A: Yes, of course. I've been in Laguna many times already when I was a resident in Philippines. If we had vacations before in many resorts especially at hot springs, we used to go to Laguna especially when I was a student at Mapua Institute of Technology with my classmates and professors. We went there many times already after we had plant visits in many companies in Laguna. Also, when I was a professor at De La Salle University, we used to go to the resorts and hot springs when we had an annual summer outing vacation of Faculty Association of De La Salle University. Laguna is also a memorable province to me.
Q: Could you please describe about Province of Laguna if you are familiar in that province?
A: Well, Laguna is located north of Batangas, east of Cavite, west of Quezon, and south of Rizal. Laguna is also in Region 4 or Southern Tagalog Region. Laguna is a well-known province in Philippines for making "kesong puti" or locally made cheese from carabao or cow's milk, buko pie, resorts, and hot springs. Laguna de Bay is a well-known river in Philippines located between the provinces of Rizal and Laguna. Most of the people in Rizal and Laguna are raising fishes, shrimps, and shellfish at Laguna de Bay. Most of the people in Laguna are living in fishing and farming. Laguna is also a province of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, a well-known national hero in Philippines. Laguna was derived from Spanish word lago meaning lake or lagoon. According to the old folks there that there were many lakes in the province which were used for the rice fields and fish ponds. During summer period, most of the lakes were dried and many of the people there were suffering drought. They were praying very well so that there will be a water flow at the lakes soon and they can put water in the rice fields and fish ponds. When raining season comes, there's a water flow at the lakes and all the farmers were very happy because they can put water in the rice fields and fishponds. The farmers and fishermen were saying "lago na" meaning there's a water coming from the lakes. Because of this, the rice fields and fishponds in the province called "Lago Na" into Laguna.
Q: We heard that Province of Laguna is also a rich province in Philippines, isn't it?
A: Yes. Laguna is also a rich province in Philippines. Before, the source of income in the province is mostly farming and fishing. Right now, Laguna is now considered also a pioneer province in Philippines because there are many companies and industries and most of the companies and industries there are came from other countries. Most of the companies and industries are located in San Pedro, Cabuyao, Biņan City, and Santa Rosa City. Also, there are many exclusive subdivisions in San Pedro, Cabuyao, Biņan City, and Santa Rosa City. These cities and towns are very productive because they are near to Manila. These areas are very crowded especially during rush hours with heavy traffic although there's Skyway and South Superhighway. Most of the people who are working in Manila and it's neighbor cities are residing in exclusive subdivisions. Also, there are many foreigners who are living in exclusive subdivisions that are working in many well-known companies and industries there. As I mentioned earlier that the people in the province are making kesong puti and fresh milk from carabao and cow's milk. Since there are many coconut plantations in the province, they are making buko pie, buko candies, espasol, pastillas de leche, coconut milk, coconut cream, coconut oil, nata de coco, vinegar, and coconut custard. All the vendors in the province are productive because of many visitors and tourists in the province. Most of the resorts and hot springs are located in Cabuyao, Calamba City, Santa Rosa City, Biņan City, and so on that visitors, tourists, and foreigners went to. There's The Enchanted Kingdom which is an entertainment, resort, and amusement park for the kids is located in Santa Rosa City. Mount Makiling, a famous mountain in the province is located along Calamba City and Los Baņos. This mountain is very attractive to all visitors and tourists because of its shape. Mount Makiling is also a volcano but it is not active compared to other volcanos in Philippines. This province is also a rich province in Philippines like Cavite, Rizal, and Bulacan because they are near to Manila. There are many handicrafts and wood carvings, too in Paete, Pakil, Calamba City, and other parts of the province. Most of the handicrafts are made from wood, coconut trees, coconut leaves, coconut husks, and clay. Many of the old women there are still making embroidery and Filipino clothes in some parts of the province. The well-known fruits there are lanzones, rambutan, duhat, siniguelas, and mangosten. The people there are very smart, too like in Cavite and Bulacan.
Q: What are the main roads in Province of Laguna?
A: Well, I am not familiar with the main roads there because I am not a native resident of Laguna. Anyway, the main roads that I know are the following: South Superhighway, National Road, Governor's Drive, Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Road, Maharlika Highway, J.P. Rizal Street, Bay-Calauan Highway, Calauan-San Pablo Highway, and Manila East Road.
Q: You were mentioned earlier that you went already in Laguna for a plant visit. In what company did you visit?
A: Well, I went to Asia Brewery in Cabuyao in 1989 with my classmates and professors at Mapua Institute of Technology and most of the 3rd, 4th, and 5th year chemical engineering students are the visitors of the plant visit courtesy of ChE-Chm Student Council and its officers. Asia Brewery is also a well-known beer company in Philippines for making its trademark Beer na Beer. The management of the plant was very strict because they don't allow us to take pictures, videos, and even tape recordings. We had picture takings only at the lobby and outside of the company. Later in many years, San Miguel Corporation filed a lawsuit against Asia Brewery because of the design and shape of the bottle of San Miguel Beer is copied by Asia Brewery. They brought this matter to the Supreme Court and San Miguel Corporation won in the case. Asia Brewery was paid a fine and the management cannot use the said bottle because it is patented at Department of Trade and Industry. After our plant visit, we went to a resort in Calamba City to have a picnic and swimming at the pool. This is a memorable tour when I was in a college and I can't forget this event even until now.
Later, we had a plant visit again in 1991 at Nestle Philippines in Cabuyao courtesy of ChE-Chm Graduating Class of 1992. Nestle Philippines is also a well-known food company in Philippines already for many years for making different finds of foods like ice cream, milk, cream, canned fruits and vegetables, juices, and food flavorings. The management of the plant was very strict, too because they don't allow us to take pictures, videos, and even tape recordings. We had picture takings only at the lobby and outside of the company. After our tour, we went to Calamba City to have a picnic and swimming at the pool with my classmates and professors. This is my memorable tour, too when I was in a college and I can't forget this event even until now. Later, my cousin, Mark Anthony Tan, told me that the manufacturing plants of Nestle Philippines are already closed and moved to another country like in Vietnam and Thailand. Right now, Nestle Philippines is now only a distributor and their office is located in Makati City. The main problem in many companies and industries in Philippines is the labor union and most of the labor unions in Philippines are brave, violent, and they can destruct the properties and even they can kill the people especially those in the management positions. Well, I am sad to hear about what happened to Nestle Philippines. Many employees and workers were lost their job at Nestle Philippines. I wish that they can find another job and have a better lifestyle for their family soon.
Q: Is it true that there are many vendors that are cheaters, too?
A: Yes. That's a good question. Anyway, if you are planning to buy buko pie, kesong puti, polvoron, and espasol, you have to buy those at the stores with name rather than at the vendors that are usually going to the streets, buses, bus stations, and resorts. Many of the vendors are cheaters and they cheat many of the visitors, tourists, and even the foreigners. I am a victim of the cheaters, too in Laguna when I was a resident in Philippines. Their kesong puti is very small and they wrapped in many banana leaves. Their buko pie has a lot of flour rather than buko meat. Their espasol has many rice flour rather than sticky coconut and rice candy. Their polvoron is just a mixture of flour and sugar. Please buy those at the stores rather than at the vendors. Many of my classmates and professors are also a victim of vendor cheaters.
Q: We heard that you were arrived in Philippines on November 9, 2009. Since you are a Balikbayan, did you have a tour in Province of Laguna?
A: Yes. I went to Laguna on November 25, 2009 with my cousin, Mark Anthony Tan, to visit in Calamba City, Los Baņos, and Pagsanjan. I used to go to Laguna when I was a resident in Philippines. I like the resorts and hot springs there as well as their foods that I mentioned earlier. First, we went to Calamba City to visit the house of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, the national hero in Philippines. The house is located besides Calamba Elementary and High School and it is also located at the downtown area. It is already 200 years but the Philippine government preserved the house and make it into a tourist spot for the visitors, tourists, and foreigners. When all the siblings of Dr. Jose Rizal died, the Rizal family made a decision to donate the house to Philippine government. Ms. Gemma Cruz Araneta (Miss International 1964 and businesswoman) is Dr. Jose Rizal's great grandniece. Her great grandmother, Maria Rizal, is Dr. Jose Rizal's sister at her father's side. Right now, she is helping also the Philippine government to preserve and maintain the house of Dr. Jose Rizal. Most of Dr. Jose Rizal,s writings, things, and clothes are still there. Also the things of his parents and siblings are still there. This is my first time to visit there and my brother went there before together with his friends.
After this, we went to University of the Philippines in Los Baņos to have a tour there. I used to go there many times when I was a resident in Philippines to do my research and thesis work for my masters degree at De La Salle University. UP Los Baņos is a well-known university in Philippines for having and offering agricultural and food processing courses. The university is also offering engineering, science, liberal arts, political science, and law courses there. I remember that when I went there in 2000, I had already taste their blue cheese made from carabao's milk but they used the same colony as in Europe. They are also making ice cream, popsicles, yogurt, pudding, and fresh milk from carabao's milk. Also, UP Los Baņos is also expert in agricultural process like making organic fertilizers (phosphate free), drafting, cross breedings, and so on. Most of the professors and scientists there were studied in abroad and they shared their knowledge to the university as well as to the students.
After we had a lunch at Chowking, we went to Pagsanjan to visit the Pagsanjan Falls, the main tourist spot in Laguna. It is a little bit far from Calamba City and Los Baņos. Most of the tourists and foreigners are going to Pagsanjan Falls by riding in a boat. When we went there, we didn't take a ride at the boat because it is expensive like PHP 3,000 to PHP 4,000 (almost USD 100) per boat ride. Sometimes, the current of the river is also strong and it is possible for you to get wet and even your boat will turn upside down if it is hit by a strong current. The fall itself is far from the boat station. They are using the manual boat rather than the motorboat. I wish that they will use the motorboat later so that the fare will be cheaper and more visitors and tourists will ride in a boat. We took a picture besides the river and then we went back at Oxford Suites in Makati City. We bought buko pie, espasol, pastillas de leche, polvoron, and other sweets that I will bring when I get home in United States. I wish that I will visit in Laguna later.
Q: How's the weather in Province of Laguna?
A: Well, the weather there was good because it was sunny but cloudy especially in afternoon. The temperature there is 90°F during days and 75°F during nights. The waves at Laguna de Bay were strong because of the strong winds, too. Although it is windy sometimes, it is still nice to visit there. We got sweat there because it was sunny but we had fun there.
Q: Do you recommend to anyone to visit in Province of Laguna?
A: Yes, of course. I am inviting everyone to visit in Laguna because it is also a nice place especially the resorts and hot springs. If you want to visit in nature places like mountains, plantations, resorts, and hot springs, it is a best place for you. The foods there are very delicious especially the dishes have coconut mik. Although this province is very crowded because of many exclusive subdivisions, industries, resorts, and hot springs, it is still a nice place to visit, too.