Close to nature, closer to God. This is Caleruega’s tag line, and I cannot think of a much more fitting description of this isolated sanctuary in Batangas than that.
This haven is located on the far end of the Evercrest grounds at the border of Tagaytay and Nasugbu. Like pilgrims, travelers wanting to visit this refuge have to traverse a single-lane rough road to its gates. Never mind the bumpy ride as the scenery is quite breathtaking; the rolling verdant hills, cobalt blue skies and Tagaytay’s cool weather makes you feel you’re somewhere other than the Philippines.
Once on Caleruega’s sprawling grounds, the first thing that greets visitors is a brick-paved rotunda with a fountain in its midst. One is then presented with two choices, ascend the stairs towards the Church of Configuration or descend down to the koi pond and hanging bridge below.
Let’s take the upward stairs first.
On my first visit here, I thought I was entering a church as I ascended the brick steps through Caleruega’s Spanish-styled portal.
It turned out that the chapel was much, much farther from where I was.
This was actually the receiving hall for visitors and those having their retreats at the place. Out front, a grand staircase elegantly opens upwards but is, unfortunately, off limits to visitors. On the left, the gift house, where one can buy souvenir shirts, trinkets and religious items; and to the right the mess hall and a corridor that leads to the gardens and eventually the chapel.
Entering the garden, one is confounded with pathways beset with lush trees and colorful varieties of flowers. Like a true retreat, solitary benches can be found on niches found along its paths. The whisper of trees might accompany you on your reverie but on some occasions, soothing hymns emanate from some of the buildings in the area.
Everything here speaks of quietness and solitude.
The passageways winds through adobe-laden structures, winding up and up ‘til one reaches Caleruega’s apex, the famed Transfiguration Chapel.
Patterned after the original Caleruega Chapel in Spain, our country’s very own Transfiguration Chapel majestically sits at the peak of Batangas’ Caleruega complex.
Designed by Yolanda Reyes, UST’s Dean of Architecture during my college days, the symbolisms incorporated into the chapel would give any Robert Langdon wannabe’s a good time.
The roof of the church represents the hut that the apostles wanted to build for Jesus during the Transfiguration. The seven grapevines on the door symbolizes the seven sacraments. The altar, which is made from a carved tree trunk, signifies the Stem of Jesse in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. The tabernacle is the burning bush and the birds at the communion table, God’s providence.
The stained glasses on the chapel are no less impressive. On the facade the Dominican Province of the Philippine’s seal can be seen, and inside, the floor to ceiling Transfiguration figures; Jesus, Moses and Elijah which acts as the centerpiece of the church.
The chapel’s interior is finished with varnished wood, red bricks and painted concrete. Natural lights from the side windows and the stained glasses gives everything a very soft and warm glow, an atmosphere conducive for prayers and reflections.
Outside, the sculpture Thy Will be Done by Baguio artist Benhur Villanueva depicts a man with outstretched hands. A few steps down is a statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus framed by the rolling hills of Mt. Batulao.
Put everything together and one really cannot question why this small chapel off the outskirts of Tagaytay is one of the most sought after wedding destination in the country.
From Caleruega’s rotunda, a separate path leads downward to the complex’s nature trail.
Woodcarved images of the Station of the Cross lead you down as you walk along the sloping roadway. And as one nears the 12th Station, a café which was unfortunately closed during our visit, springs on the left and a portal to the Koi Ponds open to the right.
We never did know this part of Caleruega existed during our previous visits, so we were quite surprised upon stumbling upon it. We thought Caleruega starts and ends at the retreat grounds. It was like finding the door to the secret garden.
The Koi Pond is one of the best parts of Caleruega. A series of metal stairways and walks zigzag along the edges of ponds filled with huge koi fishes. All of these, covered by huge trees and surrounded by ferns and bushes, making the area a respite from the harsh sun. Metal benches fixed on the walkways also provide a resting place from all the walking one has to endure inside the complex.
Farther down, the gates to the hanging bridge appear. This is no toy bridge but a true blue hanging bridge; swaying wood plank walkways and rope balusters hang over a precipice. Those with fear of heights should not worry, however, as the bridge can take quite a weight. I’ve eveb seen people do their jumpshots here, haha.
The land turns hilly once you pass the bridge. Hike up the grassy mound and you’d be rewarded with a breathtaking view of the whole Caleruega complex. And as a bonus, a new open chapel has been built on the top of the hill.
Similar to the Transfiguration Chapel, three huge stained windows of Jesus, Moses and Elijah stands over the pavilion covered by white tarps and supported by massive slanting stone columns.
This ends the Caleruega tour. But before heading back the way you came; sit back on the grass, enjoy the panoramic view, and savor the fresh and cool Caleruega weather for a few more minutes, it’s gonna be another long walk back.
Address: Brgy. Kaylaway, Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas
Contact Number: (0921) 270-9890
How to Commute to Caleruega:
Coming from Tagaytay City, board a Nasugbu bound bus and ask the driver to drop you off at Evercrest. There’s a tricycle station there which you can hire for a two-way trip to Caleruega.