Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Caliraya Lake: Something Different!

I am a waterborne person and I thought only the beaches, oceans and the seas attract me. But when I got to Lake Caliraya it was a similar kind of high… only there is a big difference – which I can’t quite put what it is yet. Perhaps it is the cooler air, the different kind of tranquility, different flora & fauna than along beaches, the activities? Or perhaps all of them! I have been there before to camp out by the edge of the lake (on mainland side and at night) - it was fun! But this new sojourn was just fantastic!

Went to Lake Caliraya with friends to join a tree-planting activity sponsored by the Philippine government – if only to ensure that the lake’s denuding watershed is preserved. But, we booked the same weekend for a stay at one of the resorts.

Going there
On separate vehicles and departure times, I and some friends opted for the northern route that pass via the cities and towns of Pasig, Cainta, Antipolo, Teresa and so many other towns in the provinces of Rizal and Laguna. This is a circuitous one but apparently nearer. Plus, we were told the views of the Laguna Lake from up various parts of the road are supposedly nice. My solution, hire a driver familiar with the place. Other friends who had another activity south of the metropolis opted for the southern route, longer but simpler to follow – it passes on the other side of Laguna Lake via the SLEX and on to the towns of Los Banos, Bay, Victoria, Pila, Sta Cruz, Pagsanjan and Lumban all in the province of Laguna.

Alas, my departure was on a gloomy and very early morning where everything on the road was wet and everything above was clouds. So the views of Laguna De Bay were jeopardized as far as my little old camera was concerned. Add to that my driver’s habit of driving as if he was piloting a plane on a take-off roll! Plus, we were facing the sun most of the time. So I just committed the fascinating views to memory and forgot about the camera.

Along the way
This was a usual “out-of-town” drive where we started from the chaotic urbanity, then moved to some progressive suburbs, then to relatively rural towns and voila the lackadaisically remote destination. So there was the mild traffic at Marikina and Cainta, the sight of motels over at Antipolo, a winding road going down to Teresa and Baras and so on. And I thought that was the usual it! I was wrong…

By one barrio near the town of Paete, we encountered a ghastly phenomenon that no one wants to ever see again. A lot of motorists were stranded, some residents were in a panic to save crops, the local authorities assisting in every way they can… the problem… flashfloods. I had to get out of the vehicle and ask what happened. So I learned that the flood was already halfway down than its earlier level/volume; that it was caused by the heavy rains last night and; that most of the damage were on rice and other crops ready for harvest on a vast field owned by a lot of farmers. It was real bad a sight really. And I hope it instilled in all of us to get serious with the tree-planting thing. I first thought the lake above this town had broken a mountain apart to empty all of its water. Thankfully it was not for that would have been another total disaster.

Caliraya and the famous lake
Arriving at Caliraya area was such a good feeling with fantastic views everywhere. This lake area touches the towns of Lumban, Kalayaan and Cavinti. Asking around for historical information was harder than searching the web via the GPRS connection on our phones and notebooks. So, if you need infos, they’re all over the web – like this was built by the Americans for hydro-electric power, like this is on the foot of the Sierra Madre, like there are already a number of resorts around the lake, like its 1,200 feet above sea level and the deepest part is 150 feet etc etc.,

Anyway, I did learn from my asking around that the very reason none of the residents and even resort employees could tell me a better version of Caliraya’s past is: all of them are fairly new in this area. Many are employees who have their own residences somewhere at the nearby towns but opted to settle somewhere near the resorts where they are employed. Some have not even roamed the area yet and are just familiar with their resort’s environs! They’re all quick to contribute though that in the past none could reside here as this was the domain of the New People’s Army. I just thought that am sure the NPA is still around in this area but they are not anymore as violent and unreasonable as in the past where civilians were even victimized.

Where we stayed
After the tree planting, we headed to and spent the fun and funny weekend, thankfully, at Caliraya Re-creation Center a.k.a CRC a.k.a Caliraya Resort a.k.a Lake Caliraya Resort. But that decision was not easy and it did not come without a bit of an issue! Here we go:

When I started asking around some days before the weekend, CRC’s rates were competitive enough and they’re the word-of-mouth amongst many of my friends who have been to Caliraya. CRC is the “original” and most-visited amongst resorts in the area. But I wanted this to be a last choice because I know there is something in there that I wanted to avoid (more of that later)! Other resorts are distant far, others require an hour’s boat ride, still others had nothing but the sleeping quarters so you bring everything from plates, pans to pepper down to the last drop of your cooking water (yes, water)! Finally, Lagos Del Sol won on my list since it is newer, more luxurious with fewer rooms (therefore fewer crowds) with fairly a number of activities to do, though less than what CRC offers. Plus, many of the party folks I know prefer this place over the others.

However, the decision to stay at Lagos Del Sol was ruined by the stupid lady who I was unfortunate enough to have talked with! On a Monday (that’s 5 nights before our intended stay), I called up their booking office at Ermita, told the girl there were 5 of us friends coming over. At first she said okay, fine… and booked us a Cabana. I asked for the payment details and told her I will pay by Tuesday. Thanks that (or, is that no thanks?) she got my contact numbers. Tuesday morning she called me to tell that the Cabanas are full and that she has just given me a “hotel room” (whatever that is) and so I said yes that would be fine. We as a group are never really too picky on the rooms for when we’re together, we hit those beds for only a few hours really! Tuesday noontime, I called up intending to ask if their facility has internet connectivity. What I instead got was information that the hotel rooms were booked by an entire company and that she was checking if I can instead have the Makiling Rooms (whatever those are, too). That was the apex of all my patience, I shouted on top of my lungs and told her to just forget reserving a room for me… and I requested for her to please die right that very moment!

See?! That was the issue, and I spent the whole of Tuesday afternoon calling all other resorts to check the best option. Wednesday morning, I thought I have had enough of burning the lines so I called up CRC. Only a Duplex was what remained available and I was told it could be booked by others anytime soon. That Duplex is good for 10 (minimum) up to 15 (maximum) adults. That meant I was to book a place big enough for 10 folks while there were only 5 of us. Just the same, I told the girl to book that Duplex for me and give me at least an hour to reconfirm so I could check with my companions if they’d be fine with the rate – even if I instinctively knew no one would say no! Lo and behold… in less than 20 minutes, the CRC girl instead called me up to tell that she’s grabbed a room to fit the five of us and will just give the Duplex to a group of 15 also wanting to book. And of course I immediately said YES! (afterthought… I found out later that the group of 15 desperately asking for that Duplex were all known to us as they were part of the tree-planting activity too hahaha!)

What we did at Caliraya and how we liked the place
First off… we were unanimous in announcing it was a fantabulous weekend! Really! And yes, I will dare go back there if any of you wants to drag me in for another weekend!

Let’s do this blow-by-blow:

We arrived about 2PM after driving around just relishing the rim of the lake, the hilly areas, the Japanese Garden and even the big blue pipes that fed water down to the power plants. When our vehicle entered the parking area near the little jetty, a man in a pink T-Shirt for a uniform approached us to ask for a reservation name. I told him my name, he looked at his clipboard and with all smiles exclaimed “oh Mr. Pinoy Traveler, you are the last group I’ve been expecting! Welcome to Caliraya Re-creation Center, please park your vehicle over there and just head to that wharf near the white-roofed tent”! Next he barked something on his 2-way radio and we saw that a boat started crossing from the resort’s docks obviously coming for us.

I told the man that there were only three of us for now and that our other companions were still coming in about an hour or two. His jolly reply was “no problem sir, go on ahead and proceed with check-in, I will meet and take care of your companions”. And we (just the three of us) crossed in a big outrigger boat manned by two boatmen (engineman also in that pink tee while the deckhand wore an orange colored “maintenance department” shirt)!

It takes no more than three minutes to cross. Upon arrival, we were not even out yet when a platoon of excited kids started boarding and some even waved goodbye at us! Hmm, interesting place!

We were greeted by another set of crews and the guard who were at some kind of a dive shop cum guard house. This time the shirts were not only pink as some were in a bright pastel purple! They all asked us to wait for a short while as the service jeep was coming to fetch us. Coolness! Oh grand, so this place is called “The Waterfront” – aside from being jetty area, this is also the rental place and a jump off point for the various sea sports of CRC. That’s why the house is full of things like life-savers, life-vests, paddles, etc! And I saw two wave runners sitting idle in the waters seemingly calling at me! Ahhh! I couldn’t wait! But we still had to check-in. The jeep came loaded with guests but not all alighted, so we joined them going to the main building of this fine resort.

Check-in was brisk. We were given our meal tickets (it’s a full board thing) then another pink-shirted crew led us and carried our things to our room – B20! What’s in there? A big bed (queen size) that can fit 2 persons, but it can be 3 if you were like us hehe! Then there is a wooden double deck with a pull away extra bed at the bottom. The air conditioner is fitted some inches off the floor below a window. The wooden door is topped by a screen door. The shower room is fine and the hot water is real hot. The TV has cable service. Like in a resort, there is a faucet on the spacious veranda outside of each room.

We just looked around, dropped our things and headed out to roam this expansive place with so many outdoor activities to be had. You can check out all available activities at their website. But for us, we:
- Enjoyed snacks at the gazebo. Their “turon” was a feast for me!
- Toured the main building, the house of prayers and recreational facilities
- Enjoyed the views from the view deck on the roof
- Had a ball at the “Slide Pinoy”
- Conquered our fears at the “Fly Pinoy” (zip line)
- Strained every muscle at that wall-climbing thingy!
- Watched some friends play table-tennis
- Lounged for a while at the lobby
- Tinkered but did not use the KTV booths
- Devoured everything we saw at the buffet dinner
- Played a little billiards
- Sang on a rented Sing-along inside our room; and…

Okay, time for honesty! And this is why I wanted to avoid CRC: 1) this is a “no-smoking” facility and 2) this is more of a spiritual retreat facility than anything else. On item 1, not that there isn’t any place to light up as there are two! One is some 10 meters outside of the main hotel building amidst tall trees, a trash bin and nothing to sit on. The other “smoking area” is a fine little hut with bamboo benches and table behind the “The Waterfront” – which is about half a kilometer or more from up the main hotel building hehe! On item 2, am not really very much at ease with hearing and meeting our brothers/sisters who raise and wave their hands when singing “a..live, alive... alive, alive, alive”! Not that I abhor it, but I kinda feel guilty in their presence! Am sure you know what I mean hehe! At least during this weekend, I did not hear nor see them at it. The most that I witnessed was the “prayer before meals” at one of the longest tables during dinner. I think the leader overdid his invocation and I timed it at 7 minutes. I heard another dude at a nearby table say “ang dami naman hinihingi ng mga yan sa Diyos bago kumain”. Oh no, I will not interpret that anymore hehe!

- We drank a bit (the hotel sells only 1 beer each to anyone for the night)
Thus, our “quota” was 5 cans of SanMigLight since there were 5 of us!
But we are ingenious in this field, so just to let you know, we drank more!
Drinking is also allowed at that little hut behind the “Waterfront”. Fact is
there is even a sari-sari store behind the fence that sells beer and yosi to
satisfy all your vices. Again, it’s far from the main building. Good if you
were staying at one of the Duplexes, they’re nearer. One last thing on
this… you may also drink at the little open-air cottages by the water’s
edge near the kayaks and the horses. But its dark, sometimes wet and
is a mosquito superhighway!

Oh hey CRC folks, please do not spank your crews for our deviant behaviour, okay?! They were just being kind and really had pity on their guests (that’s us) who can’t drop some dirty little vices hehe! At least we did everything discreetly and (as if by some heavenly powers) the two adjacent rooms to ours (B21 and B22?) were under renovation at that time – so thankfully no guests!

- capped the night with great swimming at the big pool until it went lights out at midnight.

Okay, honesty again, we begged so it was at half past midnight.

Hmm, I don’t like lightning to strike me as I write this… Okay fine, we begged the lifeguard to close at 1AM. Promise!

Am not done yet… when daylight shone upon this great resort, we were back to more mainstream activities after sleeping off our deviant behaviours of last night hehe! First was a visit to the roof area viewing deck for the grand morning views. The only sounds heard there were various forest creatures. Noisiest were some 4 or 5 ravens (okay, okay… uwak na kung uwak as in crow! I was just trying to make it sound sosyal!). Hey there was a big moth by the ceiling! Then…
- Viewed other buildings near the maintenance area (are those of the owners?)
- The crew’s staff-houses (most of them were taking a bath hehe)
- The hanging bridge
- Heavy buffet breakfast
- The Valley Theater
- The firing range (only one of us used it)
- Saw a big dying fruit bat flat on the ground
- Jet Ski (ahhh, this was the best)
- Canoe for my companions (only 4 are allowed per canoe)
- Kayak (for me, myself and I since I was the 5th)
- Slide Pinoy (again)
- Fly Pinoy (again)
- Mud Slide (this was wackiest fun and funny)
- Horseback riding until and even when it rained
- Swimming again at both pools (girl and boy hunting too hehe)
And the rest is history!

Hey I can’t anymore describe the details of all those activities lest this become a book hehe! We all went home quite happy and to take CRC’s name for it… “re-created”!

Sometimes we do have to thank stupidity of stupid people! Like the girl over at Lagos Del Sol’s office? All the fun and excitement above wouldn’t have come to fruition if she knew what she was doing! Ha ha ha and good riddance to her and her resort! I knew what would have happened if we stayed there anyway… puro hangover lang!

CRC, I will be back – probably with more friends!


  1. Hi there...nice post. How much was the room rate for CRC btw? Just interested 'coz I might visit Laguna soon.

    Thanks! =)

  2. hi angelmiz, i cannot recall the exact amount now but i think that was something like more than 1T each of us in 1 room - includes all meals. do checkout their website. will also dig my files when i get home for this and hope i'll find anything :)