On May 29, 2009, I wrote an entry on my (very hip) Multiply blog describing the first time I took my motorcycle out of the city and onto the Marikina-Infanta Highway.
At about 50km out, I stopped at what I described as a ‘funky looking church’ that was shaped like a ‘sumbrero’ before turning around and heading home. This was the first of many rides on the exact same road. I envisioned countless more journeys around Luzon to come. But instead, it’s been three and a half years since then and I’ve never so much as gone past Rizal on fewer than four wheels.
Part of it was hesitation over what my parents would think about the kind of risks that I would be putting in front of myself. It was already a stretch to ask them to accept a two-wheeled motor vehicle as my transportation of choice. Travelling on it for hours alone into the middle of nowhere was too much more to put them through.
On the other hand I didn’t really feel the need to go much farther. This road (after patiently weaving through 15-20km of dense traffic from Pasig) was perfect.
As 2009 me put it, “The misty road, the green hills and mountaintops, the drop off of a cliff on my right. Awesome! …everything was so smooth. Shifting was flawless, the engine purred…“
Though I began to learn the road like the back of my hand, coming back to it continued to be a quest for something intangible. I daydreamed about putting up a resort or café somewhere up in the hills. A bookshop. A water park. Anything would do!
I saw so much potential in the journey itself, it didn’t matter what the destination would be.
To be able to drive a whopping one hour, 50km, away from the city and to experience near Sagada-like climate and scenery to me was astounding. That’s less time than it takes me to get to work in the morning.
I knew that any decent establishment there would only be the excuse to make the trip; the mere beacon for those of us lucky enough to have discovered that road, those mountains, that air and sky. And to drive down it all, and to take it all in.
Getting Back on the Bike
Last Friday, after being held in Manila for work as my family vacationed in Tali Beach, I had planned to spend the entire day with my girlfriend. But Pia had some work to do. And because she’s the best girlfriend ever to have existed, she sent me off to go out and do something that I really wanted to do alone for a change. The first thing that popped into mind was another epic bike ride.
By this time, save for one incidence when a friend of mind had just had his new Vespa delivered and wanted to break it in, I hadn’t gone down Marikina-Infanta Highway for probably about a year. I had given up riding in the rain the previous year and had gotten used to taking the car to again work even in perfect riding weather. But that one ride reminded me of just what I was missing out on.
Finally out on my own on the road again, and maybe even more tentative than on my first time, I drove past the 50km mark once again past the Sierra Madre Resort.
I didn’t know how far i was going but I could have ridden all day. But then again, I have to.
After about another five kilometers, what looked like a small mansion whizzed by the corner of my eye. I’d been by this road dozens of times before but I had never noticed a house like this one.
I slowed down, leaned into a U-turn and saw that the mansion was actually an inn/restaurant.
Paseo Rizal featured the type of simple, sensible design that combines the strength of a good foundation of solid lines and contrasts it with intricately carved wooden trappings, a lush garden of native flowers, and carvings and artwork from around the country.
Winding steps lead up to several individual gondolas that seem to have naturally mushroomed out of the hillside.
A few resorts have come very close to what I would call ideal, but there’s practically always some little detail or other that I would change if I could. Paseo Rizal is one of the few places that I wouldn’t change a bit. It’s one of those places that you want to stop time for, to preserve.
The wooden and brick columns, salvaged Narra doors, and large empty space gave it the feel of an old Spanish country home. Big windows that never close ensured ample natural lighting.
As soon as I stepped on to the property, I already knew that I would be back soon. I had to tell Pia about this. I had to tell Cholo. I had to tell my family and friends and bring them all over so they could see what I had found.
From the looks of the place, I mentally prepared myself to pay for another Starbucks-priced coffee sans the Seattle coffee quality standards.
Just as I was kicking myself for not bringing more money when the nearest chance of an ATM would be 35km away, I was pleasantly surprised to find that everything on the menu was within budget. For the price of a gourmet coffee, I was able to get my coffee, a halo-halo, and a place to ride back to every chance I would get.
As I paid my bill, I spotted a man in his mid-50’s behind the scenes, observing the staff but not making any kind of fuss over them.
He could have been mistaken for a passerby, trying to steal away a relaxing afternoon from the stress of the Metro. But as I introduced myself to Bing Ramos, he revealed that he was the owner of this restaurant-inn of my dreams.
I didn’t have much time to chat so I don’t think he believed me when I said I would be back soon with my girlfriend but true enough, you can read about it here: http://travellesque.wordpress.com/2013/01/03/road-trip-to-paseo-rizal/
How to Get There
Getting there is the easiest thing in the world if you have your own car but I’ve never seen any form of public transportation on the road past Marcos Highway.
- From Cubao get on Aurora Boulevard and start heading East towards Marikina.
- Just keep going and going and going. Don’t make any turns of the main road.
- When you reach the Marcos Highway-Sumulong Highway intersection where you’ll see Masinag Market on the left, start minding your odometer.
- Go another 50 km or so.
- Along the way, you’ll see:
-Heaven’s Gate Memorial Park on the Right
-A Mormon, Catholic and Iglecia Church a few kilometers away from each other on the left
-An RC Cola factory on the left (this is where the traffic ends and drive starts to get good) and you have about 35km to go!
– Boso-Boso Highland Resort on the left (28km to Paseo Rizal!)
-After about 23km, you’ll see Sierra Madre Resort on the left.
-Go another 5 or 6km and keep an eye open for Paseo Rizal on the right