We went to Vieux Chalet in Antipolo for lunch to commemorate the temporary return of a good friend. I've read many a good review of the food, we also had a copy of a magazine review which raved about the "Swiss grub" and the great view of the city. We all agreed the view was stellar: Manila's skyline, from the south all the way to Quezon City and the edge of Manila Bay. With no heavy smog line to dampen our view, we could pinpoint several of the buildings, including former employment digs.
Perhaps with such a view, the food could be taken for granted. However, we were 7 hungry foodies with high hopes. For appetizers we ordered a large platter of bread with their homemade pate and butter. The bread was quite pleasant, toasted lightly and the pate was peppery and not too gamey. Our soup order of pumpkin and potato soup was the first disappointment, watery and without a sense of either root vegetable. We were also starting to grumble about the slow service, which followed being told that so many of the menu items were not available (no pizzas, no salads, no seafood, that's at least 1/2 of the menu NOT available). Finally platters started coming in: pasta carbonara, beef tenderloin, rosti, shrimp in coconut sauce (the only seafood dish available), roast chicken, with a few cups of herb rice. But nothing struck us as worth driving an hour outside of town and paying P800 each. Later that afternoon, we unanimously agreed that our halo-halo merienda was worth every centavo, but the highest we could rate our lunch was 5 out of 10.
As a child I would visit Antipolo with my mother because she'd bribe us with suman and cashew nuts after attending some special mass at the Antipolo church. I remember seeing penitents making their way towards the altar on their knees, and paying 25 centavos for candles. The cashews and the suman were our favorite treat there, and my mom didn't mind serving our appetites in the hope that our souls had some salvation bestowed upon us after mass.
One Antipolo site that I don't remember going to visit is Hinulugang Taktak. I asked what the name meant and a couple of friends said Taktak referred to drops or droplets, and we agreed what hinulugang meant (falling). Somewhat redundant no? The falls are not a bad sight, unless you pay the P8 a person and walk down to the viewing deck. That's when the smell hits you and then you look over and see the dump of trash at the catchbasin. The water is frothy, and no wonder, it's detergent! You see the suds floating along, and it's a depressing sight, for this is a National Park. Can't we get at least 10 unemployed folks to clean out the trash? And can someone in the municipal government figure out how to get the squatters to stop using the river as a washbasin/dumsite? Big sigh. P8 is not going to be enough.
After a disappointing lunch and then being assailed by the smell of the laundry falls, Antipolo was starting to feel like a bad choice for a day trip. But the 3rd and last place we went to made things much better. We asked around and found our way to the Pinto Art Gallery, in Grandheights subdivision. What a revelation! And here's the best bit: the owner also owns and set up Sitio Remedios in Currimao (see posts in June 2007). Pinto is built in a Mexican/mediterranean mode, with spanish roof tiles, adobe walls, exposed beams, a couple of small chapel-like extensions that serve as additional galleries and repositories. The gardens are expansive with drop offs that lead towards additional guest houses. Sculpture serves to break the foliage, and yet, feel perfectly in place without a sense of pretension. You can imagine sitting amongst friends in the garden looking at the skyline, or trying to raise the consciousness of the ever-sleeping cat (Van Gogh), or perhaps taking in the antiques set up in the kitchen. Jim, the resident caretaker and an artist in his own right, will tell you stories about the art and the artists. He was kind enough to let us wander around the galleries and the grounds, plus told us of plans to create a bed and breakfast in a year or two. I wouldn't mind pretending to be an artist to just hang out in a place like that (if Van Gogh would deign to snooze while I sketched his furry tummy....). Pinto holds an annual art festival with film showing every May to June.