Friday, June 21, 2013

Laid-back Weekend at Dzone Backpackers Inn, Silang Cavite

I am not a beach person. I like it when I see it and I'm looking at it while sitting on the sand and contemplating on various things, however, it's not on top of my list when I think of a place to go to when I need to unwind. The sight of trees, greenfields, and mountains relaxes me more and helps me unclutter some thoughts off my head. 

Thus, when I want to loosen up and break free from the hubhub of work and city life, I would always look for places which has plenty of greens anywhere I set my eyes on. Baguio and Sagada are actually two of my favorite retreat places in the world, but to go there everytime I want to simmer down is just way too expensive and travel toxic. 

Good thing I live in a country which is undoubtedly blessed with abundance of natural resources, especially trees, that I need not travel too far to feast my eyes on fields of green and hang loose. 

Less than 2 hours drive from Manila, there is a silent sanctuary nestled in the quiet town of Silang, Cavite---DZONE Backpackers Inn Tagaytay. It actually has two branches, the other one, which is more backpackers friendly, is located along E. Aguinaldo Highway in Tagaytay. The one located in Mataas na Burol, Silang Cavite is actually much conducive for serene relaxation and silent retreat. 

I had the chance to experience the serenity that Dzone Backpackers Inn in Mataas Na Burol has to offer through the invitation of its owner, Arvin Dizon, who is actually a friend of my cousin. 

How can you say no to such a charming place as this, right? 

Dzone in Mataas Na Burol used to be just a resthouse of Arvin's family. As per Arvin, usually they go here on a weekend to relax and have a feel of the country life. The family, however, decided to open it to the public last year since they could see potential in the place as a perfect retreat house for couples, big families, friends or even small to medium organizations in need of a place for teambuilding. Since then, they've been entertaining guests who were all charmed by the laid-back feel of the place. 

At present, Dzone in Mataas Na Burol has 4 nipa huts for rent which is good for 2 persons. The huts don't have air-conditioned units installed in there and no TV as well, perhaps to make guests really veer away from the usual comforts of the city life. But don't worry because there are electric fans provided in every room :D
The price pero hut is P1000 /night for 2 pax and that's already inclusive of breakfast. Happy deal, right? 

Guests are also allowed to bring in tents especially for big groups since the place could only accommodate up to 12-15 persons for now. If you want to bring in tents, there is only a fee of P100 per tent. 

If in case you can't really live without the aircon or TV, DZONE also has a small villa for rent which could house up to 4 pax per night. 

 And this is my favorite spot in the villa :-) Makes me wanna grab a book and read have some  fresh buko juice :-)

Rate is P3000/night for the entire villa and also includes breakfast for 4 persons. Guests are also allowed to bring in their baon. They also have a mini kitchen provided just a few steps away from the villa just in case you want to cook. 

They also have a main hall where guest could hold special functions/events. A little dress up on this hall could already make it look grand for special occasions.

And yes, they have this old-school squat toilet which gives off more country living feel. 

Arvin also toured us in the lettuce farm located inside the place as well. 

Now I know why the lettuce they used to garnish our breakfast in the morning tasted very fresh :D

Dzone Backpackers Inn, Mataas Na Burol could really be a perfect silent sanctuary especially for individuals who yearn for quiet, modest country life every once in a while but could only go to a not so far outskirts of the city. Did I mention that it's in this place that I first saw fireflies? That experience really made me feel like I'm in the music video of Owl City's Fireflies! 

Tagaytay is also just a 10-15 minutes ride away from the place so you can also enjoy the cool weather of Tagaytay at night if you wish to. 

How to get to Dzone Backpackers Inn, Mataas Na Burol from Metro Manila:
Ride any bus in Lawton/Pasay/Cubao going with the signage going to Tagaytay/Olivarez/Mendez/Alfonso/Nasugbu. Ask the conductor to drop you off at Kilometer 48/Balite Bus stop. From there, ride a tricycle going to Mataas Na Burol. Dzone Backpackers Inn is at the fourth gate to the right from the Mataas Na Burol ark. 

Fare: (Bus from Lawton to Balite bus stop) P76
Tricycle: P10-P15 per pax

For reservations or more info, you can text or call +639228189144 ; (046)5441035 or send email to 

Monday, June 10, 2013

That Shabby Chic Feel at Rustic Mornings

I don’t know if it comes with age but I really find myself getting more and more attracted to anything shabby chic. Be it a piece of furniture, wallpaper, designs, theme, or even with restaurants.  Turning wikipedia on, shabby chic refers to an interior design where furniture and furnishings are either chosen for their appearance of age and signs of wear and tear or where new items are distressed to achieve the appearance of an antique.
Am I slowly getting antique-ish? :D
My latest shabby chic find is located in San Roque, Marikina City. The place is called Rustic Mornings and they serve brunch food from 8am-4pm. By 6pm, the place suddenly turns into a romantic, rustic style restaurant popularly known as Isabelo Garden.
The excitement to experience Rustic Mornings starts once you enter the gate and have an initial view of the mystic-like garden.
The place is very homey and welcoming and will not give you even a hint of intimidation. You can opt to dine either inside, which could give you a feel like you are inside an old country house, or at the garden where you can enjoy intimate talks with family and friends since there are tables for small groups to big groups artistically positioned a little far apart from each other and divided by different kinds of plants, trees, vines, pearl curtains, and some with recycled bottles strung together to make a curtain to give that more intimate and snuggy feel.
Having a penchant for old and recycled stuff, I love how the place is not only a hungry-tummies’ haven or a romantic spot, but it could also pass for an artist’s sanctuary. The eclectic arrangement of the things inside the place put forth a different kind of spunk to the place’s shabby chic nature.
The reason why I’m raving so much about the facade and the interior design of the place is because that’s exactly what I’m dreaming my own house to be when I’ll have my own family someday :D I love that the place looks so humble and simple (at least for me). I love the country feel it invokes with some old Hispanic touches.
And the food! The stuff we ordered were all good! I could say they were all worth journeying to Rustic Mornings!
Frankfurter, cheese omelet and garic rice (P220)

Gourmet hotdog sadnwich with chili con carne and sunny side up egg (P240)
Gourmet hotdog sadnwich with chili con carne and sunny side up egg (P240)
Creamy tomato curry kofta balls (P300) - good for sharing
Creamy tomato curry kofta balls (P300) – good for sharing
Frozen brazo de mercedes
Frozen brazo de mercedes
Plus, a Mother’s Day treat freebie for my Mama since it was Mother’s Day when we dined there! FRee baby pancakes!
It was indeed a lovely experience dining at Rustic Mornings. The staff were all nice and accommodating. If you need something from them, you just have to tap the bell located on the table to call their attention.
Rustic Mornings is one of those restaurants which you would really love to go to over and pver again–either with family and friends or just by yourself to enjoy some quiet time alone. It could also be a very perfect “wedding proposal” place especially for those ladies who love shabby chic and rustic designs (*wink*).
I really hope this place would maintain that “hidden garden” feel because it really adds magic to it. Finding it is like finding your own sanctuary which you want to keep a secret so it could preserve its mystic charm.
But since I want other people to experience Rustic Mornings as well, here’s how you can go there on a commute:
If you’re from Manila, you can ride LRT2 and get off at Katipunan Station. From there, ride a jeep going to Calumpang and ask the driver to drop you off at the Marikina Shoe Museum. You can easily see the Rustic Mornings banner there with an arrow pointing t0 where the resto’s located.

Just Like Dining In Your Neighbor’s House at Casa Roces

I’m no food blogger. I don’t even know how to cook and the only food taste I could define are sweet, sour, salty and definitely nothing in between. But I love paying a visit to food havens especially those so-called holes-in-the-wall. I love unconventional restaurants–themed ones or those which has eclectic designs, which give diners a happy feeling of enjoying their food and the place at the same time. Of late, I’m currently fancying those old houses turned into a restaurant. I totally love the laid-back, homey atmosphere they give off.
One Saturday ago, my church friends and I had a really happy lunch at Casa Roces in Malacañang. We were supposed to go to Pagsanjan, Laguna for some summer fun adventure but since only a few could join, we decided to just have a lunch out and do some catching ups. I’d already dined at Casa Roces with my highschool friends a year ago and was so satisfied with the experience that I suggested the same place to my church friends. Good thing they gave in to my promotional knack and were convinced to try Casa Roces as well :D
The place looks intimidating at first with its stylish, elegant facade. Oh well, why canit it be? Casa Roces used to be the house of one of the buena familias back then. The National Artist Alejandro Roces used to live in this house then.
Once you get inside Casa Roces, all those feelings of intimidation will be gone since you will be greeted by a smiling host and very accommodating staff who are always ready to assist you with your dining needs (and yes, that includes taking picture of you!). It’s really like being invited by your neighbor friend to have lunch in their house while enjoying casual conversations with them. It’s very homey and warm.
The Menu
Aside from their yummy food, one of the reasons why you will really enjoy dining at Casa Roces is the privilege to tour the  house and have a glimpse of the Roces’ family’s history. You can see there some prints of the La Vanguardia and the old Manila Times news papers as well as some family photos and memorabilia. The Roceses were prominent in the print/publishing business back then that’s why there’s even a statue of a newsboy welcoming guests by the entrance of Casa Roces. The old rooms turned into function rooms were even named after newspaper titles such as The Tribune, Manila Times and La Vanguardia.
Chicken Adobo Confit (Php 285.00)
Chicken Adobo Confit (Php 285.00)
Pork Stew Binagoongan (Php285.00)
Pork Stew Binagoongan (Php285.00)
Pescado En Salsa Verde (Php345.00)
For the second time around, Casa Roces didn’t fail me. I had the same satisfying dining experience I had when I first tried the place. From the restaurant’s setting to the excellent service, and of course the really sumptuous food, I must say that Casa Roces is really a place that deserves good review and more visits.
It was indeed, a happy Saturdate with these ladies!
And this was my first Casa Roces experience with my ever wacky friends!
I wonder what we were laughing about here???