On a February Sunday, after checking out of our hotel in Lucena, my family and I head north to start a long road trip back home via Laguna. Our first stop is the next town, Tayabas, a charming town in the foot of Mount Banahaw and the home of the famed Rodillas Restaurant.
When Juliet Rodilla entered the restaurant scene in the 2000s, she probably didn’t know her venture would last about two decades, more so a pandemic that has shuttered other food establishments. A lot has changed since then, but her yema cake continues to be a crowd-drawer, with stores around Southern Luzon selling the delicacy.
We have our lunch at their main branch, a quaint restaurant at a street corner in the town center. It’s currently busy with the first floor swarming with customers. We find a table on the second floor, where a mural of farm folks add a rustic and colorful vibe to our lunch consisting of menudo, dinuguan, barbecue, and of course, yema cake.
After lunch, we head to the next town north, Lucban. The town is popular for the Pahiyas Festival, though at other times of the year, the town remains a pleasant destination, with its narrow streets, old buildings, and Mount Banahaw looming in the distance. Outside of town, the most popular destination is Kamay ni Hesus Healing Church, a popular pilgrimage site filled with sculptures of Jesus in pivotal moments of his life. A large statue of Christ’s resurrection stands on a hill a few hundred meters from the entrance.
On a Sunday afternoon, the place is filled with devotees and curious travelers alike, turning what is probably meant a solemn place into a bustling area.
Of course, a trip to Lucban isn’t complete without sampling the Lucban longganisa and pancit habhab. The former is a local type of pork sausage that has a garlicky, sour taste and is notable for its use of oregano and paprika. Pancit habhab, on the other hand, which is similar to pancit guisado, but with thinner noodles. Traditionally it is served on a piece of banana leaf and is eaten without utensils. Nowadays, though, it’s served on paper plates and with plastic utensils.
A pack of Lucban longganisa costs about PHP 180, while a small plate of pancit habhab in a streetside stall costs PHP 15.
After a quick drive around town, we finally leave Quezon and head to Majayjay in the neighboring province of Laguna as we start our long drive home.