Virtually any city in the Philippines has what is colloquially called a “lovers’ lane.” Often, a lover’s lane is a cool, quiet place perched on an area that offers a splendid, encompassing view of a city, a bay, a cove, a forest, or a seascape. It’s a place where friends visit to relax, munch on some snacks, and chat while watching magical sunsets. At night, the place comes to life as dreamy-eyed lovers sit quietly under the stars, whisper sweet nothings, and share gentle kisses.
Rancho Santa Monica
In Puerto Princesa, the most famous lover’s lane is Rancho Santa Monica. It’s quite a mouthful, so people just call the place Mitra’s Ranch. Why? Well, it is the property of the late statesman Ramon Mitra Jr., a pure proud Palaweño.
Rancho Sta. Monica was included in our city tour itinerary. After all the nostalgia in the Palawan Special Battalion World War 2 Museum and the exhilaration in seeing live crocodiles at the Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center, we decided to relax a bit at the Rancho Santa Monica. After a 20-minute ride from the PWRCC, we climbed up a hill and arrived at the property’s gate. Check out the text; it’s artfully made through the use of a rope.
A short drive uphill and we were on the driveway of the late senator Ramon Mitra’s house. The structure looks like the old Casino Filipino in Cebu. Anyway, this seems to be a regular tourist spot as we saw several tourist vans parked here.
The first thing we did was to sit on the ground. Hehe! Our legs and feet were aching after all that walking. That’s Mitra’s pyramid-shaped mansion behind us. Today, it is the home of Abraham Khalil Mitra, the youngest son of the deceased senator and the present provincial governor of Palawan. Occasionally, the residence owners allow visitors to come inside where they can see memorabilia of the late senator.
There was a mishmash of people here during our visit. That large group on the left of the photo is a religious group having a recollection activity. The one on the right are excited tourists.
That’s the view from our sitting place. From here, we saw the beautiful cove of Honda Bay, our destination for the third day of our trip. Just in front of us is Rancho Zipline Adventure, the resident adventure feature of the ranch.
That’s the zipline facility. We didn’t try it because we were a little bit pressed for time. Besides, we were planning to zipline at Ugong Rock the next day after our underground river tour.
We wouldn’t be surprised if, during the night, couples would race to get under this tree. But any place in the ranch is a perfect dating place. At night, lovers can witness the glittering lights of Puerto Princesa bathed with the ethereal glow of the moon. On a clear night here, the stars would probably look awesome.
More tables for lovers and visitors. Large canopied trees offer a lot of shade for visitors who wish to relax and have a picnic here.
Children can have a whole afternoon of fun jumping on this trampoline. Trivia: don’t you know that jumping on a trampoline for an hour or two actually gives you an overall body workout?
For P200, a visitor can avail of a 15-minute ride on horseback around the facility. Personally, we consider it as a tourist trap, and even the donkey doesn’t seem happy about it. We actually felt sorry for the poor animal.
A bigger horse for taller and larger people. The fellow doesn’t look happy about this. Or perhaps he’s just tired.
We didn’t stay long at the Rancho Santa Monica; the place was technically just a viewing deck. And we got really hungry since we have been seeing the city for hours. Sir Jhun had a ready remedy for that, and he took us to Baker’s Hill, which is located 5 minutes away from the Ranch.
Beside that entrance—yes, the first floor of that house—is a nice bakery that sells delicious Palawan delicacies and pastries such as hopia, crinkles, and cakes. You should buy some for pasalubongs (souvenirs for friends and family back home) or for your own consumption.
What is Baker’s Hill? At first glance, it looks like an upper-class subdivision. However, upon entering, it’s actually—errrr—we don’t really know how to define it because it’s just a unique place. In fact, we haven’t heard, seen, visited, or read any place like it in Cebu or anywhere else in the Philippines. We’ll just describe this beautiful place as a magical garden theme park bakery and restaurant complex. That’s the best we can do. As what I said, this place is really unique.
See the first photo of this blog entry? That’s the entrance to the bakery. You can actually see staff baking fresh bread and pastries.
The landscaping in Baker’s Hill can only be described as superbly enchanting. Just look at that! It’s a land of gardens, flowers, grass, and trees. It’s not difficult to see the immense love and dedication of the staff in preserving the beauty and magic of this place.
Upon entering Baker’s Hill, you will see this huge mansion. According to Sir Jhun, this is the owner’s house. The owner first started his business with a simple but classy bakery. Later, however, an idea hit him, and he transformed his entire compound into a theme park.
Behind the mansion is a carefully manicured garden with lots of topiaries, flowers, and benches. There’s even a full-sized replica of a calesa. Kids usually line up to have their photos taken riding the calesa.
All around the theme park are life-size figures of celebrities, cartoon characters, and self-created caricatures. Let me smell Marilyn Monroe’s armpit. Uhmm…she forgot to wear deodorant. hehehe
And there are ferocious animals here, like this tiger, which you need to wrestle. Fortunately, they don’t fight back. And this cool tiger even thanked me for not riding him.
There’s another home behind the garden. However, we’re not sure if this is actually a home, restaurant, or gallery. In any case, it’s beautiful. Look at those gorgeous, carefully trimmed topiaries. And these are just few of the hundreds of topiaries in this place! Wow!
The pathways are made of cobblestones. Walking along these pathways with manicured gardens and classical “houses” and shops along the side made us feel as if we’re walking in old, romantic English towns that are vividly described in Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales. No wonder we saw a lot of children. This place really captures their hearts.
That’s one of the several restaurants that dot Baker’s Hill. It’s called Twigs and we wanted to try it out. However, the place was closed when we got there; it may only open during dinner time, we presume, just like Kinabuch. Anyway, we think this is a perfect venue for a romantic dinner. Best of all, it’s Marilyn Monroe herself who will greet guests.
Well, we just wanted to have a snack, so we proceeded to a less expensive café called Baker’s kitchen.
Yummy! Merienda (snack) foodstuffs fill the counter. Let’s see, there are banana cues, squid balls, camote fries, turon, and tempura. However, there are also exotic (well, at least for us) snacks such as salmon balls, seafood tofu, and some we can’t even describe. Best of all, the prices are very cheap.
We were a bit hungry, so we ordered a rather heavy meal of tasty pancit malabon. To wash it down, we ordered these ice-cold, refreshing gulaman drinks. They’re fun to drink, actually. When we got home after our Puerto Princesa tour, Sweetie immediately made her own variation of the drink.
Sir Jhun and his daughter ate banana cues and drank gulaman drinks with us.
Baker’s Kitchen’s tables were filled so we decided to head to the main picnic area. Again, check out the verdant garden.
That’s the open-air, main picnic area. Heavy wooden tables and chairs warmly welcome would-be diners. There are sunka conkak boards on some tables, allowing you to play a game with your friends while you enjoy your snack.
That’s our wonderful driver and tourist guide Sir Jhun and his cute daughter. Sir Jhun is very friendly and helpful. If you want a comprehensive city tour or simply a ride to your hotel, contact him. We’ll give you his contact number later on.
One thing we noticed about Palaweños is that they’re very disciplined, especially when it comes to cleanliness and order. It’s not just because of the heavy fines for littering. Businesses and offices actually encourage and help everyone to maintain cleanliness. For example, in Baker’s Hill, each table in the picnic area has a kit that comprises of a spray bottle of water and rag. If you make a mess while eating, you should clean your mess up. You don’t have an excuse because this cleaning kit is provided for you to use.
After finishing our meals and cleaning them up, we went to the children’s playground. Of course, we’re a tad too old to ride the swings and seesaws, crawl inside the playhouse, or zip down the slides. However, this is dreamland for little kids. It’s a pretty cool concept. While parents chat with friends over dinner, children, who usually finish dinner first, can stave away boredom by playing here.
Shady pathways allow people to explore the various areas of the theme park with ease. The fenced area behind Sweetie is Baker’s Hill’s nursery.
These plants look like they’re just ready to be transplanted to their permanent places in the park.
There’s also a nice Zen garden where one may relax and recharge positive chi.
That’s a nice trellis. See that verdant garden? It’s very pretty, isn’t it? This pathway leads to a small viewing deck and a mini zoo which houses a marvelous, colorful avian that children always encounter in storybooks.
A real live peacock in all its splendor! The most regal of the pheasant family, the peacock is best known for its glorious eye-spotted feathers of its tail. Only the males have extravagant tails, and they spread this as a part of courting peahens.
The official seal of Puerto Princesa features a peacock with 66 covert feathers on its tail, representing the 66 baranggays that comprise the city.
Here’s another peacock dragging its tail behind him. This must be a pain in the butt. Imagine if you have a tail and you constantly drag it on the ground. And males have to endure this to court a girl!
Do you want to know more about the regal peacock? Well, read on!
Going around Baker’s Hill can surely be tiring. Good thing that the theme park has lots of benches around where guests can sit down and relax a bit.
It’s the heart and our love of adventure that binds us.
1. If you are in a tour group, chances are, Rancho Sta. Monica and Baker’s Hill will be part of your city tour. If you wish to commute, go to Rizal Street in the city and ride an Irawan-bound jeepney. Tell the driver to drop you off at the intersection going to Mitra’s Ranch and Baker’s Hill. Then ride a tricycle to take you up the hill to the said places.
Commuting expense per person
- Irawan jeepney fare (P8.00)
- Tricycle to Baker’s Hill (P8.00)
- Tricycle to Rancho Sta. Monica (P16.00)
Of course, you can simply hire a tricycle, multicab, or van to take you to the two sites.
2. You don’t need to pay entrance fees at both Rancho Sta. Monica and Baker’s Hill. Entrance is free.
3. Rancho Sta. Monica is open every day from 6 AM to 6 PM. Baker’s Hill opens at 9 AM and closes at 6 PM.
4. We couldn’t find any phone number for Rancho Sta. Monica in the Net or elsewhere. After all, it is a high-ranking government official’s home.
You can call the office at Baker’s Hill at (0918)923-5681 or (048)433 -3414.
5. It is best to visit both Rancho Sta. Monica and Baker’s Hill in the afternoon when the sun is not too hot. Try visiting the place at around 3 PM to 5 PM.
6. Rancho Sta. Monica has a zipline facility, a unique one because it actually has 3 stations. For P500 per person, you can zip all 3 stations. Additionally, you can ride a horse for 15 to 20 minutes for P200.
7. Baker’s Hill has a pasalubong center/bakery at the left side of the park’s entrance. You can buy pastries and bread here for pasalubong or for your snacks. Be sure to buy their best-selling hopia and cashew nuts.
8. Always clean after yourself. The city and these facilities have worked hard to keep the place free from litter and garbage. Do your part as a responsible visitor by cleaning after yourself.
9. If you wish to hire a tricycle on your day tour, you may contact Jhun Salazar at (0906)355-0429.