Tagaytay: People’s Park in the Sky
Also known as the People’s Park, it sits atop Mount Sungay, aka Mount Gonzales, which at the height of 709 meters (2,326 ft) above sea level and the highest point in Cavite, offers a breathtaking view of the surrounding areas as far as 50 kilometers in a clear day, including the view of Taal Lake and the famous Taal Volcano. It is also one of Tagaytay’s most visited landmark next to Picnic Grove.
While Tagaytay is often known as the “other Summer Capital” aside from Baguio due to its cooler climate compared to the lowlands, the summer weather is still warm at thirty degrees according to the thermometer of one of our flock. It’s still cooler in the shade, especially when there’s a cool breeze blowing.
When we came to the site, rain clouds are starting to gather over us. As soon as we reached the top it rained hard, although briefly. Too bad that visibility is not that good when we came, and we can barely see Taal Volcano. The view would have been much more awesome during a perfectly clear weather.
Near the entrance gate is a parking space surrounded by souvenir shops which sell items ranging from foods to toys and accessories. And because private vehicles may not be brought beyond the gate, visitors must leave their vehicles in that parking space, or if it is full, at the roadside leading to the gate entrance.
At the top is an unfinished and seemingly abandoned mansion commissioned by former First Lady Imelda Marcos in the 1980s. It is said that the construction was rushed to accommodate US President Ronald Reagan who announced his planned visit to the country, which was later, unfortunately, cancelled.
Mount Sungay was named because of its former distinctive peak which resembled horns (“sungay” means “horn” in Tagalog) and was used as a navigational aid by sailing ships. The peak was destroyed and flattened to accommodate the mansion.
The mansion was still unfinished when the Marcoses were ousted in 1986 revolution, and the park was given its current name. The mansion looks abandoned, with broken windows and molds sticking on its pillars and walls. But yet, it hosts several rows of souvenir shops at the bottom, a restaurant on the second floor, and an observation deck at the third floor. A military relay station is also in active operation on the top floor.
The Shrine of Our Lady, Mother of Fair Love is also one of the main features of the park. It was installed on December 15, 1974, by Hernan D. Reyes together with four high school students and two workers. It is said that attempts to blast off the rock that contained the image of the Virgin Mary was made during the mansion’s construction in 1981 but were unable to, so it was left intact.
PAGASA Doppler Radar Station
Besides the mansion are the Doppler Radar station of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), the state weather forecaster. Being a member of the Western Pacific weather group we were given a rare opportunity to go inside the weather radar station, our appointment being arranged by one of our meteorologist friends. Normally, access is restricted only to PAGASA personnel.
During our visit that time, the radar was said to be non-functional, being hit by a lightning strike. But weeks later the equipment was fixed and the radar was brought back online. We were also allowed to go to the rooftop – below the radome – experiencing the strong, cool breeze while enjoying a near-360 view of the view.
Being on the high ground, its location makes it an appropriate site for a weather radar that can cover Manila. (The other radar that can cover Manila is in Subic). This is just one of the Doppler radar systems that were placed across the Philippines in the early 2010s, designed to accurately see the amount of rainfall and thereby allowing our forecasters to more accurately predict the weather.
Entrance – P30
Parking Fee – P20
Ride a bus bound for Tagaytay and get off at Olivares Terminal, then take a jeep going to Palace in the Sky.
The park offers a breathtaking view from the highest peak in Cavite. However, the park seemed to have been severely undermaintained if not abandoned, with broken railings and lampposts, and even the crumbling large signage with almost all the letters missing. The park needs improvement, even simple cleaning ops will do.