammo, you could always wear camo and play airsoft or paintball (250/head) in the jungle.
7. For home bodies, there's the restaurant-cum-reception area-cum-music lounge with videoke if you're feeling Showtime (P200/hr), mahjong if you're feeling Lucio Tan/Henry Sy (400/day), and an upright detuned piano that's just beat (free to play) if you're feeling like me. Of course you can also kill time/lose money playing cards/"bangka" with "piso-piso" bets in blackjack, trumps, and "pusoy dos" (or regular "pusoy").
8. For cowboy types--aside from cocking guns on the range--there's also horseback riding (P200/hr) and Zorb/globe riding (100/head on land, 150 if in the pool). Stepping on fresh warm horse shit is always free of charge.
9. The place is chock-full of ropes--from hanging bridges to rappelling to wall-climbing to obstacle courses to ziplines (P100-200/pax). With an extra rope--and since it's the Lenten season anyway--you could even do a Judas Iscariot on one of the big forest trees.
10. And at the end of the day, if you realize there's more to Holy Week than a long vacation/outing, you could also meditate, trek, and do the Station/Way of the Cross via the Holy Mountain. Make sure you got medical insurance and are sincere in your prayers just in case you slid down the red muddy soil or fall off the viewing deck. Or you could always do the rosary in the safety of the resort's chapel.
Bonus: Get to meet nature spirits in the flesh and an earth elemental or two if you're camping out/trekking at night in the forest or mini waterfalls. Just don't forget to bring salt and something red!