LAGUNA  UNDER  THE  LENS

MANILA, APRIL 20, 2006 (STAR) RENDEZVOUZ By Christine S. Dayrit - The great director Francis Ford Coppola once said, "Time is the lens through which dreams are captured." While fleeting time is captured in images by the cinematographer, the place where the scene poignantly unfolds, where life and substance are born in the characters, are equally significant.

Subdued is the lighting in my room while I write this article at dawn. Aside from the illuminated screen of my computer, other sources of light come from the rose-scented candles that are scattered all over. The faint music of Andrea Bocelliís The Prayer complements the warmth of the ambient environs. I go over the tumultuous heap of brochures and film books I gathered at the recently concluded Hong Kong Filmart where the Film Development Council of the Philippines and the Film Academy of the Philippines successfully sponsored a booth selling local films. Next week, I will head for the 19th International Singapore Filmfest where Clodualdo del Mundoís digital film Pepot Artista will be in competition. The wanderlust in me travels to cinematic scenes where great movies were filmed.

I realized I didnít have to go far to search for the places where some of the well-crafted movies were made. Not many know that many important films were shot in the Philippines, like Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July and Apocalypse Now. Many of these films were shot in Laguna.

Laguna has earned the moniker Resort Province of the Philippines where an abundance of waterfalls, lakes and streams flows. Stalls selling sweet rambutan and durian, sampaguita, and exotic staghorns line the well-paved highways that lead to southeast Asiaís largest freshwater lake Laguna de Bay, the Seven Lakes of San Pablo, and the famous Pagsanjan Falls where the river scenes of Francis Copolaís Vietnam war epic Apocalypse Now was shot in 1979.

No matter how many times one has visited Pagsanjan, the whitewater experience it offers is still something to look forward to. Before reaching the falls, the banca slides into a picturesque gorge until it reaches the walls that rise nearly 100 meters. Guided by long ropes, the passengers transfer to bamboo rafts as they explore many caves beyond the falls.

What always fascinates me, however, every time I visit Laguna is the Caliraya Re-Creation Center. If it were a movie, Caliraya Re-Creation Center is a beautifully-crafted feel-good film. Its plot would revolve around good values that many still uphold to this day: that good always triumphs over evil. The location Ė the 7.6-hectare property is majestically perched on a mountain face tangled with coconut trees overlooking the15-kilometer manmade Caliraya Lake and surrounded by the mountains of Banahaw, Cristobal, and Makiling Ė would be instrumental in harnessing spiritual reflection. The leading characters would be guests who always leave the resort feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. These are also the characters who donít mind repeating their peaceful experience of the place, like moviegoers who donít get tired viewing the same lovely movie over and over.

The Caliraya Re-Creation Center, cited by the Laguna Tourism Council as the best landscaped and cleanest resort, is the sanctuary of inner healing and peace owned by Luke C. Roxas of ASB Development Corporation, which also owns St. Francis Square Tiangge Mall in Mandaluyong City. A great haven to escape from the metropolis, the center will reinvigorate your mind, body, and soul. Resort assistant general manager Frederic Tan Ching welcomed our group that converged together with our good friend Loida Nicolas Lewis and her sister Imelda Nicolas who spent a weekend getaway here.

We hopped aboard a speedboat as Frederic excitedly toured us to the actual sites where Apocalypse Now was filmed. Clad in bright orange life vests, we sailed around the lake where Marlon Brando and Martin Sheen shot the movie. We learned that Caliraya Lake is believed to house sunken treasure as testified by the forgotten claimants of the Yamashita WWII treasures. A document states: "Sometime in the early morning of March 1973, we were secretly tasked to provide manpower operations and security to a huge infantry of the legendary Yamashita gold bars, diamonds, precious gems by Japanese soldiers within the plateau of the vicinity of Lake Caliraya Resort in Cavinti, Laguna." The Discovery Channel even shot a documentary about the famed Yamashita gold.

In Caliraya, we also visited the famous lakeside home of Barrio Fiestaís Rod Ongpauco, uncle of popular star Heart Evangelista. His house boasts Balinese landscaped gardens, a floating bar on a stylized boat, and the main residential structure composed of clusters of brick, glass, and wood. Gold and bronze sculpted women are perched on the balcony reminiscent of James Bond movies.

After our morning trip to the vicinity, Frederic toured us around the three-level hotel comprised of a 72-room Christian facility, the first of its kind in Asia. Rooms are available in single, double, triple, quadruple, and quintuple occupancy. Each room is equipped with its own toilet with hot and cold water. They also have brand new duplex cottages. For breakfast, their America-trained bakers make the tastiest breads with home-made jam and butter plus your choice of Filipino breakfast (a choice of tocino, tapa, and daing na bangus). For lunch and dinner, the 350-seater dining room has a buffet spread that offers braised pork ribs, pechay with shrimp and bean curd or freshly caught lapu-lapu in sweet-sour sauce. Overnight rates range from as low as P935 per person, inclusive of three sumptuous eat-all-you-can meals.

For the adventurous, there are 23 native cottages at the verdant camp ground. The resort occupies 76,000 square meters of beautifully manicured landscape complemented by resort-class comforts and amenities and has been a home to many visitors from Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, among other countries. Indoor and outdoor air-conditioned function rooms are available, while the fully air-conditioned Valley Theater can seat up to 220 people. One can choose from the many activities like canoeing, kayaking, jet skiing, horseback riding, fishing, mud slide, obstacle course, videoke, and many more.

"The center caters to all people of different religions. We seek to provide an atmosphere that is conducive to spiritual growth as well as physical rest and recreation, Our resort is a special place where families and companies can bond together and where pastors and missionaries can recharge from their work. Who says that prayer and fun cannot mix together?" Frederic enthuses. "Even popular celebrities like Coney Reyes and couple Anthony Pangilinan and Maricel Laxa will attest that you leave this sanctuary refreshed, invigorated and more relaxed to face your daily routine." Churches that frequent the ecumenical resort are Campus Crusade for Christ, Christ Commission, and Victory Christian Fellowship. Students from Brent School, International School and Tabernacle of Faith usually have their excursions here. Corporations also have their team building and seminars here.

Frederic, a professional pianist and UST Benavides Awardee, played classical piano pieces before bringing us to the gazebo tower, a strategic place where one can enjoy the splendor of Lake Caliraya, which serves as the water reservoir tapped to generate hydroelectric power for Luzon. The resort is committed to support the National Power Corporationís watershed management efforts to maintain and preserve the cleanliness and future developments of the lake.

We will never forget the historic Japanese memorial believed to be the place where the lost treasure is buried, the underground cemetery built in the 18th century where the local Katipuneros plotted against Spanish rule, and the St. James the Apostle Parish where religious images were carved by the residents of Paete long time ago. Everywhere one looks, a movie scene is being recorded. Life is a stage; we are the players. What role do we play? If you were to film the movie of your life, where would it unfold?

* * *

For more information on Caliraya Re-Creation Center, call Frederic Tan Ching at 637-7027 and 632-1010 or e-mail reservations@asbgroup.com.ph. Log on to http://www.caliraya.net.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2006  by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE