If I Had $1000 Contest Entry: Join a Writer's Retreat in Tagaytay

"A volcano within a lake, in a volcano within a lake, on an island."

This is my entry to @pinmapple's If I Had $1000 Contest to celebrate reaching 1000 Travel Digests. I have been regularly posting in the Haveyoubeenhere community, so I wouldn't miss the chance to participate in this grand Hive event.

If I had $1000 to travel and spend, I would take a writing retreat in the hilly Tagaytay City. It is 70 kilometers south of Manila, Philippines. Tagaytay is the home to the magnificent Taal Volcano, an active volcano, one of the most active in the Philippines.

Write Away Retreat

Write Away Retreat is a 4- day writing, creativity, and life coaching retreat for aspiring writers between 25 to 50 years old.

"Just you, your story, and four days at a resort." - Write Away 2018 by Pauline Miranda, NoliSoli.ph

Write Away sessions are held in different venues in the Philippines yearly. It is filled with workshops focused on mentoring, finding inspiration to create a solid book concept, allowing the creative juices to flow, igniting motivation to continue to write and/or getting published.

You could expect activities such as:

  • Writing seminars,
  • Motivational Talks,
  • Wine and Cheese nights,
  • Meditation Sessions,
  • Group or one to one workshop
    All within a creatively inspiring environment. Inclusive of food and accommodation.

The workshop is hosted by life Coach, Aurora M. Suarez along with one of my favorite authors, Samantha Sotto who wrote Before Ever After, Love and Gravity and Mina V. Esguerra, author of Fairy Tail Fail, That Kind of Guy.

Write Away 2018 was held in Casa Luminaria in Batangas while 2019 workshops took place at The Country Place in Baguio City. Due to Covid-19, there was no event this year, but according to their website, they will hold the next one in 2021.

They also have a Write Away: The Mom's Edition Retreat to provide mothers inspiration, space, and time to write.

Aurora M.Suarez held a separate writing retreat called Inkling with a different guest author in Villa Sena in Tagaytay, so future Write Away workshops in Tagaytay are a strong possibility.

If I had $1000, Write Away in Tagaytay is an event I would love to participate in in the future!

Why Tagaytay City?

Childhood Memories

Tagaytay City is a memorable place for me and my family. When we were young, growing up in a Catholic School, we spent countless spiritual retreats here.

Romantic sentimental reasons

This was where @iamyohann and I had our first out-of-town date together in 2001. We also spent days up in the hill near Taal Lake staying with my best friend and her family's mountain cottage in the middle of a forest in Talisay, Batangas.

Where We Got Married

Tagaytay City is a wedding destination. This was also where @iamyohann and I had our garden wedding in 2006 My sister(whose car I am going to borrow for this trip 😅) got married here too in 2012.

It would be amazing to re-visit it again with a different purpose.

What's Up with Taal Volcano?

Taal Volcano was formed during one of the major eruptions in the middle of the lake. The last devastating eruption was last January 12, 2020. Yes, just early this year this volcanic eruption shook our country before Covid-19 struck.

The last notable one was in 1977, while there were 33 more eruptions in between. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHILVOLCS) continuously monitors water temperatures and seismic activity there. They strongly prohibit people to live on Volcano Island because it is a high-risk area and it is marked as a permanent danger zone.

Did you know?

Taal Lake is actually a crater of an inactive prehistoric supervolcano. In this lake, surrounding Taal Volcano, many other eruptions formed other craters and micro-lakes.

Tagaytay City is a ridge that sits on the rim of the caldera, meaning this will be the first to be hit if this supervolcano comes to life. This was something that our Geology professor told us back in college.

If adventure is right up your alley, there are boat trips with hiking trails to the volcanic crater from Talisay, Batangas. Check out advisories from Philvolcs first. Read more about the Taal Volcano Trek by @wanderlass

However, if you prefer appreciating the magnificent scenery from a distance, then a relaxing day trip to Tagaytay City will more than satisfy and delight your senses.

How to Get to Tagaytay City From Cebu

With Php 3,000 ($60), I would be able to book a return plane ticket with a budget airline like Cebu Pacific.

There are many ways to get to Tagaytay City. I'd be able to borrow my sister's car who lives in Taguig for the retreat and I'd drive to get there from Manila. Like many travelers, I would take SLEX (South Luzon Express Way) Sta. Rosa exit where I will take a quick stopover in Nuvali to enjoy the leisure park and feed the koi fish.

Other Things to Do and Visit in Tagaytay After the Writing Retreat

Visit People's Park in the Sky

History has it that People's Park was supposed to be a Palace in the Sky, a project that former first lady, Imelda Marcos initiated, to build a mansion on the land owned by the government possessing the best view of Tagaytay. It was rapidly pushed to be completed for the intended visit of President Ronald Reagan back in 1983. The presidential visit didn't take place and the mansion remained unfinished to this day. It was later converted to an urban park. The view and cold breeze upon the summit are wonderful but a lot of maintenance and renovation work is still needed. Entrance to People's Park in the Sky is Php 30 (USD$ 0.60) per person.

Do check out the blog post written by @afterglow about his experience at People's Park in the Sky and Skyranch.

If you get the opportunity, do drop by Tagaytay Highlands next to the park. We were fortunate to visit this exclusive community after our wedding back in 2006.

After a short hike to the summit of People's Park, tummies will definitely growl afterward.


For the young and young at heart, it is an amusement park right over the ridge. Read @iamraincrystal's Skyranch Experience

Food Trip

Many restaurants are offering scenic views, a serene ambiance, and an exceptional dining experience.

Dencio's Bar & Grill is a large restaurant chain offering Filipino cuisine. Filipino comfort food at its best is wonderfully shared with the family with this amazing view. The cost would be around Php500 (USD$ 10) per person.

Balay Dako (by Antonio's) is another noteworthy restaurant.

Coffee and Blueberry Cheesecake Stop at Bag of Beans

I will take a coffee addiction detour to Bag of Beans Coffee Shop, Restaurant & Bakery for coffee, drinks, and dessert, and order their famous Blueberry Cheesecake.

Don't leave Tagaytay without trying this. Blueberry Cheesecake (Php 160 / USD 3.20 per slice) with a mug of House Blend Brewed Coffee for Php 120 (USD$ 2.40) regular / Php150 (USD$ 3) for bottomless. The last time I went there, we bought a whole blueberry cheesecake and we shared it with everyone including my daughter who went hyper sugar-rush crazy after having several bites. It's not too sweet at all, by the way. It exceeded my expectations. It was smooth with the right amount of sweetness.

Visit Sonya's Garden

It's a popular garden wedding venue. There's a Bed & Breakfast, Restaurant serving organic produce, an organic farm, landscaped gardens, greenhouse-looking function rooms, and an apothecary.

They have a bakery serving the yummiest Spanish bread that will make you forget your name and start speaking in Spanish. 😂 This is my Spanish-speaking brother's inside joke whenever his colleagues ask him how he became so fluent in Spanish. He always replies with,

"I ate the Spanish bread from Sonya's Garden in Tagaytay."

Buko Pie (Coconut Pie)

A quick stop to buy buko (coconut) pie and other local sweet treats is a tradition for Filipino families before leaving Tagaytay. A popular one is Rowena's Cafe.

Or, The Original Buko Pie at the Caltex Station along Santa Rosa-Tagaytay Road. It's always sold out and they don't accept order reservations by phone. The last time we were here, we waited for an hour (eating fish balls at the nearby food cart) for freshly baked buko (coconut) pies and I must say they were worth the wait, nothing fancy, but there's a lot of coconut meat in it.

Plantitos and Plantitas Paradise

I actually learned the terms "plantitos" and "plantitas" from @ybanezkim26. This is a popular destination in the south to do your plant and seedling shopping. Along Sta. Rosa Tagaytay Highway, there are fruit and vegetable stalls. You can purchase a chili plant for Php 50 (USD$ 1) and a thyme seedling for the same price. I also went crazy fruit and vegetable shopping the last time I was here. I got 4 fresh organic romaine lettuce for Php 100 (USD$ 2) and 3 pcs ripe avocados for Php100 (USD$ 2). I also got bananas and freshly harvested pineapples.

Expenses Breakdown

Target Trip Budget : $1000
*Assuming $1 = Php50

Air FareReturn Trip Via Cebu Pacific with LuggagePhp3000/$60
Gas and Toll FeesGasoline and Skyway SLEX Toll Fees in ManilaPhp2500/$50
Write Away Retreat4-Day Workshop Fee inclusive of Shared Room Accommodation and FoodPhp36,000/$720
MiscellaneousCebu Airport Parking Fee, After Event Food Trip, Visits, Souvenirs, Extended 1 Night AccommodationPhp8500/$170

Et voila, $1000 in total.

My Takeaway

A Writer's Retreat is something I'd like to experience set in a place that means a lot to me. It will be a much-needed self-love or Me-time break, where I could finally write the story in my head on paper or screen, free from daily mundane tasks and distractions. Getting published is not my end goal. It is the freedom of being able to write in a supportive and nurturing environment in the company of fellow writers.

Thank you for reading.
What about you? If you have $1000, where would you go and how would you spend it?

Inspired by my original post revised for the contest
Taal Volcano and Tagaytay Wikipedia
Write Away Retreat Website
Writing Retreat in Tagaytay
Spot. ph - This Rustic Escape in Baguio Might Just Help You Overcome Writer's Block by Kevyn Tapnio