Liliw is blissfully located at the foot of Mt.Banahaw. It is peppered with bountiful farms that are now turned into farm tourism sites. The name of the town is believed to be derived from the sound of a bird. History has it that their forefather Gat Tayaw, the village head wanted to have a name for their hamlet. So, he and his followers erected a bamboo pole and agreed that the first bird that stands on the pole will be the community’s name. Eventually, a bird humming “liw,liw,liw” rested on the bamboo pole. Hence, they named their settlement “Liliw”.
If you are planning a trip there soon, here’s my handpicked list of the best tourist spots in Liliw. Because of its proximity to South of Manila, it’s an ideal weekend getaway destination. You can do a day tour in Liliw, or stay overnight in one of the farms or in an old ancestral house turned into hotel in the town center.
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Mention “Liliw” and images of Liliw famed abaca slippers, shoes, and sandals immediately come to mind. The cobbled street of Gat Tayaw at the heart of the town is peppered with footwear shops that never stopped expanding. You can also find smaller shops along the other streets near the town center. Since we walk a lot, it is important to have a comfortable pair of footwear, be it shoes, sandals, or even tsinelas (slippers). Good quality footwear supports your feet and your body weight, and in Liliw, you can find just that. Here, you can buy all kinds of handcrafted Liliw footwear, from simple, comfy shoes to fancy and modern sandals. The sandals price starts at around ₱150 ($3), while shoes would normally cost around ₱250 ($4) up. There are also posh, expensive, quality handmade shoes that are usually exported, such as Ai-she Shoes that boasts of uniquely Filipino handcrafted footwear. And while there are Liliw shoes now on sale at large malls in Metro Manila, I still prefer to buy in Liliw because there’s more assortment and you can haggle.
LILIW TSINELAS MAKING
You can arrange a visit to a Liliw shoe factory, if you contact them in advance. And I was lucky enough to visit Ai-she’s Shoe Factory and see how they make their famous Liliw shoes and sandals. Ai-she shoes are typically exported, they are more expensive than the typical Liliw footwear. That is because of their uncompromising comfort, style and quality. They keep up with the latest trend by developing new designs for their clients. But their poster girl is the timeless espadrilles, a shoe that traces its origin from Spain. But at Ai-she, they recreated the design by replacing the sole typically made from esparto rope with abaca rope, which is derived from abaca plant, commonly known in the West as Manila hemp plant. Abaca (Musa textilis) is a specie of banana plant that is endemic to the Philippines. It is actually abundant in Sorsogon, my hometown.
I find it impressive that Liliw was able to make use of this plant, which is usually used for bag making in our province. Ai-she also replaced the typical cotton fabric used for espadrilles with high-quality handwoven textiles derived from the Manobos and the Indigenous Peoples of Zamboanga and Ilocos. During my previous trips, I have visited some Indigenous community and witnessed the elaborate hand-weaving process for their unique textile. It usually takes weeks and even a month or 2 to finish one piece. So, I’m happy to see that they asked permission and collaborated with these communities to create this footwear.
Liliw Tsinelas isn’t the only souvenir you can take home from Liliw. You may also want to try the delicious uraro cookies, a Filipino cookie with milky taste that is made from arrowroot flour. It is derived from the edible rhizome of arrowroot (Maranta arundinacea), a herbaceous plant that is native to Mexico, Central America, Southern America, and the West Indies, but is now commonly grown in Southern Luzon like Laguna, Quezon, and Marinduque. I remember bringing home uraro cookies from Marinduque and they taste equally delicious as the one from Liliw. I actually planted some variegated arrowroot plant in our garden because of this. Other cottage industries that serve as in Liliw include lambanog distillery. Lambanog, commonly known in the West as coconut vodka, is a traditional Filipino liquor made from aged tuba (palm toddy). It originated in Luzon where coconut trees are abundant.
The town of Liliw celebrates Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival every last week of April, showcasing the rich history of Liliw as well as showcasing its trendy handcrafted footwear. If you want to witness this colorful festival, best to visit Liliw during this season.
Until now, Liliw still emanates with remnants of the Spanish rile through its ancient edifices. The age-old, brick-walled St. John the Baptist Church (Liliw Church) proudly stands at the heart of the town center. It has a massive wooden door carved with intricate designs and sitting on its top is the image of the Baptism of Jesus by St. John the Baptist. It is one of the first places that tourists visit. A marker on the church façade quickly narrates the history of Liliw Church. Liliw was initially part of Nagcarlan back then until it became an independent parish around 1605, headed by Franciscan missionaries. It is said that the original church here was built in wood sometime in 1620, which was eventually replaced by a stone church. Unfortunately, it was partially destroyed when an earthquake hit Luzon in 1880. The church was then rebuilt but again, it was partially damaged by fire on April 6, 1898.
Today, the reconstructed church is standing in its full glory. Curious about the interior of the church, (because if I remember it correctly, I didn’t get to see it the first time I visited Liliw) I went inside the church. The sunlight passing through the gorgeous glass mural window adds more drama to its beautiful core. The altar is attached to the wall with carved, gold-painted reredos with statues of Saints. Inside the church is a statue of hinulid (dead Jesus Christ laid out). On the other side is an adoration chapel with an ostensorium that has an undeniably spiritual appeal. Devotees can buy and light color-coded candles here that symbolizes love, peace, happiness, etc.
After shopping for footwear in Liliw, you can try one of the cafes and restaurants scattered around Liliw center. Interestingly, this bustling town has a growing number of cafes. I can’t review them here since I haven’t really tried them yet, except for Cake Frost, which is a popular local food chain that serves pasta, mojos, and fruit shakes. I really like their mojos and cucumber shake. Arabela is a popular choice among restaurants in Liliw, but it gets really crowded during weekend. They serve steak and Italian dishes like pasta and pizza. But personally, if I am visiting Liliw, Laguna or other provinces in the Philippines, I would rather try a restaurant that serve local dishes rather than international dishes. And I can’t seem to find that in Liliw. If you know a good one, please suggest in the comments section below.
Due to its healthy soil, it is no surprise that Laguna is peppered with bountiful farms. And the great news is, some of them are now accepting tourists. Aside from the usual Liliw tourist spots, the town is now marketing itself as a farm tourism destination. So, I was really excited to visit a rising farm destination in Liliw- Esmeris Farm. There are other farms in the area but we only got to visit one.
Esmeris Farm is blissfully located in Brgy. Ilayang, San Roque, Liliw Laguna. It is a family-owned farm that combines conventional farming with farm tourism. A visit to Esmeris Farm is reminiscent of the farms in outskirt of Bali. Though there’s still a lot to be improved when it comes to the bamboo structures and swing here, it is pretty much a good start. I was happy to see that somehow, we are learning from our neighboring countries when it comes to using natural and sustainable materials. I will be writing a more detailed post about Esmeris Farm, but to give you an idea, the path to the farm from the parking is clad by bamboo forest, while the far itself is speckled with towering palm trees. The main attraction here is the swing and the bamboo structures. But if you plan to stay overnight, you can try camping at Esmeris Farm (₱250 – ₱350 per person) or better yet, experience glamping (₱2,000, good for 5 persons). There are also horses in the area, so, you can try horse-back riding (₱50 per person, 30 minutes). I witnessed how the locals here happily shared the little tips they got for horseback riding, so feel free to make them happy by giving them tips if you can. There’s an unassuming café that serves coffee and fruit shakes. Near the parking lot, you can buy locally-grown produce, such as vegetables and fruits, they’re pretty cheap.
Entrance Fee: ₱50 – $1
Parking fee: ₱20 – $0.39 (motorcycle), ₱50 -$1 (4-wheeled vehicles)
LILIW LAGUNA SIDE TRIP
NAGCARLAN UNDERGROUND CEMETERY
The only one of its kind in the Philippines, you can visit the Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery before or after your trip to Liliw, Laguna. Click the link below to read my full travel guide below.
TANAW DE RIZAL/TAYAK HILL
Another attraction to visit in Laguna, this relaxing place is a good side trip when visiting Liliw. Read my detailed travel guide below.
HOW TO GET TO LILIW, LAGUNA
Via Public Transport
- Ride a bus bound for San Pablo, Laguna. Alternatively, you may take a bus bound for Lucena.
- Alight at San Pablo, and take a jeepney (₱10) or tricycle (₱50) to the Liliw jeepney terminal. Ride a jeepney to Liliw (₱32). Alight at Liliw town.
- You may also take a bus en route to Sta.Cruz, Laguna. Alight at the terminal in Sta.Cruz. Then, take a jeep to Liliw.
|07:00 AM||Bus to San Pedro, Laguna (₱150 – $3)|
|09:00 AM||ETA San Pablo Laguna|
|09:15 AM||Jeep to San Pablo bayan (₱10- $0.19) or tricycle (₱30-₱50)|
|09:20 AM||Alight at San Pablo Fire Station, beside it is the jeepn terminal|
|09:30 AM||Ride the jeep to Liliw (₱32 – $0.62)|
|10:00 AM||Alight at Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery|
|Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery (FREE)|
|10:30 AM||Jeep to Liliw (₱10 – $0.19)|
|10:40 AM||ETA Liliw.|
|10:45 AM||Liliw Church (FREE)|
|11:30 AM||Lunch (₱200 – $4)|
|01:00 PM||Shop for Liliw footwear|
|02:30 PM||Tricycle to Esmeris Farm (₱60 – $1.17, 3 persons max)|
|02:45 PM||Esmeris Farm (₱50 – $1)|
|Horseback riding (₱50 – $1, 30 mins)|
|05:00 PM||Tricycle back to Liliw town center (₱60 – $1.17, 3 persons max)|
|05:30 PM||Jeep to San Pablo (₱32 – $0.62)|
|06:00 PM||Bus back to Manila (₱150 – $3)|
|TOTAL EXPENSES||₱804 – $16|
*Shopping expenses not included in the sample budget above.