Are you looking for a different place to visit this vacation?
Los Baños in Laguna might just be the perfect hideaway for you. It is classified as a first class urban municipality with just over 100,000 people. It sits on the slopes of Mt. Makiling, 63 kilometres away Southeast from Manila, that is just almost 2 hours away.
It is host to different institutions like
the University of the Philippines(UPLB)
University of the Philippines Open University (UPOU) headquarters
Philippine High School for the Arts and the National Arts Centre
International Rice Research Institute(IRRI)
Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice)
ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity (ACB)
World Agroforestry Centre (formerly the International Centre for Research in Agroforestry, ICRAF)
Philippine Carabao Institute
Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEMEO)- Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Research in Agriculture (SEARCA)
making LB home for thousands of undergraduates, graduates, researchers, and expats.
You will definitely feel a vibrant youthful (sometimes-boisterous) college culture mixing with the polite and gentle mannered locals. You can actually hear that gentle manner in the way a real local speaks. There is a certain wave in their intonation that I cannot quite copy.
For UP students, this place called “elbi” is their home. And why not? Four plus years you will graduate with so much love for the often hot, sometimes hectic environment placed against the backdrop of the tranquil Mt. Makiling.
If this is your first trip to LB be sure to look for these:
The University of the Philippines campus
UPLB was first a campus dedicated to Agriculture in 1909 during the American Colonial government. It was formally established in 1972.
To go around campus, you may take the UP jeepneys. There are two main routes: the UP Gate and UP College – it is not really that hard to figure out that UP gate means you alight by the gate.
UP college means, the jeep will go around the campus although it may not go through all colleges, so you have to tell the driver where you want to go.
However, if you want to visit the forestry to see the College of Forestry, Forestry dorm and UP infirmary then you have to use a special jeepney. Ask around for the Forestry jeepney terminal.
The UP gate will welcome you to the university campus.
First the parks, if you walk straight ahead, you will see the Carabao Park and the Kwek-kwek Tower.
Remember, UPLB was first the College of Agriculture. The Carabao park or C-park sculptures were made by National Artist Guillermo Tolentino.
The Kwek-kwek tower is actually the Heritage Tower but the moment it was unveiled, students quickly called it Kwek-kwek tower because it looks a lot like the street food.
A few more steps and you are right in front of UP Oblation. Here we call this place, the O-Park. The oblation here, like every other oblation sculptures in UP campuses, is just a replica.
LB also has its version of the UP Diliman Sunken garden, the “Freedom Park.” This is the biggest free space where many games and concerts were held especially during UPLB Feb Fair.
On regular days, many people like to spend time here, under the biggest acacia tree that local call the “fertility tree.” Yep, ‘nuff said.
You can also see the Jose Rizal Centenary Carillion Tower that holds 23 bells.
If you fancy visiting a library then go ahead and climb up, UP main library is that building with the orange Pegarao.
The library is visible behind the O-Park and the old Humanities building.
If you want something a little more adventurous than parks, there is the Baker Hall.
Different PE classes were held here until 2010. This place is rumoured to be haunted at night because it was an internment camp during the Japanese occupation. Baker Hall was even featured some time for an All Souls Day special.
Alternatively, you may try to go around the campus at night especially near the statue of Maria Makiling or Maria Dalambanga for some eerie feels.
She is the goddess of the mountain protecting all of Laguna, a spirit essentially, so if you believe in those things… wait, wasn’t the jar on top of her head earlier?If that eerie feeling won’t leave you then drop by St. Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, it is the unofficial UPLB chapel. It is found left of the gate.
Try “Proven”. It is that crunchy chicken skin that makes every student and professor line up and wait. If you only have a limit of street food to eat (but why?) take this one.
Yummy “Proven” is found beyond these gates. This is a residential/commercial area right side of UP gate. If you are really hungry for “Proven” there is another entrance without a gate found outside the campus.
But, while looking for that, you might get distracted by LB Square.
If you are walking from the gate going outside of the campus, LB Square is on the right side of the road. It is a space with restaurants, cafes, acoustic bars and karaoke of sorts. Some are open as early as 6am until the wee hours.
If the variety overwhelms you, try pasta and rice dishes at Bonitos and have coffee at Boston Cafe.
I am not saying these two are the best because I am sure there are lots more. But, these are my go tos.
Outside of the square are other places to eat as well. The UP grove (the area outside the campus leading to the highway) has a multitude of restaurants, cafes, drug stores, internet cafes, convenience stores and fast foods – almost everything you would need. The restaurants and cafes here also offer affordable student meals.
Other notable places to visit while you are within the campus vicinity:
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
If you have spare time, visit this place. It seems like a completely different universe because this time all the buildings are new but it make sense to have IRRI near UPLB.
Visit their rice museum and their cafeteria for mouth-watering Filipino and International food. IT IS A MUST TRY. I never tire of eating in IRRI’s cafeteria during my internship stint there, the food is yummy and the place is spotless clean. Plus, you get to eat with all the other expat researchers – makes you feel so smart just by sitting across them.
National Arts Centre and the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA)
This is the National Arts Centre also known as the Tanghalang Maria Makiling where PHSA students perform.
It takes approximately 15 minutes from UPLB campus to go here pass Faculty Village and Kaunlaran drive and the Boy Scout Jamboree Site.
PHSA student applications are competitive and chosen Arts students are given full scholarships and living assistance.
I had an opportunity to watch a PHSA performance and I had goose bumps. They are that good.
Before you leave the campus, drop by UPLB Dairy Training and Research Institute (DTRI).
Don’t let the building fool you, that is government funding. But, behind those walls are goodies from milk to cheese, yoghurt and ice cream. They are all freshly made!
If you want to try something local, try kesong puti. You can even bring it home as pasalubong.
There are other places to visit in the campus, for a more extensive list, visit the UPLB website.
But wait, there’s more.
If you drive out of the grove, Manila bound you would notice men waving “Private Pool” signs.
Stopping at any one of them, they will lead you inside the many private pools in the area until they reach the one they are advertising. These men get their income from commissions coming from the owners of the private resorts.
Los Baños in Spanish literally means bath. This municipality was called that because of the many hot springs coming out of Mt. Makiling. Locals believe that these hot springs bring about cure or at least relief to many different ailments.
If you missed DTRI for pasalubong, you might still find Mer-Nels chocolate cakes. These cakes are famous for their moist and light cakes. People from neighbouring towns visit Los Baños for Mer-Nel’s cakes.
Buko pie shops pepper the highways of Laguna. Just look for trusted brands like Orient the Original Buko Pie, Lety’s Buko Pie, the Original Buko Pie, EL Mare’s and Collete’ to name a few.
Enjoy your LB trip!Special thanks to IRRI Photos for the main image.