Just a short drive from Manila and about 30 mins from Tagaytay is the historic and well-preserved city of Taal, Batangas. Sharing its name with the world-renowned Taal Volcano, the city where the lake-within-a-volcano-within-a-lake is often overlooked by travelers. But to those who have been to Taal, they will tell you that going there is like taking a step back in history. Declared a Heritage Town in 1987, Taal is home to well-preserved Spanish-era houses, museums, the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours which was once Asia's biggest church, and other notable historical landmarks. The setting for some of Philippine history's most important events, the names of notable Filipinos Emilio Aguinaldo, Andres Bonifacio and Jose Rizal will often come up as you visit the different places of interest. Take a peek at the heritage houses known as "The Wedding Gift House" and you will even see the first english-translated publication of Rizal's famed works "Noli Me Tángere" and "El Filibusterismo".
Also known as the barong and balisong capital of the Philippines, you will often see traditional Filipino garb as well as unique butterfly knives being sold in stores around the city center and market. There you will see a mix of Taaleno locals and people from Manila looking to buy dresses and different textiles for their gowns and barongs to be used in their special events. Taal is also proud of its culinary heritage which stems from the influence the Spanish had on their way of cooking which blended with their unique Batangas culture. Special Taal empanadas, longganisa, tapa and suman are their most popular food and is often purchased as pasalubong by travelers looking to take something special back for their loved ones back home.
For those with a taste for adventure, visit the famous Taal Lake for yourself and see Taal Volcano up close and personal. Tours can be arranged online and in the city to get the most out of your Taal Volcano experience.
For travel seekers looking for a quick destination not that far from Manila, the City of Taal should definitely be on your list. Inexpensive, educational, accessible and explorable in a day, its a great place to get your fix of history, culture and some great Filipino food. Definitely a destination you can keep coming back to.
Basilica of St. Martin De Tours
Seeing the basilica will remind you of how much the Spanish influenced the Philippines. It’s fascinating to see the elaborate hand-painted designs on the walls and ceiling. During the year of 1849 it was recognized as the biggest Catholic Church in Asia.
You can go up to the belfry to see the view of the whole town including the Taal lake. This is probably the most popular landmark in the heritage town.
There is a parking lot in front of the basilica near the municipal hall which is a good starting point to explore the town.
An ancestral house of the Ilagan-Barrion family that was transformed into a museum. It showcases the vast camera collection of Mr. Manny Barrion Inumerable and some vintage photographs of bygone eras (including a photo of Jose Rizal getting shot).
It’s also good to know that all cameras here are in good working condition. You’ll get a well guided tour for only Php 100.
A must-see place for anyone - photography enthusiast or not.
A popular heritage house to visit when in Taal, Casa Villavicencio was once home to the prominent Villavicencio family, a clan with roots deep in Philippine history. The displays in the museum aptly tell the story of Dona Gliceria Villavicencio who supported the Philippine revolution in the late 1800s.
The couple helped finance the Philippine revolution and their donations helped publish Rizal’s novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, literary works that played a vital role in sparking the quest for Philippine independence.
There's an entrance fee of Php 100 and is open on Friday to Sunday, 8am to 5pm although visitors can often ask the caretaker to accommodate them if they happen to go on days where they are closed.
The Wedding Gift House
Also known as Casa Regalo De Boda, this was given to Gliceria Marcella by her husband Eulalio Villavicencio as a wedding gift. The house features beautiful wide capiz windows and a spacious living area. You can also rent it for events, photo shoots and also operates as a Bed & Breakfast.
This was once owned by the Villavicencios and is now being used as the municipal townhall of Taal.
Originally, Escuela Pia was constructed in 1853 to temporarily hold masses during the construction of the Basilica. It is now used as the cultural center for the town.
San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps
125 granite steps from the Caysasay Church beside the Pansipit river which leads up to the center of town. Dedicated to Saint San Lorenzo Ruiz.
Paradores Del Castillo
Paradores Del Castillo is a bed & breakfast boutique hotel that is close to the historic sites. This is the perfect place to stay if you are to come and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Heritage Town of Taal.
Nilo's Antique Shop
Artist Nilo Bautista creates industrial art sculptures from metal scraps and different kinds of rubbish.
A cozy café near the public market. They offer affordable smoothies and treats perfect for a long day of walking. The café showcases a travel theme due to the owner, Melissa Catapang being a former flight attendant.
Don Juan Boodle House
Located in the heart of Taal town, Don Juan Boodle House is a restaurant that offers authentic Taal delicacies in boodle style - rice with assorted dishes served in banana leaves. No need for cutleries because you’re expected to eat with your hands. They also have frozen tapang taal and longanisa available for pasalubong.
The place where you can buy all of Taal’s specialties: tapa, empanada, longgonisang Taal, tulingan, barako coffee, suman, tsokolate, panutsa, barongs, dresses and other handicrafts.
Taal suman is a sweet rice cake wrapped in banana leaves. It is best paired with tsokolate or kapeng barako. Taal is known for having the best suman. Definitely a must try. You can get it in the public market for as low as 7 Pesos!
During the Spanish times, they would serve this as a welcome drink to visitors. If you were given a Tsokolate ah (watered down) it means you are treated as average or unspecial. If you’re given Tsokolate eh, (thicker and richer version) it means you are considered VIP.
The province of Batangas produces one of the best cacaos in the Philippines.
Lomi is a Chinese-Filipino soup dish which consists of noodles in a thick broth sauteed with small pieces of pork, chicken meat, liver, vegetables and other fried treats.
It contains a strong rich flavor and a pungent aroma that is sure to wake you up!
Thinly sliced pork marinated in soy sauce with garlic and calamansi. Taal is very well known for their pork tapa.
These homemade pies are stuffed with your choice of ground chicken, pork, or vegetables, mixed with potato and carrots. Taal’s version also includes vermicelli and sotanghon, giving it a special touch. We saw some people from Manila, ordering boxes of this tasty snack to bring home as pasalubongs.
A delicious fish primarily farmed in Taal Lake. Most of the eateries in town offer this on their menu.
Taal Public Market is also known for its embroidered formal attire. If you're looking for good quality affordable gowns and barong this is the place to find one.
Just before arriving at the Heritage Town, you will pass by the rows of stores selling these famous locally-made knives. Taal is definitely the place to witness balisong making and to purchase one as a keepsake!
Easiest route from Manila is through South Luzon Express way, exit in Sta. Rosa.
Go straight all the way to Tagaytay, turn left to Diokno Highway which is the road before the welcome arch of Nasugbu.
At the end of Diokno highway you will see a Flying V gas station. Turn left.
Drive all the way until the end of Lemery Road where you’ll reach the town proper of Taal.
Photos property of Lívph