Known as the home of Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal, Dolores was one of the few municipalities in Quezon that opened its borders to visitors at the height of the pandemic. Despite this, tourism was still badly affected, a major cause of concern since this is the main source of income here.

View of Mt. Banahaw from Bangkong Kahoy. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

The locals, thankfully, were able to turn their odds around by allowing TV networks to have safe, lock-in tapings in their town. Because of its charming barrio feels, mountainous surroundings, and peaceful atmosphere, the town became a go-to for shows like Niño Niña on TV5.

Spiritual destination 

One of the main draws of Dolores is tied to the Catholic faith.

Many from around the country flock to this town during the Lenten Season to pay homage to Our Lady of Sorrows. Also known as Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Quezon, her intercession is believed to lead to miracles.

Our Lady of Sorrows is known for its depiction of the Blessed Virgin Mary with a long veil, teary eyes, showing a sad expression on her face, and prayerful hands holding a handkerchief.

Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de Quezon is also known as the patron saint of Overseas Filipino Workers. Most people pray for the intercession to have a better life or to help them face the challenges that they are encountering.

Every Friday of the week, a tradition called Pangkuan rites is held to attend the mass in honor of Our Lady of Sorrows.

During March or April, devotees and pilgrims from around Quezon and its neighboring provinces flock to the town to celebrate Viernes de Dolores, which is commemorated through a Holy Mass and “Turumba”, a form of dance to praise the town’s patron saint.

While Catholicism plays a big role in Dolores, the town remains open to different religions and beliefs. Some devotees also go to this town to perform rituals in the vast forests surrounding its municipality.

“Pamumuwesto” is one of the common practices done in the mountains. People usually go up to Mt. Banahaw and find these “Puestos” or Holy places during Holy Week so they can pray for repentance on their sins and ask for divine intervention to help them face the challenges in their life.

There are more than 100 puestos on Mt. Banahaw which are mostly found in Dolores.

Another ritual done in the forest at the foot of Mt. Banahaw is the charging of amulets. People believe that getting amulets or charging their amulets in the sacred mountain will help protect the bearer of these charms from sickness.

Lush surroundings

While Mt. Banahaw and Mt. San Cristobal has been closed to visitors for years now, there are still a lot of activities that you can do in Dolores.

There’s Sta. Lucia Falls, which is both a pilgrimage and trekking site. There is a grotto where you can pray and light up a candle for your intercession. Religious statues and inscriptions are also present as you trek toward the main falls where you might stumble upon some people praying on the side.

During Holy Week, devotees usually visit this place to meditate and pray. You can also take a dip or swim around the waterfalls, surrounded by rock formations and forests.

You can check out Gunao Lake if you want to do a boat ride or have a picnic with a view. This lake is situated right in the middle of a vast forest. It has water lilies growing in the side and you can have a balsa or bamboo raft ride here for an afternoon stroll.

Bangkong Kahoy Valley Nature Retreat and Field Study Center, on the other hand, is located between two mountains.

Bangkong Kahoy Camp Site. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Pre-pandemic, the center’s owner Dion Pullan regularly organizes a music fair called Banahaw Tugtugan. The event is known to see local and international attendees, who pay a relatively small fee to watch Filipino musical acts.

Funds from the event help Bangkong Kahoy go to giving kids access to proper education and assist in preserving the environment, especially Dolores’ two mountains.

The Hobbit inspired accommodation of Bangkong Kahoy. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Bangkong Kahoy offers a different experience to its visitors. You are surrounded by fresh air, flowers such as hydrangeas and daisies, and welcomed ponies and the resident St. Bernard.

For a small fee, you can even pick fresh hydrangeas or raspberries while touring the place. Students who enjoy studying nature are welcome here. Different species of birds like the Whiskered Pitta can be seen as well as rare flowers like the Jade Vine, which can only be found in the Philippines, bloom.

[Bangkong Kahoy Valley Nature Retreat and Field Study Center is open from 7 A.M. to 6 P.M. For more information, you can check their Facebook page or call +63906-438-1410.]

Just a few minutes away from Bangkong Kahoy is Lukong Valley Farm. Here, swaths of land are dedicated to organic produce, coffee, and Dragon Fruit trees.

They offer a farm-to-table experience where you can pick as many fruits and vegetables as you want. These will be cooked then and there, and turned into healthy dishes such as their must-try spicy Turon or banana wrap with chili, and Kulawo, a dish made with Banana Heart or Puso ng Saging cooked in coconut milk with a twist.

Beautiful view of Lukong Valley’s Villas and Dragon Fruit Trees. Photo by SinoPinas courtesy of the Department of Tourism.

Lukong also offers different themed villas as accommodations located right at the top of the valley. However, those who want to go camping can pick a spot just a few meters away from the Dragon Fruit Farm.

[Lukong Valley Farm is open from 8 A.M. to 9 P.M. For more information, visit their Facebook page or call +63916-318-9945.]

Getting there 

If you’re driving to Dolores, you can go through SLEX. Take Sto. Tomas exit toward San Pablo, Laguna. From San Pablo, ride toward Dolores Church to reach the town.

If you’re commuting, you can take a bus going to Lucena from Buendia. Go down the 7-11 in San Pablo and walk or ride to the wet market from there. You can then take a jeepney there going to Dolores Church.

Don’t forget to follow safety protocols when visiting this town. Check out to know about different travel advisories for those who are traveling around the Philippines.