‘Lost in Los baÑos’
An easy two-hour car ride from Manila, Los Baños, Laguna is a popular choice for those who are in need of a break from the city.
Proclaimed the “Special Science and Nature City of the Philippines” in 2000, the lakeside town has been the country’s center of science and nature with the presence of local and international research institutions aside from the abundance of places for families and friends to have a quick getaway.
Los Baños, whose name translates to “the baths”, is home to quite a number of hot spring resorts and private pools. You know you’ve reached the town once handpainted signs advertising private pools and resorts start lining the national road.
Located at the foot of mythical Mount Makiling, the source of its thermal waters, Los Baños has become a favorite of those who believe in the healing properties of hot springs.
If you’re looking for a bit of history, visit Jose Rizal’s older brother, Paciano Rizal’s house and shrine. The simple American bungalow style was built in 1927 by Andres Luna de San Pedro, son of Juan Luna.
The town is also home to University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB) and the National Arts Center (NAC), the latter being a center for aspiring young artists and where the Philippine High School for the Arts is located. From the NAC, one is treated to a view of Laguna Lake, Talim Island, Crocodile Lake and the surrounding towns of Laguna.
The NAC Open Air Theater, or Tanghalang Maria Makiling, is a sight to behold with its lack of walls and massive red-roof that can be seen even from the nearby towns.
Be sure to check out St. Marc’s Chapel, another open-air structure near NAC with only a roof and a huge crucifix made of stone and concrete.
The chapel’s cross has a hallowed out center in the shape of a crucified Christ and was designed by national artist for architecture Leandro Locsin. Imagine a place of prayer in the forest, without any walls, surrounded only by trees and lush greenery. Could you get any more peaceful than that?
Makiling Botanic Gardens is a must-visit for plant and photography enthusiasts with its endemic and exotic collection of plants. The 300-hectare facility inside the Mount Makiling Forest Reserve has an ecotrail and offers guided tours for its visitors.
Before heading back to Manila, stops at the Dairy Training and Research Institute and the Philippine Carabao Center, also inside the UPLB campus, are a must for fresh milk, yogurt and kesong puti, a favorite Laguna product.
One cannot leave the premises of Los Baños without at least a box or two of buko pie. The national highway is lined with shops—big and small—selling the famous pasalubong along with other native delicacies such as cassava cake, pineapple pie and pastillas in all the flavours you can imagine.
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