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Saturday, April 21, 2012

More of Rizal and the Miracle of the Multiplying Pancit

It was one of those weekends when my family had nothing to do; nothing planned but was looking for something to do other than trooping to the nearest mall.  And so driving out of our subdivision one Sunday afternoon, there was a decision that had to be made:  turn left to go to the mall, or turn right to look for this Daranak Falls that we learned about from someone?

We turned right going towards Tanay, Rizal.

Road trips on east of Manila have always been a respite since the highway can be seen stretching for miles (or kilometers, but only to attempt at lyricism), without your sight being adulterated with traffic jams.  Instead, you are escorted by acacia trees on your left and right with branches overhanging in an arch as you get a glimpse of perfectly delineated rice fields in between their trunks.  There are the occasional two or three-story buildings but they don’t interrupt your thoughts.

At this cross road, we turned left and eventually saw the big sign of Daranak Falls.  We soon find that our destination is farther down a mixture of concrete and dirt roads, but mostly of the latter, as the place has not recovered from the devastation of typhoon Ondoy two years back. 

As we neared the entrance, we soon learned that we are not the only ones who thought of coming here. There were already quite a number of families and groups of young people, and more arriving after us carrying their picnic baskets.  This is also a usual venue for rock balancing competitions and crossing the bridge over a brook towards the falls, we could see quite a number of balanced rocks exhibitions and a few more being constructed at the moment.  I preferred the ones that were successfully standing in the middle of the water.  It had a Zen-like quality to it.

While the walk to our destination was quite precarious – one needs to balance oneself carefully in view of the rocky pathways and the necessity to weave through groups of people that haphazardly settled themselves wherever – we were rewarded by a majestic view of the waterfalls pouring down heavily in the pool below, with a depth of 22 feet.  We were told that there is also an underwater cave, so if you're thinking of cooling yourself here, and are not adept at swimming, better attach yourself to a floater.  There were already a number of people who were bathing there, but who could blame them?  The weather was hot and the water was clear and cool.  Despite the crowd, the continuous blast of water crashing down to the river below resounded in my ears and had a calming effect.  I think one can even perch on the edge of one rock and spend hours being transfixed by the moving water.  I felt privileged that a sight to behold such as this is within reasonable distance from where we live.  Just one of the perks of not living in a very metropolitan city I suppose.

The view and sound of the waterfalls, the smell of food being barbequed, and the little walk up and down rocky paths made us quite hungry.  While Daranak has a small canteen, and offered sandwiches, chips and drinks, it was still inadequate for our taste.  Thus, we thought of ending our visit and drive back towards Morong where we saw a sign for a restaurant called Paseo Rizal.

Going to Morong proved faster than we thought.  The road to the restaurant was just off the highway, and the place itself was very near.  The restaurant was sitting on elevated land in the middle of a rice field and had an unfinished block of building as a neighbor.  A sandy driveway led up to the main entrance, cut in the middle by a pathway made of greenery and stone.  The restaurant building itself was more like a Tagalog bahay-na-bato (stone house) with a touch of modern. 

The waiter greeted us at the entrance, but instead of seating us in one of the tables inside, he suggested that we settle ourselves at the back where there was a terrace and the air fresher and cooler.  We took it up and we were not disappointed.  There was a big dining table surrounded by smaller coffee tables with carriage or kalesa wheels converted into seats for two to three, and a rocking chair.  It was an ideal place to have a small party with you there.

Paseo Rizal is actually more of a weekender venue.  Busy times are usually on Friday and Saturday afternoons for the happy hour which starts at 5 o’clock, and live band performances in the evenings.  However, they are open as early as the lunch hour on other days serving Filipino fare and sizzling plates.  For our part, we decided to have the calamares fritos and French fries as appetizers, a hamburger for me, fried chicken for my husband, and a sizzling tenderloin steak for my daughter.  We also had the pancit canton (noodles) just because.  While the service was a bit slow (we suspect that the waiter had to call the cook from way over yonder since we were the only ones at the restaurant at that hour), but we didn’t mind as we enjoyed the fresh air and the bright sunny sky.  We weren’t disappointed with the food though, as it was generously served and competently prepared.  The pancit, however, made quite an impression.  Not only was it tasty, but between my husband and I who each had probably a cup of serving, we were amazed at how much was still left over for a dish that was supposed to feed only three people.  Hence, we dubbed it “The Miracle of the Multiplying Pancit.”

Clearly, it was the kind of place you bring your group of friends and stuff yourselves with bottles of beer, and perhaps, if indeed you were there on a weekend, you will have a live band performing OPM (original Pilipino music) songs in the background.