June 28, 2004  (STAR)  CHEERS! By DJ Montano  -  Childhood memories of Tagaytay always conjure up pleasant and fond memories of picnics with mom and dad, of flying kites and riding horses with other kids. It’s ironic that 20 years later, looking at things in a certain perspective, I still seem to be flying and riding with other kids.

A recent weekend stay in Tagaytay has made me amusingly melancholic and has proven that although i’m now an adult, plenty of pleasant and fond memories can still be had in this beautiful ridge city of Cavite.

I ventured into Tagaytay in the wee hours of a Saturday morning with two friends, always preferring the drive to the south at the oddest times so that we could avoid the metro’s weekend out-of-town traffic rush. I started playing Chicane’s ethereal Behind the Sun album upon leaving the city and was amazed that it had not even finished when we arrived at our hotel — the spanking new and beautiful Taal Vista Hotel.

The lobby immediately impressed my discerning architect friend. He declared that he was pleasantly surprised that the old-fashioned Taal Vista Lodge of memory past had now become modernly chic. At 3 a.m., the receptionist was still alert and had our arrangements on hand before I could even ask, "Do you have vodka in your mini bar?" Soon, we found ourselves in the tres luxurious Imperial Suite that included a foyer, a large sitting room, a kitchen, a guest toilet, two connecting bedrooms each of which had its own bath, cable TV (with Fashion TV!) and other urbane trappings and conveniences to impress even that Paris Hilton-esque lover. The generous size of the room had me thinking, "Party, party!" But it was definitely not to be, given the hour and our super-drained energy levels, so we all drifted to our ZZZZs, kept warm by the softest duvet and plush pillows.

I woke up the next morning excited to open the drawn curtains to see my view and ooh la la, what a sight to behold — a truly breathtaking and uninterrupted view of Taal lake and the surrounding ridge forest. I sat on my bedside and gave myself the rarity of meditating at such natural beauty before me while brewing some java in the in-room coffee machine. Noon was now before us and my stomach’s boisterous grumbling needed to be pacified so I called my companions and invited to go out nearby for brunch.

Later in the afternoon, I returned to the hotel to meet with Steven Tan, a friend and Rooms Consultant of Fuego Hotels & Properties Management Corporation – it must be mentioned that this dynamic company is now also managing other very happening resorts such as Pearl Farm and Punta Fuego. Steven proceeded to give me a property and facility tour of Taal Vista. In the beginning of our walk, he corrected me when I stated, "This was a different Taal Vista Lodge that I knew from before." He said that they were now called "Taal Vista Hotel".By my tour’s end, I was convinced that this was no lodge at all, lest you were King Louis XIV.

There was a large and elegant ballroom with streamlined crystal chandeliers that could accommodate up to 400 guests, several well-equipped function rooms, one of which had floor-to-ceiling glass windows that faced the garden and would be perfect for dinner parties. There was also a large lobby with a very minimalist reception area. Behind the desk were large beautiful panels of fabric from Silk Cocoon. However, I must say that I wasn’t too sure about the panel-embedded mini pin lights that illuminated different colors — a bit too pixie-dust-ish perhaps? From the reception, one could walk right into the dark wooden-paneled and fireplace-accented Lobby Lounge. To one side of the lounge is the scenic Café on the Ridge, offering delish continental and local fare. We decided to sit and chat at a table in the garden. Our seats afforded us an expansive vista of Taal’s lake and dormant volcano. Here, I met the property’s charming general manager, Alex Groizard. After finishing my drink, the mercury was fast sinking with the sun in this rather chilly town so we decided to transfer indoors. Raring for the comforting warmth of alcohol, I easily gave in to the invitation to have sangria and tapas at The Lobby Lounge — a specialty of the hotel’s Executive Chef Georg Linke. Especially tasteful were the chorizos and tortillas.

Groizard and Tan said that it took two years for Taal Vista to reopen its doors last year with 80 rooms, its grandest renovation given its 70-year history. Soon, 40 more rooms will open, along with an outdoor swimming pool and a spa center.

Dinner and more drinks ensued that evening and next thing I knew it was time to return to the city. As I drove down, I thought, how apt to have high regards for a highly placed hotel.

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For inquiries and reservations, call (02) 750-1999 (Makati) or (046) 413-1000 (Cavite).

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Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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