Family Bonding in Tagaytay (Part 3): The Newly Improved Picnic Grove

It is many years since my last visit to Tagaytay Picnic Grove. It was so long ago that we had only two children, who were still babies, back then.

I was actually surprised and amazed with the changes of Picnic Grove. The city government of Tagaytay applied the much needed renovation of the park, which I recommended in a previous post

One of the changes that surprised me is the presence of a big Ferris wheel.

Ferris Wheel in Tagaytay Picnic Grove

The Ferris wheel is the first thing that welcomes visitors to the park. This means that Sky Ranch can no longer boast of having the only Ferris wheel in Tagaytay.

Picnic Grove was developed from 1956-1964 during the presidencies of Carlo P. Garcia and Diosdado Macapagal. Back then, Tagaytay City Government wanted to turn their city into a prime tourist destination. The plan failed and Picnic Grove was abandoned.

The park came to life in the 1970s when wealthy Metro Manilans started building vacation houses in Tagaytay. From time on, Picnic Grove became a popular destination in Tagaytay. 

Picnic Grove Entrance Fee

Entering Tagaytay Picnic Grove is never free. We paid 80 pesos per person. Sadly, the ticket lady said that even kids had to pay. So we paid a total of 320 pesos for four people.

People's Park in the Sky is much better because my 6-year old daughter entered that park for free. I guess the renovations of Picnic Grove made the park management more "business-oriented".

What We Saw in Tagaytay Picnic Grove

There are more changes to Picnic Grove other than the presence of the Ferris Wheel. What's noticeable is that the park became more organized.

Souvenir Shops in Tagaytay Picnic Grove

There is a new building that has spaces for souvenir shops, food stores, and other shops. The building has a second floor for more shops and a bridge, also known as "Sky Walk".

Sky Walk in Tagaytay Picnic Grove

Sky Walk didn't lead us to the sky. It is just a bridge over the path that leads to the main part of Picnic Grove.

The good thing about Sky Walk is that it has a good view of Taal Lake and Taal Volcano.

View of Taal Lake from Sky Walk in Tagaytay Picnic Grove
View of Taal Volcano from Sky Walk

One end of Sky Walk has a close-up view of the Ferris wheel.

Ferris Wheel in Tagaytay Picnic Grove

The other end has a wide deck for viewing Taal Lake.

View Deck of Tagaytay Picnic Grove

The picnic area is still the same. The only difference is the absence of hawkers who pester visitors into buying picnic mats and snacks.

Picnic Area of Tagaytay Picnic Grove

The zip line, which is one of the Picnic Grove activities even before the pandemic, is operational. My kids enjoyed watching people fly along the wires.

Horses in Tagaytay Picnic Grove before the Pandemic
Horses in Picnic Grove before the pandemic.

Horse riding in Picnic Grove, another of the pre-pandemic activities, is absent during our visit. 

The birds that we saw during our previous visit are also gone. Maybe they perished during the pandemic?

A hornbill in Tagaytay Picnic Grove's mini-zoo before the pandemic.
A hornbill in Picnic Grove's mini-zoo before the pandemic.

Our Bunso enjoyed Picnic Grove. He didn't want to sit. What he did was walk on the grass and roam the whole park. He is the same as our firstborn when he visited Picnic Grove when he was a toddler.

Our Eldest Child Running in Tagaytay Picnic Grove
Eldest son, Samuel, exploring Picnic Grove

Our Bunso and I reached the cottage area of Picnic Grove. We also walked the whole length of Sky Walk, from the viewing deck to the other end. My other two children had their own explorations and even made friends with other kids.

It was a fun picnic for the family. I can say that Picnic Grove is the perfect end to our family bonding. We will definitely return to Tagaytay to once again experience the fun.

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Read more about our recent adventures in Tagaytay:

Family Bonding in Tagaytay (Part 1): A Taste of Bulalo in Taste Ride Tagaytay

Family Bonding in Tagaytay (Part 2): Going High in People's Park

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References:

1. Incorporating Environmental Management on Tourism Activities at Picnic Grove Tagaytay by Anjeline Park

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Family Bonding in Tagaytay (Part 2): Going High in People's Park

After savoring bulalo in Taste Ride, our next destination is Tagaytay People's Park.

We rode the jeepney from Tagaytay Palengke to reach People’s Park. The ride is easy and there was no heavy traffic since it was a Friday. Heavy traffic in Tagaytay usually occurs during weekends and holidays.

Gate of Tagaytay People's Park
Gate of Tagaytay People's Park

The entrance fee per person is 50 pesos. We were happy that kids below 7 years old are free of charge. So, we just paid the entrance fee for three people.

There is a jeepney near the gate for people who do not want to do the upward walk of around 300 meters to the “Palace in the Sky”. The jeepney fare is 15 pesos per person.

Road to the Palace in the Sky
Road to the Palace in the Sky.

We decided to walk so that the kids will have some exercise and also for them to observe nature.

It was a tiring-but-in-good-way walk. The kids enjoyed looking at plants and trees, the birds flying above, the view of the lowlands, and the colorful wildflowers.

Road to the Palace in the Sky

It seems like the absence of people during the pandemic allowed many plants to grow.

Tagaytay City sign in Tagaytay People's Park

What didn't change is the "Palace in the Sky", which remained decrepit and abandoned.

Path to Palace in the Sky of Tagaytay People's Park

Tagaytay People's Park in the Sky is also known as Palace in the Sky. It is indeed in the sky since it stands atop Mt. Sungay, which is the highest point in the whole Cavite Province. This mountain was a prominent landmark for ships navigating Manila Bay. It was topped with distinct rocks that look like horns, which is the reason for its name as Mt. Sungay.

The construction of Palace in the Sky, which was started in 1981 at the behest of Imelda Marcos, destroyed the “horns” of Mt. Sungay. The mountaintop was leveled and trees were cut. The farmers who were planting pineapples at the mountainside were driven away without any compensation.

The Marcoses decided to use the Palace in the Sky as accommodation for US President Ronald Raegan when he announced in November 1983 his visit to the Philippines. The visit did not push through and the government stopped the construction works.  

The construction of the palace truly ended when the Marcoses were ousted through People Power. What remained of what should have been an opulent palace is the unfinished shell that is now used as a viewing deck for tourists.

The Marcoses wasted $10 million according to the estimates of Chicago Tribune. It was said that President Corazon Aquino intentionally left Palace in the Sky abandoned to show to the public the excesses of the Marcoses.

President Fidel Ramos, seeing the tourist potential of the palace, approved its renovations. The place was made more tourist-friendly by adding benches, cottages, and interesting spots like the giant pineapple.

Viewing deck of Palace in the Sky of Tagaytay People's Park
Viewing deck of Palace in the Sky.

The view from the palace is breathtaking. We were able to see three bodies of water: Laguna de Bay, Taal Lake, and Manila Bay.

Taal Lake and Taal Volcano from Palace in the Sky of Tagaytay People's Park
Taal Lake and Taal Volcano from Palace in the Sky.

The kids oohed and aahed while they looked at the vast expanse of Laguna and majestic Taal Volcano.

Mountains of Tagaytay as viewed from Tagaytay People's Park

Souvenir shops still occupy the ground floor of the palace.

Signs at Tagaytay People's Park

My kids' favorite spot is…

Pineapple at Tagaytay People's Park

…is the solitary pineapple that reminds our kids of Spongebob's house.

Near the pineapple is a real horse that visitors can have a selfie with for a fee. This reminded me of the disappointing selfie horse in Mines View Park in Baguio.

There is nothing much to do in People's Park other than relaxing and enjoying the good view.

Our visit to Tagaytay People's Park will never be complete without climbing the chapel for Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love.

Tagaytay People's Park Chapel

On the roof of the chapel is the image of the Divine Mercy.

Divine Mercy at Tagaytay People's Park

The statue of the Divine Mercy was sculpted by Marcial G. Bernales, who is a sculptor of religious icons and is well-known to santeros and icon collectors. He is considered a master sculptor and has been sculpting ivory for around half a century.

The rooftop is also a good vantage point overlooking Taal Lake. It is a good spot to take photos with Taal Volcano in the background.

Divine Mercy at Tagaytay People's Park

Mt. Sungay was dedicated to Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love even before the beginning of the construction of the Palace in the Sky. In 1974, Hernan D. Reyes and four high schoolers from Opus Dei’s Lauan Study Center (now Lauan University Center) in Quezon City and a sculptor from a shop along EDSA (near West Ave.) installed a low relief image of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love on the wall of a big granite rock atop Mt. Sungay.

It was a private shrine dedicated to Mama Mary that is only known to these high schoolers who frequented the inaccessible Mt. Sungay for excursions. According to Atty. Jose Sison, these high schoolers had a project of leaving Marian images atop the different mountains that they visited to show their veneration to the Mother of God. 

Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love in Tagaytay People's Park
Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love

The huge granite rock blocks the good view of the planned Palace in the Sky. So the construction workers tried to destroy it, first by using their equipment, which did not work. They then used dynamites but the rock remained intact. The workers, after clearing the rock's surroundings, discovered the image of Mother of Fair Love previously installed by the high schoolers. The construction crew, probably awed with the discovery, understood why the granite rock is miraculously indestructible.

The image of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love was copied from the image gifted by St. Josemaria Escriva to the University of Navarra in Spain. The image shows Mama Mary holding the infant or toddler Jesus standing on a pile of books. It was the perfect Marian image for students. 

The chapel was built to fully honor Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love. The chapel was formally inaugurated on February 14th of 2003 - Valentine's Day - by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, who was the Bishop of Imus by that time.

Marker at the Chapel of Tagaytay People's Park

The visit to the chapel completed our Tagaytay People's Park experience. And so we descended from the mountain and then went to our final stop: Tagaytay Picnic Grove.

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Read more about our recent adventures in Tagaytay:

Family Bonding in Tagaytay (Part 1): A Taste of Bulalo in Taste Ride Tagaytay

Family Bonding in Tagaytay (Part 3): The Newly Improved Picnic Grove

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References and Interesting Reads:

1. A Law Each Day (Keeps the Trouble Away) by Att. Jose Sison at PhilStar for the story on how the image of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love reached Mt. Sungay.

2. Marcos' Mountain Palace is the House that Arrogance Built by Janet Crawley at Chicago Tribune, which told the story on how the Marcoses tried to build the Palace in the Sky. 

3. Palace in the Sky (Tagaytay City, Cavite) by Benjamin Layug, which tells the story of a visitor to the Palace in the Sky three years after the Marcoses were ousted through People Power.

4. GettyImages by Brent Stirton and "Tayuman store selling statue with ivory parts for P230,000" by Erika Sauler at Inquirer.NET, which provide interesting info about Marcial G. Berrnales (the sculptor of the Divine Mercy image in People's Park)