Viaje del Sol : A Southern Excursion

story and photos by: Frances Lorraine Haw (batch ‘00) & Stephanie Marie Haw (batch ‘03)

June 2, 2007 (Saturday) – At exactly 6:30am in the morning, we, together with 40 ICA alumnae, boarded a bus to begin our journey to find the hidden treasures of the south. The trip was organized by the officers of the ICA Alumnae Association, namely, its president, Billie Syling, and VP for Membership Kato Tantiansu.

Everything was well thought-out, from the emails that kept everyone informed, to making sure that participants were sated during the morning ride by providing us with a bottle of water and a pastry each. Truly impressive, indeed!

The trip to our first stop took more than four hours, but we hardly noticed it, as everyone was busy chatting with one another. Since the group consisted of alumnae from different batches, we compared notes about our high school days in ICA, who were under so and so teachers, and who were classmates of whom.

First stop: Kamay ni Hesus

Finally at 10:30am, we arrived at Kamay ni Hesus in Lucban, Quezon. This church was founded by Fr. Joey Faller, who holds healing Masses every week. Visitors can’t miss the steep hill that was transformed into a picturesque Via Dolorosa Grotto of Healing and Purification. The hill consists of 292 steps that lead up to a 50-foot statue of the Ascending Christ. Although climbing the hill is definitely not for the faint-hearted, a number of alumnae took the challenge and climbed all 292 steps to be able to enjoy the view from above.

Kamay ni Hesus is definitely a beautiful place that is worth visiting over and over again. However, as much as we would have loved to stay longer, our stomachs started grumbling and growling, telling us that it was time to head to San Pablo City, Laguna for our next stop.

Next stop: Kusina Salud

As the popular Viaje del Sol map reads:

Patis Tesoro, renowned fashion designer and advocate of indigenous fabrics, has thrown open the doors of her enchanting country home. Chef Paul Poblador, formerly of Salud! Bistro in Baguio City, creates a memorable menu of favorite Filipino dishes with a contemporary twist.

The bright yellow signage by the gate of Kusina Salud was a welcome sight for all 42 hungry travelers. Upon entering the restaurant, we were welcomed with a mouthwatering feast. One by one, we piled our plates high with Kusina Salud’s specialties, such as Ensaladang Pako at Kesong Puti, a perfect combination of healthy fern leaves topped with the best-tasting and creamiest dressing that we’ve ever had, Kalabaw Salpicao at Aglio Olio Pasta, Binagoongang Baboy at Green Mango Salad and Tilapiang Sinugno sa Gata at Mustasa.. Of course, a meal wouldn’t be complete without dessert, and Kusina Salud made sure that we had a sweet finish with their version of Turon con Latik.

Our visit to Kusina Salud was truly enjoyable because not only did we have the chance to taste a delicious meal, but the ambience of the restaurant that depicts our rich Filipino heritage infused with other Asian cultures, complemented the entire experience.

Having satisfied everyone, we once again boarded the bus to go to our last stop.

Last stop: Ugu Bigyan, Potter’s Garden

Located in Tiaong, Quezon, Ugu Bigyan’s home is truly a potter’s haven. His workshop is a cluster of quaint huts that are surrounded by a beautiful garden. Visitors normally opt to have lunch at his place, where meals are served using Ugu’s handmade ceramic plates and bowls.

Upon reaching his workshop, we were immediately greeted by his red brick house that serves as the entry point to Ugu’s secret potter’s garden. We were then given a demonstration on the basics of pottery. Afterwards, adventurous ICAns gamely tried their hands on the potter’s wheel. What seems easy turned out to be a challenge as we found out that pottery is a very delicate form of art.

Our ICAAA officers really kept their promise when they said that this will be a culinary experience. This time, we were treated to merienda consisting of Quezon’s famous Pansit Habhab, a platter of broas, ginataan with bilu-bilo and sago’t gulaman.

Merienda was not the only highlight of this stop because being ICAns, how could we forego any chance to shop? Thus, Ugu Bigyan’s workshop was a perfect place to buy unique home decors and dinnerware.

As the saying goes, time flies when you’re having fun. True enough, the time came when we had to return home.

With one last photo opportunity, we then left Quezon with wonderful memories, new-found friends and bags of pasalubong to bring home.

The trip was a huge success, and we are all looking forward to the next ICAn adventure!

Published at Alma Matters (The Official Alumni Newsletter of Immaculate Conception Academy)

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