Saturday, July 4, 2015

TRAVEL | More than just a 'sulyap' at Sulyap Gallery Cafe

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The colors come alive as the afternoon sun hits the second floor of the cafe.

Finally had the time to write this. Three weeks ago over the Independence Day long weekend Kwittiegirl and I drove down south to San Pablo City in Laguna. We originally intended to do an ambitious Viaje del Sol (Way of the Sun), a design-your-own-tour around several establishments in the provinces of Laguna, Quezon, and Batangas engaged in leisure products and services that promote Filipino hospitality, cuisine, crafts, the arts, and other facets of Philippine culture and traditions.

We thought of visiting several towns in Laguna but ended up just holed up in San Pablo, spending the weekend relaxing and food-tripping at a very leisurely pace. People we've asked for recommendations often gave Casa San Pablo but I'm glad we played deaf and spent our first night at the lovely Sulyap Gallery Cafe.

Sulyap is Filipino for glance. Sulyap, the establishment, is more than just a cafe; it's also a bed and breakfast and a museum of sorts. Allow me to detail my experience.

Reservation and booking
It's a small place, so expecting them to have an online booking facility is probably too much. The inquiry and reservation process was a bit slow, and I had to be proactive in following them up, especially for bank account details and confirmation. As with most such establishments, advance payments are required to be deposited to their bank account to confirm one's booking. Good thing we have the same bank, so I was able to skip the hassle of lining up and simply transferred the amount via online banking instead.

The place is located at the end of a small street that's just a short walk from the highway. We entered the gate and there was no one to assist us or anything. We didn't know where to go to check in, so we just found ourselves a parking spot and proceeded on foot in the gated property.

The front desk of sorts was at a small structure next to the cafe. The lady attendant was swamped with a lot of different stuff but thankfully there was absolutely no fuss with checking in. I'm not quite sure but I don't remember filling up any forms.

Architecture, layout, and ambiance
Sulyap follows the architectural style of colonial era Philippines. The property is home to a rectangular three-storey concrete building that was once a school. It now houses the function hall and the museum. Right across it and set amidst landscaped greenery are Sulyap's three casas, which are actually reconstructed old houses from elsewhere in the country, much like the ones at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan, only smaller.

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On the foreground is Casa de Cabay, which has been designated as a cafe, while on the left is Casa de Alitagtag, one of two structures assigned as bed and breakfast.

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A section of Casa de Obando, where our room was.

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A cluster of carved logs adorn a section of the garden.

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The old school, where the museum and function hall are housed.

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That's the "front desk" on the far right, fronted by additional tables for the cafe.

The grounds's rectangular layout bellies the property's expansive area but maybe we'll see additional developments soon. We have also yet to see the concrete building fully utilized. I was told there's nothing on the second and third floors. For now at least.

Another gate opens up to another garden where a dozen or so chickens freely roam and where tucked in one side is the owner's residence. There's also a concrete walkway that leads up to the pool area. On a personal note I don't find appealing the thought of walking all the way from your casa in your swimwear, through throngs of diners along occasionally muddy ground, just to enjoy a dip in the pool. I wish the bed and breakfast was laid out differently.

Nevertheless I cannot deny the old-world charm and beauty of Sulyap's casas.

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Casa de Alitagtag, fronted by a nice little garden and which enjoys the convenience of being next-door neighbors with the cafe.

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The garden in front of Casa de Alitagtag, which also provides al fresco seating options for the cafe.

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Away from all the noise and activity in the cafe area is Casa de Obando. I'm glad I chose this one.

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Beautiful staircase, no doubt.

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The common living room area on Casa de Obando's second floor.

Our room
I got one of the rooms on Casa de Obando's second floor. There's another room their, plus two more downstairs. Casa de Alitagtag also has about four rooms but bigger, which are best suited for families and big groups.

Our room boasts of hardwood flooring, capiz shell-adorned sliding windows, textured ceiling, a small but beautiful chandelier, a host of other wooden furniture, and the comforts of air conditioning and having a TV. They're also generous with space here.

The bathroom, on the other hand, is modern with a tiled floor but still peppered with touches of native wood designs. Though there are rust stains on the tiles already and the water in the shower doesn't drain properly because of some fault in the way the floor was leveled, it's still a clean and fully functioning bathroom. The esterilla (crushed bamboo mats) ceiling and bamboo rustling outside the shower room's glass wall are also nice.

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It's not the best mattress but the hardwood bed frame is quite nice.

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TV's small but it's a spacious room.

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Classic aparador (closet)! I didn't know what that thing in the corner is until 2 days later. It's supposed to be where you stack pillows.

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The modernity of the bathroom is effectively toned down by touches of wood in traditional native designs.

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I love the effect the thick bamboo cover has as it presses against the shower's glass door. Look at the ceiling, too.

I haven't seen any of the other rooms but I was happy with ours. Not bad for Php 3,400 really (with breakfast).

Set in the two-storey Casa de Cabay, the cafe is warm and homey. Both floors are filled with various old collectibles from an old telephone to an endless array of religious figures. The ground level is mostly dark with a low ceiling typical of such houses from the Spanish colonial period. Upstairs, however, it's much airier and open, and I lament the fact that we weren't able to dine here because the place was always packed during meal time and we were always relegated to the ground floor area.

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Mga bibe! Cute concrete duck figures welcome diners at the cafe's doorstep.

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The main door opens right up to the staircase. Make a right detour if you're dining downstairs.

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The ground floor dining.

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Table for two, anyone?

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The place is crowded with all sorts of stuff. Even the area underneath the stairs was not spared.

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While some people collect toys and superhero action figures, Sulyap's owner collects these. And he has loads more.

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A frying pan repurposed into a wall clock. Neat! Meanwhile, kids nowadays won't probably recognize what that thing on the right is.

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Classic coffee grinder on the left. On the right are cute little clay cups I'm so in love with.

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The dining space upstairs, gloriously lit by the afternoon sun.

More than the cafe, it's the food that Kwittiegirl and I both really loved. No surprise, they serve Filipino cuisine here, some of which are native to, or at least originated from, San Pablo.

The pako (fiddle fern) salad was an instant favorite. It had just the right amount of acidity to it, and the raw mango cubes and salted egg were welcome additions to the dish. It was also my first time to try pinayti, let alone hear of it. Pinayti is a traditional dish from San Pablo made of micro shrimps from one of the city's seven lakes, and cooked in seasoned coconut milk. Interesting is what I would say of it, and definitely worth a try. Their adobo and saba con yelo (sweetened banana with crushed ice) were also good.

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Sulyap's pako salad.

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Top: adobo; bottom: pinayti.

Breakfast was composed of the usual suspects of garlic rice, egg, atsara (pickled papaya) and your choice of longganisa (native Filipino sausage), tapa, or daing na bangus (marinated milkfish), served with either coffee, tea, juice, or tabliya (native chocolate). Kwittiegirl and I both had bangus, which was good but it was the tabliya that really struck me with its rich flavor and thick consistency.

Breakfast is served at the cafe but you can also enjoy it in the comfort of your room for a minimal extra fee. American-style breakfast options of ham, bacon, toast, and the like are also on offer.

In addition to gardens where guests and visitors can have a leisurely stroll, there's also a small pool for a refreshing dip. For those into antiques and all sorts of old stuff, Sulyap Gallery Cafe has a museum to pique your interest.

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What a beautiful door! This is the entrance to the function hall. Love the mix of wooden pieces here.

Sulyap also hosts weddings and other events, for which they have a function hall. I haven't gone inside, though. As for parking, they have lots of space for that. However, I wish they could relegate proper parking slots so people don't park in front of the casas. It may seem trivial but cars blocking the view of these old houses is a betrayal to their beauty, which are only meant to be seen in all their glory or photographed in full view.

Relative to the size and type of place Sulyap is, I can say that their staff deliver a fairly good job. The front desk attendant may be perpetually harassed but she's always accommodating. I just hope they can station someone at the gate to properly assist, or at least guide, guests coming in.

Check out
Again, no fuss.

In hindsight
Whether you intend to just drop by or stay for the night, Sulyap Gallery Cafe is worth a visit. The casas offer a pleasant stay, not to mention excellent opportunities for photos, #ootd or otherwise. Most of all, the food here is great. We will definitely be back.

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Casa de Obando at night. Sorry for the blurry photo as I have an unsteady hand with no tripod to help.


Sulyap Gallery Cafe is located at Brgy. Del Remedio, Cocoland Compound in San Pablo City, Laguna.

Via bus
You can hop on any bus bound for Lucena and get off at San Pablo. From your drop-off you can take a tricycle going to Sulyap. The tricycle drivers know the place for sure.

By car
If you're driving, take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). You can exit at either Calamba or Sto. Tomas. We took the former and just followed the road going to Pansol, all through Los BaƱos, then Calauan. Once in Cosico Ave. a few hundred meters from the junction with Colago Ave., make a right turn at Eleuterio Reyes Drive. It's a small street and Sulyap is right at the end of the road. Both Waze and Google Maps insist we turn right at closed road, though, so don't mind it; just head straight.

If you came from the Sto Tomas exit, you'll most likely to be on Colago Ave. If so, at the junction with Cosico, make a left. A few hundred meters after that, make another left at Eleuterio Reyes then just head straight.

For reservations and more information:
Call +63920-951-9185


  1. Nice blog ...planning to go there next week ... thanks for this very detailed blog... osm!

  2. Nice post! Laguna is a good spot for weekend getaways. There are many places to visit in Laguna. Thanks for sharing halfwhiteboy


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