Thursday, June 12, 2008

Los Baños

A few days after my Grandma’s birthday party, my great-uncle Nap (short for Napoleon) invited us to a resort in Los Baños for an afternoon of fun in the sun.

Los Baños is located an hour south of Manila in the province of Laguna. The area is known for its thermal hot springs (the literal translation of Los Baños is "the baths" in Spanish), the University of the Philippines campus (academic institutions such as the International Rice Research Institute and ASEAN Center for Biodiverisity are housed in the UP campus) and buko (coconut) pie.

Los Baños and the surrounding area of Laguna are also known for Mt. Makiling. Mt. Makiling is an inactive volcano that rises about 3,000 ft above sea level. Several local legends surround the mountain, and it is widely believed that the contour of the mountain is that of a woman in a reclining position – the various peaks are her face and shoulders, and the slope on the right side is her hair cascading away from her body. In one story, a fairy named Maria Makiling fell in love with a hunter who had wandered into her kingdom. Soon the two became lovers, with the hunter coming up the mountain every day. They promised to love each other forever. However, the hunter fell in love with and married a mortal woman, leaving Maria deeply wounded. Realizing that the she could not trust mortals because she was so different from them and they were probably just using her, she became angry and refused to give fruits to the trees, let animals and birds roam the forests for hunters to catch, and let fish abound in the lake. People seldom saw her, and those times when she could be seen were often only during pale moonlit nights. There are more stories here.

Photo courtesy of

We arrived at Los Baños shortly before lunchtime. The rest of my family had driven up earlier in the day and were there by 9 am. By the time we got there everyone had already swam in the pool and were on to the next activity, either letting out their inner rock star on the karaoke machine or napping in a hut by the side of the pool. We were only there for an afternoon but I could have easily spent a week hanging out by the pool and taking long afternoon naps.

After a quick swim in the pool, we were served a feast: grilled fish (fresh from the market), Filipino-style barbeque, grilled chicken, pancit, and the biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen. For dessert there were ripe mangoes and bananas. It’s the perfect lunch for a lazy afternoon, something light and healthy to satisfy an appetite worked up from swimming in the pool.

After lunch my great-uncle Nap took us on a tour of UP Los Baños, a beautiful campus near the resort. Seeing the expansive lawns, lecture halls and libraries made me a little nostalgic for my college days. After taking a few pictures and hearing about my great-uncle Nap’s experiences there we called it a day and returned to the resort to have afternoon merienda, which is a meal between lunch and dinner. We had palitaw, a Philippine dessert made of sticky rice coated with coconut and dipped into sugar mixed with sesame seeds. It was heavenly. It reminded me of my childhood, when ladies would sell palitaw in the street from a basket perched atop their heads. Nothing beats a fresh batch of palitaw, which is my second favorite dessert next to halo halo. What a perfect day.

More pictures here.

1 comment:

Camels & Chocolate said...

Ahhhh, now I really want to go (I booked my ticket to Central America instead of Philippines in October). This has been on my list for a few solid years -- need to make it happen!