Welcome to Taal — not the beautiful volcano and lake, but one of the oldest towns in the country! The town was founded in 1572, just a year after the founding of Manila. In the 1750s, it was then relocated to where it now stands when the townspeople were under the threat of the eruption of the Taal Volcano.
My first trip this 2015 was in this intriguing yet lovely little town in Batangas — quiet but vibrant with culture, not really commercialized but filled with businesses that are rooted in their rich history, inhabited by simple Batanguenos who speak of their hometown with love and fondness.
Here are 10 reasons to travel to Taal, based on my short yet really meaningful trip:
1. It’s the Barong Tagalog Capital of the Philippines!
This was taken at the Taal Public Market. The town is known for Burdang Taal, hand-embroidered barongs and sayas made from pineapple fibers and other local materials. Aside from barongs, they also make pillow cases, bed sheets and table cloths using these materials.
2. You’ll see a huge collection of vintage cameras —
This was taken in Galleria Taal, an ancestral house-turned-camera museum. This is just one of the many examples of how the town is able to restore and preserve its heritage and still make it a part of their daily lives.
3. — and a cute, colorful Victorian Era house!
If you’re a reader of my blog, you’ve probably figured out how much I love old towns. Out of all the old Victorian-era houses I’ve been in (at least in the country), this one’s the most colorful! It was a gift to Gliceria Marella Villavicenio by her husband Eulalio Villavicencio, in the 1800s.
The details and overall design of the house are also telling of how rich the town was at the time. That was her, the lady of the house — Gliceria Marella Villavicencio, the “Godmother of the Philippine Revolution”.
4. It is home to heroes and other notable figures in Philippine history & society!
This staircase leads to a secret room where Andres Bonifacio and his fellow Katipuneros held secret meetings. No, he wasn’t from Taal, but the owner of the house, Gliceria Marella Villavicencio (this is her other house), did so much for the country during the Philippine Revolution. She and her husband loved the country more than their family and their fortune. She is dubbed as the “forgotten heroine”.
MARCELA AGONCILLO, the principal seamstress of the Philippine flag, hails from Taal. This was taken inside their ancestral home, now known as the Taal White House.
The ever-so-talented OGIE ALCASID is also from Taal. A few years back he starred in the Caysasay Musical which tells of the story of Our Lady of Caysasay, one of the town’s patrons. (Photo credit: caysasay.com)
5. Marvel in the mystery of Our Lady of Caysasay, also known as “Birheng Gala”.
There are so many stories about this Mama Mary statue that I find amusing. I won’t narrate all of them here but this statue was discovered in the 1600s and has since then made several disappearances and has been found in the most unlikely places. To this day, people who see this image (located at the top of the Caysasay church) claim that the statue moves and rotates on its own!
6. Lift up some intentions at the miraculous well!
Apparitions of Mama Mary were reported in this rocky Caysasay hillside. The water in this spring-fed well is said to perform miracles! Suggest you wear comfy shoes walking here. (Find different styles of women’s shoes and sandals at http://www.zalora.com.ph/women/shoes/sandals/)
The faith of people from Taal is admirable. I tried washing my hands and face using the “miraculous water”. :)
7. Want to see the largest Catholic church in Asia? It’s in Taal — Basilica St. Martin de Tours!
8. You’ll meet people who will remind you to love God —
Editha is 10 years old and helps the church by selling candles and acting as tour guide in Caysasay. She wants to be a nun when she grows up, and she promised to pray for me. Huhuhu. :’)
9. — to value your family
The candles that these kids are selling symbolize family togetherness. The locals believe that if you offer these candles up (3 regular candles + 2 human-shaped candles bound in a rubber band), your family will always be together and happy.
10. — and to cherish your hometown.
One of our tour guides, Crystal, has been offered job opportunities in Manila but chose to stay in Taal to promote the wonders of her home.
This is Richard, our other tour guide. He’s 18 years, old, an Engineering student, a survivor of a near-death accident, and a theater actor who also tours people around on the side. Our Taal trip wouldn’t have been complete without his animated antics and narratives!
The boodle lunch in Don Juan BBQ House!
Special shoutout to Culture Shock PH for another enriching trip!
Want to visit Taal soon? Check out Culture Shock’s website.