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Get a Taste of Culture and History at Taal Heritage Town

by Angel C. Aquino

City dwellers often travel to Tagaytay for a quick weekend getaway.

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The cool air, sumptuous food, and beautiful views of Taal volcano provide some respite from the hot and chaotic environment of Manila. But if you’re looking to do more than just lounge around in Tagaytay, you can drive further south to the heritage town of Taal, Batangas, where a whole other adventure awaits you.

Founded in 1572, Taal was once a prosperous and influential town. Traders from all over the Philippines and abroad would travel here to do business with the locals. Though wars and calamities have threatened to destroy Taal over the centuries, the people always found a way to rise up and rebuild their beloved hometown.

Today, Taal is a vibrant town, rich in history and culture reminiscent of the Spanish era. As a curious traveler, you will enjoy discovering the secrets hidden in its well-preserved ancestral homes, filling your tummy with delicious local delicacies, and listening to stories about the Philippine heroes and heroines who once walked its streets. So what are you waiting for? Let the tour begin!

HOW TO GET THERE

There are two routes you can take to get to Taal Town via a private car:

Via Lipa: From Manila, take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) all the way to Star Tollway. Then, take the Lipa exit and turn left at the National Highway toward Taal/Lemery. Approximate travel time is two hours.
Via Tagaytay: From Manila, take SLEX and exit at Sta. Rosa. Take the Tagaytay National Highway, going toward Nasugbu. Once you reach the arch of Nasugbu, turn left toward Taal/Lemery. Approximate travel time is three hours from Manila, but if you’re already in Tagaytay, then it only takes an extra hour to get to Taal.

WHAT TO DO

Almost all of the town’s tourist spots are within walking distance from each other. Feel free to roam the streets, get lost, and discover all the wonders this place has to offer.

1. Say a prayer at St. Martin de Tours Basilica.

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You won’t miss this centuries-old church, which stands proudly on top of a hill. Named after Taal’s patron saint, this historical monument is the largest Catholic Church in Asia. Marvel at the intricate, hand-painted dome ceiling and climb up the bell tower to see a panoramic view of the town.

Calle San Martin
Taal, Batangas

2. Visit the miraculous Sta. Lucia Well.

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Walk down the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay. Encased behind the altar is Our Lady’s wooden image, which a fisherman found floating on the Pansipit River in 1603. Just a few minutes away from the church, you’ll find the Well of Sta. Lucia, where Our Lady was said to have appeared. The water in the well is also believed to have miraculous healing powers.

Calle Vicente Noble
Taal, Batangas

3. Explore the different ancestral houses.

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Taal is often dubbed as the “Vigan of the South” because of its cobblestone streets and beautiful ancestral homes. Perhaps the grandest among them is Casa Villavicencio—with its capiz windows, hardwood floors, and antique furniture, the house gives you a glimpse of what life was like for the rich back in the 1800s. Right next to the main house is the equally opulent Villavicencio Wedding Gift House, which Don Eulalio built as a wedding gift for his bride, Doña Gliceria.

Life back then wasn’t all about parties and socials though—the lady of the house, Doña Gliceria, was known for supporting the revolutionary leaders of Batangas. Casa Villavicencio has a trapdoor that leads to a secret room where the leaders—including Andres Bonifacio and Miguel Malvar—held their meetings.

Calle Gliceria Marella
Taal, Batangas
(0917) 897 0363

4. Check out old cameras at the Galleria Taal Camera Museum.

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If you can’t remember a time before digital SLR cameras and fancy smart phones, go inside this museum to see what photographers from previous centuries used to take pictures. The vintage cameras were collected by Manny Barrion Inumerable, who restored their ancestral house in Taal and converted it into a museum. You can also see photos from the 18th and 19th centuries—including an actual photo of Jose Rizal’s execution in 1896.

Calle Agoncillo
Taal, Batangas
(0906) 763 2449
https://www.facebook.com/galleriataal

5. Shop for local products at the market.

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Searching for the perfect Barong Tagalog and embroidered gowns? You’ll find them at the dry goods section of the market. If you want goodies to take home, go to the wet market and buy local delicacies such as tapang Taal, maliputo (freshwater fish from Taal Lake), empanada, panutsa (whole peanuts in caramelized sugar), and kapeng barako. For a unique pasalubong, check out the balisong shops on the side of the road and take home a variety of these folding pocket knives.

Calle Jose W. Diokno
Taal, Batangas

WHERE TO EAT

Feliza Café Y Taverna

INSTAGRAM: mikeymikeiam

Get a taste of heirloom Taal and Spanish dishes at this quaint restaurant by Chef Giney Villar. Some of their specialties include adobo sa dilao (chicken and pork in turmeric), grilled maliputo (when in season), and callos. Cap off your meal with Taal Suman a la Feliza, a sampler of sticky rice cake with three flavorful dips: Batangas chocolate tablea, coconut cream, and mango.

6 F. Agoncillo St.
Barangay Poblacion
Taal, Batangas
(043) 740 0113
https://www.facebook.com/felizacafe

Tampuhan Café

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As soon as you see the mural of a Spanish era couple on the wall outside Tampuhan, you already know this is no ordinary café. You and your loved ones will surely forget your quarrels upon seeing this café’s quirky paintings and tasting the sumptuous food. Have a bowl of lomi (thick egg noodles) and a plate of tapa or longganisa, along with the Taal Volcano Crepe for dessert.

Calle Marcela Agoncillo
Poblacion 6
Taal, Batangas
(0917) 890 3566
https://www.facebook.com/tampuhancafegallery

WHERE TO STAY

After a day of walking around in the hot sun, cool off and stay the night at these hotels in Tagaytay.

T-House Tagaytay

Everything about this place spells rest and relaxation, from the clean modern architecture to the smell of fresh herbs and fruit-bearing trees in the garden. Reward yourself with a full body massage or a mani-pedi at the spa to ease your body after a tiring day.

T House Tagaytay
3195 Calamba Road
Tagaytay City
(0939) 903 9587; (0917) 541 3584

Nurture Wellness Village

Nature lovers will enjoy staying at Nurture’s villas, which are surrounded by lush tropical gardens. But if you really want to commune with nature, stay at one of the glamping tents where you can enjoy the outdoors without having to give up the basic necessities. For dinner, have a meal at Gabriela Restaurant which serves healthy and delicious Pinoy food, with most of the ingredients sourced from their very own garden.

Nurture Wellness Village
Pulong Sagingan
Barangay Maitim II
West Cavite, Tagaytay
(0917) 687 8873; (0918) 888 8772

Hotel Kimberly Tagaytay

Families will enjoy staying at Hotel Kimberly, where both parents and kids can participate in a wide variety of activities. Harvest your own vegetables in the garden or visit the farm to feed and pet the animals. You can also swim in the pools, try the obstacle course, or simply sit back and relax at the Pavilion, where movies are shown every weekend.

Hotel Kimberly Tagaytay
Amadeo Road
Brgy. Kaybagal North,
Crisanto Ave., Tagaytay
(046) 483 8888

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About Angel C.
Angel C. Aquino is a freelance writer, editor, and fiction author based in Manila. She believes she can make her tiny corner of the world just a little bit brighter by writing stories filled with positivity, hope, and love. Check out her tips on writing, traveling, and healthy living at angelcaquino.com.

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