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Last updated : Nov 2009
That Little Thing Is A Killer Volcano?!
Rating :

Jul 15 '00

Pros: Cheap, fun, and you get a break from the heat
Cons: Vampires and Ghosts, Opportunistic kids

"One of the world's deadliest" was what I was told while visiting the Taal Volcano on the day of my 29th birthday. "That little thing?" I said as I pointed to a medium sized island in the middle of a lake.

It was 15 April 1998 and I was on the Tagaytay Ridge in the Philippines looking at a very serene view of a sleeping monster. Other than knowing I was looking at a killer that has claimed thousands of lives there was really nothing else that I found to be that great about Tagaytay other than the cool refreshing air because we were about 2,250 feet above sea level.

My friend Jason and I were on a short excursion away from Manila to celebrate my birthday. We had started the day before on an overnighter in Laguna to do some night swimming with the family and some close friends. We rented a jeep and hauled about 8 people other than ourselves to this vacation spot for the locals and rented a pretty nice house for the night. The drive itself from Manila took about 2 hours. Once in Laguna you could see the signs everywhere that were advertising rental houses with pools.

We pulled into one neighborhood that seemed fairly decent and before Jason and I had a chance to hide someplace before the girls started the negotiations, the two Americans had already been spotted. Great there goes the price. As soon as we had pulled up to a local Sari Sari(small family owned Filipino version of a 7-11) to hang out and have a few beers while the girls drove off and haggled for a good price about four kids came out of nowhere and proclaimed they could offer the best deal.

Whenever you want to buy or rent something here, it is a good idea to have a local do it for you before you allow the seller to see you. If you do not practice this little bit of omission then you can usually expect to pay from one third to almost double the normal asking price for something.

The house itself set us back about $75. I knew we had paid at least $25 more than we should have but hell, it was a very nice house with four bedrooms, two bathrooms, marble floors, a bar, and one of the largest in ground pools I had seen at a private home in the Philippines. Just about the entire backyard was covered by mosquito netting to protect us from the bugs and the pool from leaves.

I was one of the first to get into the pool and gasped in surprise. Not at how cold the water was but at how warm. It almost felt like a hot tub. I could only surmise that it was caused by the intense heat during the day. It was not in the least bit refreshing. We did have a BBQ going on in the pit that was part of the Cabana adjacent to the pool.

As we sat around enjoying our San Miguel beers and joking around with the girls they happened to mention that there was an Aswang that reportedly lived nearby. This was mentioned in parting by one of the boys who had arranged our rental. Nice kid. Oh, by the way he added, the house has a Multo too. Great, a vampire and a ghost, what a bargain. For those of you who do not know Filipino folklore an Aswang is their version of a vampire that supposedly separates in half and flies around on huge bat wings that sprouts from it's back. Ya right, and donkeys are going to fly out of my butt. Anyhow many locals believe in this thing. What I belive is that it makes for a great excuse for locals to hide in fear in their bedrooms while the thieves go discount shopping at night.

The area was somewhat isolated by a few empty lots overgrown with jungle. This gave the atmosphere a kind of spooky feel that had the girls just a wee bit jumpy and gave evil little me a few ideas for fun at their own expense. Sounds kind of like one of those campy horror flicks, doesn't it?

After everyone had their fill of food, beer, and swimming it was time to shower and turn in. Jason and I had hung out on the patio for a few more beers and when the last girl was in the back bathroom by herself I snuck up to it's door with Jason looking on and giggling like a schoolgirl. The plan was to knock on the door with one loud rap. This is like a bad thing for the locals as it means something very nasty is waiting for them on the other side of the door. Just as I was about to knock on the door I heard an ear splitting shriek and was knocked on my butt senseless as the girl had bolted out of the bathroom like a scared deer.

After picking myself up from the hard marble floor I headed off to the bedroom where the other girls had staked out to find out what exactly had transpired. The girl claimed to have seen the ghost in a reflection in the mirror. She said it was a black shadow that had glided behind her. I figured her superstitions, an overactive imagination and a little alcohol had set her up for a ghost of her own. Anyhow the girls were insistent that Jason and I sleep in the same room with them from that point on as they were all a bit wide eyed with fear.

The night was uneventful, I swear, and the next day we were all up with the chickens. We loaded onto the jeep and headed out for Tagaytay. We went through a few villages on some pretty rough roads and found a small fishing village that had a great sea level view of the Taal Volcano. Our driver got some additional directions and off we went.

Shortly after our departure from the fishing village we were in the "mountains". We were following a winding path that had gotten gradually steeper and steeper as our jeep struggled along. I had to stifle the urge to shout "I know I can, I know I can, choo choo... over the noise of the straining engine. Fortunately for us and the poor jeep there was a pit stop half way up where we got some more gas and had some mechanics work their magic on the jeep to get it to cool down and refresh the radiator.

Another 30 minutes after the pit stop we were standing on a large balcony enjoying the view from the Taal Vista Lodge. It was kind of hazy that day but we could still enjoy a good view of the killer volcano. Tagaytay and Taal are located about 60 Kilometers Southwest of Manila. The Taal Volcano is considered to be the smallest and loveliest volcano in the world but it has a very violent history.

The entrance to the Vista was free but the parking was not. I do not remember the fee but it was like a dollar or two and we had a spot made for us in the lot. It was nice and cool up in Tagaytay. A refreshing break from the heat of Manila. There was one of those coin operated telescopes and after finally figuring out that you had to have a token to use it, we found the booth, got the tokens and inserted for the view.

I was mildly surprised that the thing actually worked, but too my displeasure, when I turned it towards Taal for a better view I discovered that the growth on the side of the ridge blocked my view of the volcano. Ok, no sweat these things happen. So I go to the only other telescope, insert my last tokens and nothing! It was out of order! I did manage to get off a few decent camera shots and headed to a video game pavilion that was near the entrance. I love video games and enjoyed a few minutes on them while the others took photos of each other on the Vista. They even had one of those boxing things where you pound the bag and it tells you if you are a powder puff or Hercules. I won't go into details but it was at least a respectable showing.

They were all complaining of hunger by this point so we decided it was time for lunch as a Jollibee was right next door. The Jollibee chain is the Filipino version of McDonalds and has even expanded operations to the West Coast of the United States. About $25 later we were all happily eating chicken joys. It was getting late in the afternoon and the following day Jason and I had to hit the road with my sisters-in-law for a trip to Angeles City, Baguio, and 100 islands. I have epinions written about each of these places.

Tagaytay itself does not have an incredible amount of sights to offer but it does have:

Tagaytay Residence Inn Offers a mini zoo, restaurant and hotel.

People's Park in the Sky House constructed by the Marcos' family. Built on the highest peak in Tagaytay, it has the foundation built but the palace was never finished.

Picnic Grove This area offers horseback riding, picnic tables, roller skating, games, and cottage rental.

Tagaytay Highlands A members only Golf Club. Beautiful landscaping, a cable car, and as the name implies a golf course.

All in all it was an enjoyable diversion and the whole thing set us back only $200. That included the jeep, driver, food, drinks, and house with pool. Oh yea, don't forget the ghost and vampire as a bonus!