Situated some 30 kilometers South of Manila, the province of Laguna curves embryo-like around the largest body of fresh water in the country – the Laguna de Bay. It is also nestled in the shadows of two famous mountains – Mt. Makiling and Mt. Banahaw – a nature’s haven of diverse flora and fauna. But more than anything else, Laguna is best known as the “Resort Province of the Philippines” owing to the abundance of hot springs, lakes and waterfalls within the areas. In fact, Laguna has made tourism its major industry. It is the only province with ground water that produces 300 million gallons a day. Nowhere else in the country can you find close to 600 resorts located around Mount Makiling alone, offering that invigorating, de-stressing hot spring experience.
For nature lovers, there are mountains to climb, forest reserves to explore and trails to discover. And if you love flowers, you will find yourself in paradise in the many cut flower farms of Calamba, Los Banos and Bay. Exotic blooms like cattleyas, dendrobiums, vandas and anthurium as well as ornamental plants and exotic trees are common sights here. If you’re looking for greens, other type of greens, that is, there are three world class golf courses: Canlubang, Sta Elena, San Pedro.
Laguna is also the birthplace of the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal. Born June 19, 1861 in Calamba, Laguna, he is considered the greatest Calambeno that ever lived. In fact, he is also revered as the ‘pride of the Malay race’ – being a novelist and prolific writer, a poet, a painter, a sculptor, a linguist conversant in 22 languages, a scientist, an historian, an eye doctor whose fame spread in two continents, a nationalist and a reformer. His colorful life as the country’s national hero is forever etched in the annals of history. He was a martyr who died for the love of his beloved Philippines.
Laguna is also a thriving community with most towns bustling with small and medium backyard industries. A trip to Laguna is not complete without the usual stop over in any of the countless souvenir or ‘pasalubong’ shops selling local handmade products and delicacies, the most famous of which are the buco pies (young coconut pie) and espasol.
The following are information from Lakbay.net, the first Filipino Online Travel Access.
Mount Makiling (Los Banos) – A 1,144 meter high dormant volcano with three peaks. Its slopes are shaped like that of a woman lying down. Legends have it that the profile is that of Maria, a forest diety who lives in the mountain to protect it from harm. These slopes have an abundance of natural hot and warm springs that provide therapeutic benefits. It is also the source of the province’ bottled water industry.
Pettyjohn Studio (Calamba) – Pottery making is an important source of livelihood in Laguna. John Pettyjohn and wife Tessie belongs to an emerging generation of artist-potters who are reviving the traditional methods of pottery making, fusing them with contemporary styles of Asian and Western ceramics. Visit here is by appointlemt only.
National Arts Center (Los Banos) – Ideally located on the slopes of Mt. Makiling offering a spectacular view of Laguna de Bay. The late National Artist, Leandro Locsin, Jr. designed this architectural showcase. It has an auditorium, seminar and conference facilities, a library and a ballet studio. This houses an exclusive Center for the Arts where gifted teenage scholars are trained. It is managed by the Cultural Center of the Philippines.
University of the Philippines (Los Banos)– The first and premier institution for higher learning in the country.
Enchanted Kingdom (Sta. Rosa) – The first and only “World-Class” theme park in the Philippines.
Pagsanjan/ Magpadio Falls (Pagsanjan) – A waterfalls famous for its rapids.
UP Botanical Garden (Los Banos) – Houses some of the more exotic plants in the Philippines. It has unpolluted natural vegetation and is ideal for those who want to explore the varied flora and fauna of Mr. Makiling.
Mount Banahaw (San Pablo) - A 2,188 meter high dormant volcano with springs and waterfalls, believed to have mystical powers. Many come here to be healed and to pray.
Woodcarving and Paper Mache Factories (Paete) – Features the artistic skills and talents of the local residents whose main livelihood source comes from woodcarvings (especially religious statues) and paper mache’ of export quality.
City of Seven Lakes (San Pablo) – Lakes that were created by volcanic activity and nestled in a depression. The biggest of the seven, is Sampaloc Lake, which is dotted with fish pens and restaurants where you can go fishing and have your catch cooked.
Laguna is also famous for its many churches, most of which are centuries old and have great architectural history. Because of this, tourism organizations offer tour packages to the following:
St. John the Baptist Church (Calamba) – Built in the 19th century, it was here where the country’s national hero, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, was baptized on June 22, 1861.
Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery (Nagcarlan) – A circular wall structure that has tombstones embedded on the brick walls of the centuries-old cemetery.
St Gregory Church (Majayjay) – Reputed to be one of the oldest churches in the Philippines, it has antique relief statues of saints brought by the Spaniards and a belfry which houses five bells. The rooftop gives a breathtaking view of Mt. Banahaw and Laguna de Bay.
San Pedro De Alcantara Church (Pakil) – A Franciscan church completed in 1767 after 35 years of construction. It is constructed in Corinth-Ionic styles and houses the statue of the Virgin of Turumba, 14 icons, and an authentic painting by Paete painter, Jose Dans.
Mabitac Church (Mabitac) – Features a Spanish-style façade and stands atop 126-stone steps.