Barely an hour’s drive from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila is Antipolo, a city located within the province of Rizal some 25 km east of Manila. Getting there, you can take the UV Express that have their terminals in either the LRT-2 Santolan Station or in Cubao near Farmer’s Plaza and the MRT station. Coming from Cubao, the ride will cost you Php 50 per head and will take the Marcos Highway route. We were told there were also FXs in the Crossing/Shaw Blvd. area that will take us directly to Antipolo but the route is a major thoroughfare for trucks and thus always experiences heavy traffic.
Once you arrive at the Antipolo terminal, you just need to get a tricycle to get to Luljetta Hanging Gardens & Spa, a spa getaway destination with mostly positive online reviews and an affordable daytrip package. The Antipolo Resort is located within Loreland Farm Resort which offers overnight accommodations, access to community pools and a variety of kiosks that sell the ususal summer staples such as beachwear, eyewear, floppy hats, henna tattoo services, frappes, saba con hielo, mais con hielo and the timeless halo-halo. Should you wish to stay longer than the day, you’ll have to check in at the resort proper which isn’t really a problem since everything is within walking distance.
We availed of the 7-hour “Hanging Gardens Retreat” package which consisted of access to their amenities (the infinity pool, the hydro-massage pool, the sauna, heated Jacuzzi, the Dr. Fish Spa), access to the gardens and lounges, bathrobe and towel, complimentary welcome drinks and an afternoon snack of Antipolo’s famous suman drizzled with latik, a syrup-like sauce made of coconut milk and muscovado sugar and drizzled all over.Tip: Have the latik on the side instead of served already drizzled on the suman. That way, you get to decide on the level of sweetness of this afternoon delight. The package was worth Php950/person but you can also opt to avail of their “Hanging Gardens Getaway” at a package rate of P1,500/person which includes an additional four-course “wellness” lunch menu from the Hanging Gardens restaurant.
Spa services are not yet included in both packages but, from a glance, I’d say the rates are pretty reasonable.
Although the Antipolo Resort itself doesn’t differ much from your run-of-the-mill family resort, the true charm of Luljetta Hanging Gardens and Spa comes out as you make your way down to the spa proper which was in a secluded area separated from the rest of the resort. There you will be asked to register at the locker rooms divided into the ladies- and men’s area but with a communal reception desk. You will be handed your robes and towels as well as a woven basket which later on proved to be quite useful as we used it to dump all our essentials (basically, my prescription glasses, our afternoon reads and our wallets and phones) without having to lug around our heavy bag that contained our shoes and an extra set of clothes.
I’m not sure whether it’s just a personal unfamiliarity with my country’s geography but I only realized that the entire spa was built on top of a mountain as we made our way through the slightly steep stone steps up and down the different amenities. Immediately, upon checking in our things and changing into the appropriate swimwear, we made our way further down to check out the pools.
The view overlooking the Antipolo mountainside, the clean pristine waters, and the absence of city noise made for a relaxing afternoon trip, making me forget even for just a few hours that we were barely a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of Metro Manila.
We didn’t get to check out the Jacuzzi and sauna area anymore because the lounge areas proved to be too irresistible for an afternoon nap.
Lounging in the cabanas was actually my favorite part of the trip. I would trade the brisk dry humming of our office’s air-conditioning any day for the fresh cool air that was abound that afternoon. What made it even lovelier was that the sides were lined with mattresses and cushions and so I ended up dozing off after a few pages or so.
As if on cue, we woke up from our naps with the prospect of finally tasting what was supposedly Antipolo’s bestsuman in mind! We made our way down (even further!) to the hanging gardens restaurant only to find out that the snacks included in the package are only to be claimed at the reception hall where we first registered. The could have told us this from the beginning, something which irks me a little bit, but is quite forgivable in the greater scheme of things.
For those who are looking for heartier meals, there’s a restaurant in the main resort area, which serves Filipino favorites you can order for a group of 4 to 5 (or 2 if you’re really hungry). Otherwise, the restaurant within the spa is a perfectly good option since the food tastes great and the prices were reasonable. The only thing, though, that I wish they would improve on was the variety of food choices, although that really wasn’t a problem since I was perfectly happy ordering a second round of tuna pesto while we played a couple of rounds of chess.
Before I knew it, we had showered and it was time to surrender our keys and head back to Manila. We finally had our taste of Antipolo’s best suman at the reception hall where it also happened to be the only place in the spa area which offered wi-fi access.
Going back, we opted to take the taxi, which cost us about Php450, including the driver’s request for a tip of Php50. In the end, we ended up giving him more than that because he insisted he didn’t have any change, but we decided to let it go. After all, being shortchanged is still a far more fortunate predicament than, let’s say, being held up with a gun or a knife. Also, we didn’t want to get stressed out anymore which would have only defeated the point of the entire trip.
Considering its proximity to the city, the reasonable prices and the over-all experience of our afternoon stay there, the trip was definitely worth it. If you’re looking for an alternative destination to Tagaytay for those days when you just want to escape the summer heat but aren’t really keen on the long drive, the hanging gardens at Luljetta proves to be an effective respite from the notorious Manila summer and the hassles and ho-hums of everyday life.