San Mateo, Rizal usually known for its Kakanin Festival (Rice Cake Festival) every September, but slowly it’s becoming a place for recreational hiking and biking. In fact, this 1st class municipality is often a venue for marathons and races, recently garnering the title “The Mountain Biking Capital of the Philippines.”
But while it’s becoming a mecca for sports events, San Mateo is a religious town, and is home to Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu, a miraculous image known to heal and protect people during calamities.
San Mateo is easily reachable from Metro Manila. If you will use a car, you’ll have to brave the EDSA traffic and make your way to Commonwealth Avenue to get to Batasan-San Mateo Road. It might be easier if you hail an FX Taxi in front of Gateway Mall in Cubao, which goes straight to San Mateo.
There are taxis, jeepneys and tricycles in San Mateo, so going around will not be difficult.
The Diocesan Parish of to Nuestra Señora de Aranzazu is home to the miraculous image that bears the church’s name. Many Marian devotees come to San Mateo to witness miracles or to give praise to the patroness of the city.
San Mateo has its own version of Mount Sinai, the peak where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God on his way to Canaan with the Israelites. While the local version is more of a rest stop to view the majesty of Sierra Madre, this spot does have the largest Ten Commandments in the world. Worthy of an IG photo, human to scale.
The more adventurous will enjoy the Great Wall of Timberland, a famous bike trail usually used by celebrities looking for a thrill outside of their careers. Timberland is often the venue for running and biking competitions.
If you’re into recreational sport, San Mateo is the place to be. Many sports enthusiasts go here to train on their mountain bikes or tire out their running shoes in the hopes of winning the next Iron Man competition. However, if you’re more into a more relaxed holiday away from the city, do have a kakanin tour as San Mateo is known for its rice cakes.
Don’t bother going to the usual food chain in San Mateo. There are many restaurants worth visiting, and may have some delicious meals on their menus. Head for Biker’s Café, an eater located at the lower point of a certain mountain. Some bikers consider Biker’s Café as their first stop in their ride up the mountain, and have some refreshments and the bestselling Tapsilog.
Anyone with a big appetite can chow down on some delicious grilled burgers at Gustavo's Burger & Bar along Sampaguita Street. Famous for their quarter pounder with oozing melted cheese, Gustavo’s is a hidden gem for American comfort food.
For a more homey experience, try out Lagablab Grill and Food Central that serves a mix of Filipino and western comfort food that can whet anyone’s appetite.
There are several bars along Gen. Luna Avenue, such as Big Way Music Bar and Grill, Heights Resto Bar, and Pig N Out Sports Bar. Of course, there are smaller establishments that offer beer by the bucket at more affordable prices.
There are transient hotels available in San Mateo, which may be a great choice for overnight holidaymakers who want to explore a place outside Manila. Several two- to three-star hotels dot the area, such as Timberland Sports and Nature Club, Ciudad Christhia Resort 9 Waves, and Green Nature Resort. These resorts are family-friendly and include large swimming pools and other amenities.