Living in Manila, a packed city of 1.7 million people, can be a drain on you. The noise, the smog, the traffic become too much after a while. Luckily, there is a nearby escape that doesn’t require a plane ticket out of the Philippines metropolis. I’m talking about Antipolo City.
By Grab, Antipolo Rizal is only about a 400 PHP ride away from Makati. In distance, it is around 28 km from downtown Makati. In regular traffic, it takes a little over an hour to get there. Once you get to Antipolo, though, it feels like a world away.
Check-in at LeBlanc Hotel Resort, 3 Taktak Rd., Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
Choose LeBlanc Hotel if you want to stay in a new hotel that is centrally located. The hotel is across from Robinson’s Place and directly behind the Antipolo Public Market.
As you can surmise from the name, the LeBlanc Hotel is painted white inside and out. It is a minimalist designed theme. Being all white, it is no surprise that it is a popular venue for weddings. Indeed while I was there, a wedding party was also there.
The staff at the hotel is very accomodating. There are many staff members. They include trainees. No worries though. Even the trainees are good at making guests feel welcomed.
There is an outdoor pool on the same floor as reception desk. The restaurant offers a good selection of Filipino food including Salmon Sinigang and Bulalo. If you are craving a Western meal, I did notice Grilled Steak on the menu. And yes, there is a full bar.
The rooms are bright. They do run a bit small, especially the Single Deluxe. I recommend booking the Twin Deluxe. Also request a room on the poolside. You will hear less noise from the cars on the main road.
Lunch at The Crescent Moon Cafe and Studio Pottery, L. Sumulong Memorial Circle, Sitio Parugan, Dalig, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
After we got settled in our room, we were famished. So off we went to start our adventure in this “art town.” The destination was The Crescent Moon Cafe. It is about an 80 PHP ride from LeBlanc Hotel via trike. Uber costs about the same. There are less Uber cars in Antipolo as compared to Makati, so you may have to wait for a little while to find a driver. Trikes are everywhere though so that is a good transportation choice.
Upon arriving, the first thing you will notice about The Crescent Moon Cafe are the canopy of trees that shade the property. There is a fish pond too so you will hear the relaxing sound of water flowing. We felt immediately at ease. The painted mural put our minds in the proper mood to be artistic, even if we are only talking about lunch.
Try the Alagao. It is a signature dish that is good for 2 or 3.
We also had the Vietnamese Chicken Wings with Mayo Mulberry Sauce.
Both were delicious.
As for the drink, we had the superfood drink called Moringa Calamansi. That was good too. It paired well with our healthy lunch.
For dessert, we had the homemade Suman at Mangga. It tastes a lot like Mango Sticky rice which is one of our favorite dessert combo.
After eating, you can stroll the grounds. People make pottery here so you can certainly try your hand at creating something that is truly your own. It is easy to spend a few hours here.
Vietnamese Chicken Wings
Suman at Mangga
Watch Sunset at Cafe Augusta, Grand Heights Rd, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
One of the top things to do in Antipolo in the early evening is to enjoy a view of the sunset with the Manila skyline as a backdrop. On this first night, we decided to watch the sunset from the outside tables at Cafe Augusta.
The Peak 360 Spa
We arrived 2 hours before sunset in order to secure a good table. Lucky for us, the Peak 360 Spa had a soft opening. It didn’t take too much persuasion to get us in there for a one hour massage. We tried the hot stone massage. That one hour went by too quickly it seemed. But we were completely refreshed for our sunset viewing.
The spa is steps away from Cafe Augusta.
After our lovely first day in Antipolo, we woke up feeling recharged, alive, and well. We were ready to embark on our soul rejuvenating journey. But first, we needed to fortify ourselves with the most important meal of the day -- breakfast.
Breakfast at LeBlanc Hotel
A breakfast buffet was included in our room rate. The lineup included rice, a meat dish like fish or pork adobo, ham, scrambled eggs, cereal, toast, fruit, and waffles or pancakes depending on the day. Fresh brewed coffee was also served. Yay.
Day at Pinto Art Museum, Grand Heights Rd, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
We were excited to go explore the Pinto Art Museum after we had our breakfast. The ride from Le Blanc to the Pinto Art Museum was about 80 PHP by trike or Uber.
It was a cloudy day so we were apprehensive about being able to enjoy the museum. We weren’t sure whether it would rain.
It did rain a little bit but there was plenty of shelter to wait it out. The museum is larger that we thought so allot plenty of time to see the whole place. There are also many Instagramable backgrounds so set aside plenty of time for picture taking too. Needless to say, there will be queues as you wait for your turn to do your selfies at certain choice exhibits.
One day at the Pinto Art Museum convinced us that Antipolo is the art capital of the Philippines.
Dinner at Tahanan Bistro, 22 Loresville Drive, Lores Farm Subdivision, Antipolo, 1870 Lalawigan ng Rizal, the Philippines
We took a trike from the Pinto Art Museum to the Tahanan Bistro after our tour. Like most destinations in Antipolo, it was a relatively short ride. We only got a little lost because the trike driver was confused that a restaurant would be located in a residential neighborhood. Since it was our first time, we didn’t know what to expect either.
I guided the trike driver using my Google Maps GPS. It led us to a narrow residential street. He dropped us off and quickly sped away. So there we were, standing in front of an old oversized door, in the middle of the street. Yet that was what the GPS guided us too.
It took us about a minute of staring before we tried to get the door to open somehow. First we tried “Open Sesame”. No effect. Then we tried “Abracadabra”. No effect. Next we tried the unlocking charm from Harry Potter. No effect. The fourth attempt better work because we were getting hungry. And did I mention that it was dark?
The fourth attempt was reaching for the oblong ball shaped lever on the top right of the door and using it to tap on the wooden door. Tap. Tap. Tap. The sunflower face ornament moved and we saw a person’s eye peering at us from behind the door.
“Yes?”, she asked. We felt like door-to-door salespeople. “Uhhh, we’re looking for the Tahanan Bistro”, we replied timidly. “This is Tahanan Bistro. Do you have a reservation?”, the voice with the peering eye said from behind the door. “No, we don’t”, was my honest answer. Then silence.
A moment later, the door opened just a crack. The woman looked us over from behind the door. I think she wanted to make sure that we weren’t vagabonds. Then she told us, “This is a reservation only restaurant. We are fully booked for tonight. We serve set menus. It is 1,200 PHP per person.”
Wow. That was a lot of info that she blurted out. It was dark. We were hungry. So we were desperate. “Sorry we didn’t know. We are from out of town. The trike just dropped us here. We have no car. But we do have 1,200 PHP”, was what I remembered saying to her.
“Wait here. Let me go the kitchen and see what I can do”, she said and closed the door.
So we waited. We had no other choice. This must have been how Mary and Joseph felt trying to find a vacant inn. At least we had mobile phones with charge and a signal showing 3 bars.
Finally, the door opened again. This time, it opened all the way and we were welcomed inside. What a miracle.
Once inside, we were struck by the beauty of the place. Imagine an expansive garden, finely carved wood, a stream, a canopy of trees, foliage, and a view of Laguna de Bay all in one take. That would be the property that is called Tahanan Bistro.
It was night time so we had the added bonus of the city lights from down below since we are on the hills of Antipolo.
It would be a bon appetite night for sure. We ordered Tindalo and Yakal Set Menus.
Our dining experience at Tahanan Bistro was absolutely first rate. We made a mental note to go back so that we could see the museum in the day time. We also heard that they changed the menu regularly.
This was our last day in Antipolo. We wanted to try another restaurant so we skipped breakfast at LeBlanc and headed to a place that a friend recommended. It was nearby so the trike ride was only a few minutes.
Breakfast at Casa Abuela, 167 Ortigas Avenue, De la Paz, Antipolo City, Luzon 1870, the Philippines
This is a Filipino restaurant with some very California influenced dishes. It also has a bakery. This is a perfect place for breakfast. Try the California inspired burrito. It is a big portion so you can share.
Thunderbird Resorts, 1940 Eastridge Ave, Binangonan, Rizal, the Philippines
Since this was our last day in Antipolo, we had a longer list of places that we needed to see before heading back down the hill to Manila. The first stop was Thunderbird Resorts. It is only about 10 km from LeBlanc Hotel. You can take an Uber car. Once you are there, it feels like you’re really far away from civilization. And that is a good thing.
When we arrived at the resort, we immediately made a mental note to self to try staying at this place the next time we are in Antipolo. The property is well manicured, has a nice pool, and a great view.
We had a drink at the Koi Restaurant. Hung out by the gazebo. Checked out the views. And generally just chillaxed. The setting was enough to put us into a great state of mind for the rest of the day.
Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Daang Bakal Rd, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
Our time at the resort was way too short. But we had to head down the hill and back towards LeBlanc Hotel. Since we saw many wedding parties at our hotel, there must have been a church nearby. Sure enough, that church is none other than Parish of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Apparently this was where a couple of famous Filipino celebrities got married so it must be really nice.
We took Uber to the church and when we arrived, we were definitely not disappointed. The architects did a great job of integrating this modern designed church into the hill and forest surroundings. Try the station of the cross. It was a good journey.
Hinulugang TakTak Falls, Taktak Rd, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
About 1000 meters or less down the road from the church is Hinulugang TakTak Falls. There is a small entrance fee. The fee is higher if you are a foreigner.
From up top, the falls doesn’t look so impressive. However, as you descend the steps it gets nicer. There are picnic tables and a pool area. If you plan to have spend a day there, you can. This would be a good place for families with young children.
Dinner at Vieux Chalet Swiss Restaurant, 456 Taktak Rd, Antipolo, 1870 Rizal, the Philippines
Since Antipolo was so much about the views, we decided to have our last dinner of this trip enjoying a final view of Manila from atop the hill. We also wanted to try Swiss food since we normally eat Filipino food. Vieux Chalet hit the checkboxes so off we went.
We took a trike to the restaurant. After that journey, I suggest that you take a car instead. The hills gave the trikes a bit of a workout.
The restaurant looks like a genuine European cafe. We arrived early enough so that sun was still far from setting. It allowed us to check out the property and afforded us our choice of dining table.
The menu is also set. The portions are large, as in European large, so plan accordingly.
In terms of ambiance, the place is quite romantic. The jazz mix that they played was perfect for relaxing and enjoying the meal.
Tomorrow we have to head back to the hustle and bustle of Manila. But the 3 days spent here in Antipolo was very close to perfect. It would have been more perfect if we had more time to stay for even longer. Antipolo is a hidden gem. It is much easier to get to than Tagaytay. It has less wind yet still is cool. The food and the art and the people here are first rate. Antipolo is a Real Pinay winner destination.
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