Cardinal grapes are exquisitely red and tastes really sweet. It is also good for the heart. I didn’t know that they grow abundantly in the Philippines, especially in a simple and quiet community of Urayong in Bauang, La Union.
Dubbed as the “Grape Capital of the Philippines”, Urayong may be the country’s very own Nappa Valley as it hosts several vineyards, which has become a steady attraction for tourists and non-surfers who frequent the area, especially during the harvest season. Unknown to many, the grape industry in the country began to flourish since 1970s.
One of the grape farms I’ve recently been to, that shows a lot of promise and potential is the Calica Grapes Farm. It is owned by the humble and very accommodating Calica Family, headed by the father Virgilio and daughter Jenee, who has been into the grape business since 2010.
Though the farm is just small with trellises just as tall as I am, I was surprised by the copious number of grapes growing on the vine. And they are not just for viewing spectacle, they are also ready for picking, at least the ripe ones.
I was so mesmerized by the sight of grapes, some still changing colors from green to red. It was my first time seeing them still attached to the vine, and picking them for real. The pick and pay activity costs P200 per kilo of grapes harvested.
Since I am already in the area, I also visited the other more popular and more established grapes farms nearby owned by the Gapuz and Lomboy. The owner of Calica Grapes Farm is actually related by blood to these two families, who pioneered the grapes industry in La Union.
Gapuz Grapes Farm is the perfect place for families and friends who want to avail boodle fight packages, while Lomboy Farms, the premier viticulturist and the first DOT-accredited Agri-tourism farm site in Ilocos Region, is more of an educational hub for those who would want to know more about the history of grape cultivation in the Philippines. Aside from the fresh grapes, all the grape farms also sell grape cuttings and wines, which by the way taste sweeter than the regular ones.
But what I really like about Calica Grapes Farm is that they don’t charge entrance fees, and when there are no other visitors, they would gladly take your photos with the luscious, photogenic grapes. They seem genuinely happy to receive visitors, especially coming from far-flung areas, who took the time to visit the farm.
And before I left, still in awe of what I just experienced, I’m beginning to believe that just like grapes, for everything, there is indeed a season.
How to get to Calica Grapes Farm and tips:
1. From Manila, take Partas, Florida or Farinas bus (with terminals in Cubao, Manila, Pasay) bound for Laoag or Vigan. Get off at Urayong, Bauang, La Union (near the boundary of Bauang and Caba). Landmark is the painted sign that says Urayong – Grape Capital of the Philippines.
2. From the highway of Urayong and right across the signage, take the road going to the beach. Walk for about 10 minutes going to Calica. There’s a signage along the way.
3. From Calica, Gapuz is another 5 minute-walk. Lomboy, on the other hand is conveniently located on the highway, and about 15-minute walk from Calica or Gapuz.
4. Make sure that it is harvest season (usually happens thrice a year) before you come. Contact Virgilio Calica at 0907-9050303 or 0905-5505046.