After a bumpy three-hour drive from the metro, our group finally made it to Graceland. The drive was difficult with heavy traffic, muddy roads and non-stop rain. Inside our cramped car, the mood was just as stormy. We'd skipped breakfast and and stayed hungry way past noon. As we winded our way to the rain-soaked entrance of the resort, lightning streaked the sky and the clouds were an angry shade of gray.
Food was the first thing on our minds. While we were not blind to the beauty that greeted us at Tayabas, the constant groans of our stomachs would not let us stop and admire the scenery. After confirming our reservation at the security check, we raced all the way to the resort Cafe. The waiter, a little rattled at the sight of six wild-eyed girls, took down our orders quickly and soon plates of steaming hot laing, adobong pusit with gata, grilled tanguigue, liempo and heaping plates of rice (carbs, schmarbs, we were on vacation) arrived at the table.
The staff giggled at the breakneck speed at which we mopped up our food. The television was turned on at our request and we ate our meal watching Sheryl Reyes get tormented by a ghost. Sated, we went outside for a stroll. The storm had past. When our eyes adjusted to the clear bright sky and our sinuses breathed in the cold, clean air, we were amazed at the glorious sight before us. Literally acres and acres of green sloping hills marbled with pathways, a gorgeous man-made lake encircling a lagoon; there were trees everywhere and rambling bushes of flowers. Sunlight sprang from behind the clouds, mottling the mud-spattered roads. The place was huge.
Coming from the choking confines of Manila, where you couldn't look out past giant billboards and edifices, it was such a treat to let your eyes wander for what seemed like ages to all the corners of the resort. Presented with so much space your eyes start darting around, your limbs jiggle with excitement and you feel compelled to run and run with your arms flailing. At least that's what I felt. For such a genteel resort, the call of the wild was coming on strong.
Graceland Estates and Country Club is located right smack in the center of the eco-tourism district of Ciudad de Tayabas Quezon. It's about a 3 hour drive from the metro and is chock-full of southern goodness. The first thing you notice about the place is its vastness. The place is huge-- 11 hectares huge to be exact. Kudos to the developers for carefully mapping out the place and designing it so that it would be unobtrusive to the real star of the place-- good ol' mother nature herself. You get a good view just about anywhere in the place, and none of the facilities look like modern eyesores. Yes, they are fully equipped with WiFi and all those other high-tech doodads, but you can easily slip into full-on relaxation mode and focus on enjoying the simple pleasures of life.
After ooh-ing and ahh-ing for a good half an hour, we finally set up in our room up on the third floor of one of the villas. The trio of three-tiered villas were lined up across the lake and the cafe. On the other side was a mini-golf course and a primary-colored playground. The resort was fully booked for the weekend, but you almost never saw your neighbors. Groups literally disappear during the day, either swimming in pools, boating in the river or taking a horse-back rides in the stables.
The rooms (the villa costs P2,500 a night) were as spacious as the resort, painted in soft, cool pastel colors mimicking the environment outside. Features like a private veranda (which you can actually hang out in), a wooden counter, daybed and mini-bar makes the room a steal. The bathroom was clean and bright and well-stocked with the basic amenities, including the all important hot water tap. The only quibble we had was the lack of a room phone or intercom. We had to run downstairs to the service desk to ask for extras. Good thing the staff was well-trained and very accommodating, as you could ask anyone, from the waiters, to the janitors, to the chamber maids, and they would immediately help you out themselves, or at the very least find the person you needed. Southern hospitality at its very best indeed.
The next day, we decided to stay in one of the apartelles, and were delighted by the surprise. The place (which costs P7,500 a night) is perfect for families, as it features two bedrooms, two bathrooms, living room, and dining room. It's a little cozier than the villas but the tiny kitchen has all the amenities needed to cook meals. It resembles those starter townhouses that many young urban couples stay in, except this is Graceland, and it is located in the eco-tourism district of Tayabas, Quezon; clean air, loads of greenery, and enough hills for kids to roll around in are just some of the perks you can enjoy. The only other downside was the construction, as the resort is in the midst of adding more residential units. Some of the roads were muddy from the rain, but despite the muck, our second day was still very much enjoyable.We spent the day eating (and eating, and eating...) and visiting the nearby town squares of Lucban and Tayabas, short, scenic drives away from the resort.
So why Graceland? I never got a straight answer. It is certainly a very apt description for the place. While I noticed a lot of classic rock era posters and souvenirs hanging on the walls of the Cafe, I never did see a single person pass by in a rhinestone-studded pantsuit or black leather jacket. Not that the place needed any more glitter; it has more than its fair share of stars already.
Graceland Estates and Country Club is located at Ciudad de Tayabas, Quezon Province. For more information, please check them online at