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At Large

Of gardens, traffic and saviors

There is a new “scented garden” in the bigger Sonya’s Garden in Alfonso, Cavite. Located just behind the “Sunflower” pavilion for weddings and big parties, it is, says constant gardener Sonya Garcia, designed to be “the place for proposals.”

Only one couple at a time may use the “scented garden,” planted to lavender, roses, fragrant herbs and pots of orchids. A table for two, covered with a white lace tablecloth and set with a tea time setting in Sonya’s patented “shabby chic” style, stands in one corner. In a far corner, safe from prying eyes, is a divan laid out in white linens. “This is the place for the proposal,” says Sonya, “and I guarantee you, no one can say ‘no’ in this setting.”

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Once, an ardent swain even hired a string quartet to serenade his lady love, filling the air with romantic tunes the minute the pair entered the scented garden. “No one can say ‘no’ after such preparation,” concedes Sonya. “But the girl can always change her mind once they leave here.”

There may be no guarantees for love everlasting, true, but it doesn’t hurt to provide the right setting for its blossoming and beginning. “Happy ever after,” or “happy even after” takes more time and effort.

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Maybe that explains the huge crowd that converged at Sonya’s that Black Saturday afternoon when we came to visit the scented garden. Despite signs explaining that Sonya’s Garden “is not a public park” and is open only to paying guests, diners and customers of Sonya’s “panaderia,” spa and country store, “uzis” came in droves, posing for pictures at the many arbors and cozy nooks that dot the estate, and exploring the gardens and paths that wend their way through the cottages and pavilions.

So full was “Sonya’s” most of Holy Week that Sonya herself was driven out of house and home, giving way for guests even in her personal living space. Instead she camped out in the smallest cottage, the original retreat she had built in the 1990s when she first took up residence in Barangay Buck Estate.

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This was where she entertained us for merienda, a leisurely, meandering affair that took many hours and many additions to the menu, from cheese and nuts, cranberries and olives to chocolates, macaroons and buko juice, tarragon tea and mango tarts. She might even have served us her famous salad if we hadn’t protested that dinner was waiting for us back home.

But would you believe that it took us an hour to cover the four- or five-kilometer distance from Sonya’s Garden to Garden Hills Subdivision where our weekend home is? Where before we would make it in 10 minutes even at a leisurely pace, we crawled at an agonizing pace, joining a long line of vehicles that stretched as far back as Batangas.

Making matters worse were cars, jeeps and motorcycles that would take the counterflow, speeding past those of us patiently waiting our turn, only to come to a screeching halt on either of both shoulders when other vehicles met them head-on.

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I am told that traffic was horrendous along the main Tagaytay-Nasugbu highway. (We had a taste of it on the way down to Manila.) We had driven up late Wednesday evening, and fortunately found no hitches. But as we glanced out our windows the next day affording us a view of the highway, traffic gradually built up to the point that we would see vehicles in a stationary line.

Indeed, the traffic in Tagaytay and environs was one of the main topics of our conversation with Sonya. On Thursday, said Sonya, so many reservations were canceled simply because customers were caught in the crawling line from as far away as Sta. Rosa.

The traffic is fairly manageable most days, even if on Sundays vehicles are backed up for kilometers especially in such notorious choke points as Residence Inn, Bag of Beans and Lourdes Church. Signs also suggest alternative routes, although you will find, when you take these back roads, an awful lack of directional signs, which almost guarantees your losing your way.

I wonder what Tagaytay officials—along with LGU managers in surrounding towns like Sta. Rosa, Silang, Mendez and Alfonso—plan to do about the traffic situation. I mean, if a very popular and accessible tourist destination like Tagaytay, already on the radar of most government officials (especially MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino who was formerly Tagaytay mayor and whose brother Bambol is the present mayor) is allowed to deteriorate because of horrible traffic conditions, how will other tourist sites fare?

If we want to meet our fairly ambitious tourism goals until 2016, we need to work immediately on the infrastructure that will guarantee the arrival of tourists and their accessibility to sites both popular and yet undiscovered. But if even Tagaytay—so near to Manila, so popular among foreigners and locals alike—is neglected, how will more remote and less known destinations fare?

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In fairness to MMDA officials, though, they showed they cared for travelers even outside of their jurisdiction by fielding roadside assistance teams along major expressways and routes patronized by many tourists.

We were fortunate that there was an MMDA team stationed in Tagaytay this last Holy Week because we ourselves faced a road emergency shortly after our arrival.

Many thanks to Edward Gonzales, head of the MMDA Road Emergency Group, who responded promptly and eagerly to our call for help to tow our stalled vehicle from Alfonso. His team, consisting of Gilbert Trinidad, Dennis Bagunu, Neptali Medina, Jonathan de Leon and Roberto Lacsamana, were quite professional, extending assistance above and beyond the call of duty.

To all who extended help—you know who you are—you made us realize the reality of Easter, filling our hearts with gratitude and joy.

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TAGS: Easter, featured column, Lenten season, opinion, sonya’s garden, tagaytay, traffic
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