Just 60km south of Manila is Lake Taal. Its roughly circular shape is a clue to its origin: this is an old volcanic crater. Tagaytay is a strip of real estate sitting astride the ridge of the crater to the west of Lake Taal. Hugely popular with residents of Manila escaping for the day and as a weekend retreat for the rich and wealthy, Tagaytay is undergoing a property boom, with new subdivisions and housing developments being laid out on the hillsides on both sides of the ridge. As well as the spectacular views over Lake Taal, people are attracted to the clean air and relatively cool temperatures.
We visited Tagaytay midweek, when it is less busy. Unfortunately the weather was not kind to us – it was overcast (and, in fact, rained later in the afternoon.) Even so, when we stepped out of our car, we were surprised at how cool and breezy it was – the kind of weather that at a British seaside resort would be described as ‘bracing’. For us Brits, quite bearable; for the locals, very cold. The roadside vendors were wrapped up in coats, hats and scarves.
First stop was the ‘People’s Park in the Sky’, a grandiose name for what is really an incomplete building site. Begun as a summer residence for the Marcos family, the building did not survive the downfall of President Marcos and was never finished, remaining an empty concrete shell.
We last visited a few years back, and I was shocked to see how much the building had deteriorated. Although Lonely Planet hints that rebuilding work had begun, apart from a new toilet block there was little evidence of this. Water was running through the building from broken pipes and metalwork was badly corroded or missing altogether. In fact, I thought the place was downright dangerous, having put my foot through a rusty and broken grating. What cannot be denied is the impressive 360 degree viewpoint. But I suspect that unless some serious work is done to improve the building and arrest the decay, the People’s Park may not be open next time we visit Tagaytay.
Although there is a small cafe/ restaurant at the People’s Park, the sight of so much crumbling concrete and corroded ironwork is not really conducive to a good appetite, so we headed southwards along the ridge to Leslie’s, a restaurant that overlooks Lake Taal. From there we had a good view of Volcano Island, which lies in the centre of the lake. As the name suggests, Volcano Island is itself made up of a number of volcanoes, including a crater with its own lake (and in the middle, its own tiny island!)
This is still an active system and from time to time there are eruptions on Volcano Island. Prime real estate this may be; but I question whether it is sensible to be building so many new homes quite so close to a volcano. As an example of human hubris, the new gated estates taking the place of pineapple and banana fields on the slopes of the Tagaytay ridge pretty much equal the crumbling mountaintop palace of a deposed dictator.
For an album of photos from our visit to Tagaytay visit here.