Antipolo City, just a two-hour drive away from Manila, sits in the Sierra Madres and consistently pulls in crowds of visiting Manileños, many of whom are attracted by Antipolo’s Catholic icon, Our Lady of Peace and Good Voyage — a Mexican-made Madonna who arrived on board a galleon in the 17th century, most notable for her dark complexion and dark, curly locks.
Catholics across the country come to see her before going on a trip or riding an airplane, believing that this will ensure their safety.
But now, even non-religious folks are driving through the congested roads up Antipolo to try restaurants and other scenic spots the city has to offer. Many of these spaces are also perfect for couples tired of going on dates in generic-looking air-conditioned malls.
Antipolo has great places to offer, many of which are — unlike most of Manila’s hot spots — free of noise and crowds. Here are just a few that we recommend.
Spend the day appreciating modern art
For artsy couples, a visit to the much-Instagrammed Pintô Art Museum, styled after a Mediterranean villa, is a must. Founded by a neurologist named Joven Cuanang, it was named after the Tagalog word for “door” because the place sees itself as a threshold to art appreciation.
It houses contemporary sculptures, paintings, and art installations created by Filipino artists such as Jaypee Samson, Jayson Oliveria, Dex Fernandez, John Paul Duray, and Julius Redillas.
The 1.2-hectare property is also great for strolling around aimlessly with your S.O.
Pintô Art Museum is at 1 Sierra Madre St. Grand Heights Rd, Antipolo City.
Open Tuesday to Sunday, 9am — 6pm, Tel (02) 6971015.
Dine in front of beautiful views of nature
With cascading mini waterfalls, floor-to-ceiling windows, and folk art-inspired sculptures, Tahanan Bistro is a good romantic dining spot for those tired of eating at cookie-cutter diners and themed restaurants. For special occasions, an area called the Deck is a more intimate spot overlooking an impressive view of the garden.
With a kitchen staff led by an Australian-educated chef, Tahanan serves set menus priced at PHP1,200 (US$22.78) which makes use of fresh produce and spices found in different parts of the Philippines.
Tip: Call beforehand to know what they’re serving — the menu is changed every three months to keep things interesting.
Tahanan Bistro is at 22 Loresville Drive, Lores Farm Subdivision, Brgy. San Roque, Antipolo City
Open Monday to Friday, 11am-4pm; 6pm-10pm, Tel (02) 092588014 87.
Eat and take couple photos in this hip cafe
Tucked in a gated community is the hip Yellow Bird Cafe and Kitchen, a favorite among young customers attracted by its colorful interiors, floor-to-ceiling windows, and yummy offerings.
Frequently featured by bloggers, this eatery is known for its sweet Baby Back Ribs (PHP155/US$2.93) and their flavored lattes such as Salted Caramel and Macadamia Nut.
Like other must-see places in the city, it’s a pretty place perfect for upping one’s Instagram game.
Yellow Bird Cafe and Kitchen is at Mission Hills Subdivision, Antipolo City
Open Monday to Sunday, 7am-10pm, Tel (02) 09239665050.
Learn the art of pottery in an arts haven
Couples looking for a place to eat and learn something creative would find Crescent Moon Cafe and Studio Pottery worthy of a visit, which was founded by potter Lanelle Abueva-Fernando.
For just PHP2,500 (US$47.36), couples can join pottery workshops that will teach them to create ceramic pots — from shaping up to the firing and glazing of each piece.
The place also has a cafe that does Southeast Asian-inspired dishes. The menu changes each day depending on the ingredients that the staff is able to source, so every visit will be a tad different. One thing that is constant is their alagao salad, which is similar to a Vietnamese spring roll, and their suman, a rice cake considered as a must-have dessert in Antipolo.
Crescent Moon Cafe and Studio Pottery is at Sapang Buho Rd. Barangay Dalig, Antipolo City. Open Wednesday to Sunday, 9am — 5pm, Tel (02) 2345724.
Turn off your damn phone and enjoy some quiet time together at this stunning nature camp
What started out as private advocacy of rehabilitating a formerly denuded forest has led to the creation of a sanctuary where people can commune with nature.
Mount Purro Nature Reserve was founded by businessman Toto Malvar and is a place where couples can spend quality time away from the stresses of modern life. Guests can camp underneath the stars or hike at the reserve’s four-kilometer trail. They could also just perch by the pool or decompress at the spa, which offers the traditional Filipino massage called hilot.
The place also offers an opportunity to meet the indigenous Dumagat tribe, which has called the reserve their home. With a slew of activities, the reserve is ideal for couples looking for a unique way to spend their quality time together.
Mount Purro Nature Reserve is at Barangay Calawis, Antipolo City
Open Monday to Friday, 7am-7pm, Tel (02) 5423005.
Smooth your worries away at this relaxing spa
Traveling around the city could sap even the most energetic of couples, but Antipolo offers Luljetta’s Place Garden Suites to those looking to recharge and soothe their stresses away.
Reading their menu alone transports us into daydream mode. They offer massages and one-hour body scrubs using chocolate, coffee, red wine, and calamansi, the country’s favorite citrus fruit. The place also has a cerulean pool with stunning views of Manila. If the pool proves to be too cold, there’s also a heated jacuzzi and sauna.
For couples who want to stay a night in town, they also have well-appointed and spacious rooms tastefully designed in modern decor.
Tip: Be sure to reserve at least a week in advance to experience the place with no hassles.
Luljetta’s Place Garden Suites is at Sitio Loreland, Barangay San Roque, Antipolo City
Front desk is open 24 hours daily; Tel (02) 570 2532.
Get a taste of Switzerland at this simultaneously cute and cool restaurant
Swiss restaurants are hard to find in Manila, but Antipolo plays host to one of the nation’s best: Vieux Chalet.
Opened by the late Tony Hassig, a Swiss expat, Vieux Chalet has been around since the 1980s, but it remains a favorite of locals and visitors alike. An oft-repeated tale is that Hassig was encouraged to open his own restaurant after people would drop by his home just to try his yummy meals. While he has passed away, the place remains thanks to the efforts of his daughter Florence.
It’s an intimate eatery that offers sweeping views of Manila and delicious food. A few menu standouts include Raclette Festival (PHP1,500/ US$28.41)), a smorgasbord of cheeses, shrimp, and veggies; Lamb Shoulder in Red Wine Sauce (PHP1,243/US$23.53); and their dessert trio of ice cream and fruits (PHP900/US$17.04).
Vieux Chalet is at 456 Taktak Road, Sitio Sampaguita, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Antipolo City
Open Mondays and Tuesdays, 9am-10pm; Fridays to Sundays, 8am-11pm, Tel (02) 6970396 and 09282888584.
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