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Lucban, Quezon Province, Philippines

My wife and I spent ten days in over the 2006 holidays in the small town of Lucban in Quezon Province about 150 miles southeast of Manila. Lucban is situated on the slopes of Mt. Banahaw at an elevation of about 1500 ft. As Mt. Banahaw is routinely hidden in the clouds, Lucban was constantly shrouded in rain, drizzle and mist. In fact, in the time that we were there, we saw blue sky and sunshine for only a couple of hours. The tourist literature states that Lucban has 285 days of rainy weather per year. The upside is that the weather was wonderfully cool. We're not exactly sure how cool, probably in the 70s but coming from the 90 degree weather of Iloilo it was such a pleasant relief. Lucban residents seem well adapted to the near constant drizzle and have become experts at getting on with their watery lives. They are masters of the umbrella, driving motor cycles through town with one hand on the bike and one holding the umbrella, or using the unfurled umbrella to close in the side of a tricycle or the open window of a jeepney.

Despite the drizzle, the narrow streets of this old Spanish town are full of character and fun to explore. There's the 1730s Church of St. Louis of Toluse, still the center of activity and several other old "bahay na bato", Spanish era buildings with stone foundations and second floors of wood and capiz windows. While we did not see many foreigners when we were there, Lucban is a retreat for Manilenios and of course is packed during the Pahiyas Festival in May, one of the most famous and photogenic of all Philippine fiestas.

The town has more dining options than one might expect. Special mention goes to Ground Zero Pizza, the best pizza we have found in the Philippines, so far. Try the spicy Mexican pizza with cheese-stuffed crust. We stayed at the Patio Rizal Hotel which is located in the center of town on Rizal Park. We had a deluxe room for P 2100 per night including breakfast. Our room had two balconies, one overlooking the Plaza and two double beds. While the carpet was a bit worn, the room was nicely furnished comfortable and the hotel well-managed. Basic rooms are about P1200, but have no windows. Reservations at 63-42-540-2107. We also saw the Lucban Summer Capital Inn, a pension house offering very basic rooms for about P 600 for a double. It's in a good, central location on Quezon Street adjacent to the church. Call 042-540-4486 and 3421.

Rizal Park deserves special mention as one of the cleanest and best maintained one could imagine. There's a sign which explains that the park is in memory of national hero Jose Rizal and that it should be treated with respect. There were no vendors or anything else to detract from the park except for the ubitiquious self-congratulatory banner of a local politician strung between the trees. When we were there, the park's trees were decorated with paroles, which added to the park's nighttime charm. Immediately across from the park, on the city hall grounds, was a Land Bank ATM, possibly the only one in town. Thankfully we were able to obtain cash using our HSBC-USA ATM card. The other option would have been a long trip to an ATM in Lucena City.

We travelled to Lucban from Iloilo City via the Domestic Airport in Manila. The hotel referred us to a Lucban van service (Amy 0918-728-7358 cell) who transported us from Manila to Lucban for P 3500. We used Amy for other trips including looking at some real estate and found her reliable, reasonably fluent in English and very pleasant. The countryside around Lucban is quite beautiful with hills, lush forest and terraced rice patties. The subdivisions we saw, mostly on the Tayabas side of Lucban, were not impressive and seemed to have uncertain futures. Asking prices were about P 2000 per square meter but it might be better just to buy ordinary land not in a subdivision as the subdivisions really do not offer much added value here. If you're thinking of living here, remember that you'll be hours from top-notch medical care and other amenities and services.

Lucban makes a good base to explore surrounding countryside and communities which may not offer much in the way of tourist accommodations. The road from Lucban to Majayjay and Liliw is exceptionally scenic and unspoiled. We hope to return to explore and photograph those scenic rural landscapes. Majayjay especially is worth exploring if you're enamored with old buildings and off the beaten track places. When you're there, it's hard to believe that you're only a few hours from Manila.

While you can take busses and jeepneys to get from Lucena City to Lucban there's another, better option. There are comfortable air-con vans which leave the SM mall in Lucena City and travel to the area of the church in Lucban, and back. The fare is P 45.

Lucban seemed unusually wholesome, clean and safe and, as I foreigner, I felt well and fairly treated. In some places, the foreigner is treated specially, but too often an object to find advantage in. Here I was charged the same prices when I went shopping as my Filipino wife was charged and generally treated a a fellow human being rather than as a meal ticket. Of course these are possibly faulty impressions based on on a fews days worth of impressions, so take them for what they are. Those looking for night life may be disappointed. By ten o'clock the place seemed quite quiet.
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Iloilo Airport - We're on our way
Iloilo Airport - We're on our way
Patio Rizal Hotel and Rizal Park
Patio Rizal Hotel and Rizal Park
Carol on balcony of our room at Patio Rizal
Carol on balcony of our room at Patio Rizal
Rizal Park at night with Christmas Decorations
Rizal Park at night with Christmas Decorations
Amazingly, these rules seem to be observed!
Amazingly, these rules seem to be observed!
Rizal Avenue from Patio Rizal Hotel
Rizal Avenue from Patio Rizal Hotel
Carol and her new niece Mildred
Carol and her new niece Mildred
Our Lucena family
Our Lucena family
Beautiful 20 year old Grace
Beautiful 20 year old Grace
Leica and Lenny, nieces who visited us
Leica and Lenny, nieces who visited us
Pretty Lenny, 9 years old
Pretty Lenny, 9 years old
Good Pizza at Ground Zero
Good Pizza at Ground Zero
Lucban's Church of St. Louis of Toluse c. 1730
Lucban's Church of St. Louis of Toluse c. 1730
Lucban Church History
Lucban Church History
Lucban Church from side
Lucban Church from side
Greenery grows everywhere!
Greenery grows everywhere!
Roof tiles overtaken by the wet!
Roof tiles overtaken by the wet!
Old Capiz Windows in Church
Old Capiz Windows in Church
Clear mountain water rushes through Lucban
Clear mountain water rushes through Lucban
A new house which fits into old Lucban
A new house which fits into old Lucban
An Lucban old house, well preserved?
An Lucban old house, well preserved?
Capiz windows
Capiz windows
An expanse of capiz in Lucban
An expanse of capiz in Lucban
Another old Lucban house
Another old Lucban house
A Lucban classic
A Lucban classic
Rice terrace between Lucban and Majayjay, a very scenic route
Rice terrace between Lucban and Majayjay, a very scenic route
Old house in scenic Majayjay, a place we plan to return to
Old house in scenic Majayjay, a place we plan to return to
Church in liliw, Laguna
Church in liliw, Laguna
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