Be it the summer or the cold months, Tagaytay remains a perennial favorite among friends and families looking for a quick respite from the bustling city. In one of Jigs’ birthdays, we visited the city for a lunch tour at the famous Sonya’s Garden and People’s Park in the Sky.
|Giant sunflower at Sonya’s Garden
At Day 2 of our Tagaytay Trip, we headed to the lush Sonya’s Garden, a bed & breakfast cum al fresco restaurant cum garden spa serenely hidden in Barangay Buck Estate, Alfonso, a mere ten-minute drive from the hotel.
Lunch and dinner is served as a set menu in sit-down style.Of course you could also order ala-carte, although the rates are rather pricey (a single order of chicken costs around P490 to PP600+).
For starters, a bowl of fresh greens with eggs, fruits and edible flowers, plus Sonya’s secret dressing, balsamic vinegar or olive oil are served. A bottomless, thirst-quenching pitcher of freshly squeezed dalandan juice and tarragon tea also comes with the menu. The dalandan juice is to die for!
A small wheaten baguette is also served, which may be paired with Sonya’s own homemade toppings such as basil pesto, anchovies, bruschetta tomato, mushroom pate, black olive tapinade, white cheese and fresh green peppercorn. I particularly love the basil pesto, white cheese and tomato dip.
Meatarians may be a bit disappointed though, as the main course consists only of fettuccine pasta with sun dried tomato sauce and chicken cream with mango (just like the bread toppings, both are served to guests, so they can choose whichever they prefer). The only meat you’ll find in the menu is salmon belly, which serves as a topping for the pasta, along with mushrooms, olives, capers, and parmesan cheese. The sauces were nonetheless rich and flavorful.
Lastly, a delicious dessert of glazed sweet potato, langka-banana turon drizzled with sesame seeds, and a heavenly slice of moist devil cake. We were already full even before dessert came, but those sinful treats were simply irresistible. My heart was swarming with joy with every bite of Sonya’s homemade chocolate cake. Reminds one of Hungry Pac’s, only richer.
It’s undeniable that the food was great, but the service was a turn-off. The minute you take your seat, a waiter approaches the table and serves you with greens – no questions asked. I’m not sure if that’s the standard at Sonya’s, but for a place that boasts hospitality (and a restrictive set menu that costs P600+), one would expect a “Good Afternoon”, or “Would you bitches like to check out the menu, or are you eating the same as the others?“, or even just a fake smile, EVEN IF the staff had their hands full.
But well, what we got are snarly, frowning waiters who are forever in a hurry to take your plate off the table and move on to the next guest. My sister-in-law also visited the place and they were shooed away by the staff while taking pictures of the garden. Given that they are non-guests, they are still prospective clients. Shame on the staff for being such elitist snubs.
The park was originally built to serve as a guest house for former US President Reagan’s visit during the Marcos regime, but just like the purported-to-be-haunted Manila Film Center, it didn’t reach completion.
Signs of wear and tear and lack of management are evident: chipped-off paint on walls and cottages, litter around the corners, missing rails, a rusty amphitheater and poles. Still, People’s Park is one of the cheapest places to offer a 360-degree panoramic view of Tagaytay and outlying towns. For only P15, visitors can loll around the gardens, shop for souvenirs, and while away the entire day in one of numerous huts fronting the posh Tagaytay Highlands Estates.
A small shrine of Mother Mary and a statue of Christ, which somewhat resembles Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer are perched near the edge.
Unfinished as it is, People’s Park’s strategic location does show promise if only redevelopment is to take place. I hope tourism officials can put up a beautification and restructuring plan for this semi-forgotten haven.
How to get to People’s Park in the Sky (Palace in the Sky):
How to get to Sonya’s Garden (Directions derived from the Sonya’s Garden website):