Whenever we say Taal, we immediately think of the volcano surrounded by a freshwater lake feeding the country’s need for tilapia. But have we ever thought of Taal and pictured a Spanish town? I bet most haven’t.
Located southwest of the lake and volcano, the heritage town of Taal is a quiet, yet thriving community of homes that seem to have overcome the test of time. More than a hundred years, that is.
Taal, somehow similar to Vigan but dare we say not quite, has its own charm: authentic and undisturbed. Looking around town got us asking, “Who knew that a heritage town can be found two hours away from Manila?”
Here are four places worth checking out in the lovely heritage town of Taal:
1. Goco Ancestral House
Built in 1876, the ancestral house of former Ambassador Raul Goco, son of Filipino Revolutionary Movement treasurer Juan Cabrera Goco and wife Lorenza Deomampo, is a classic example of a ‘Bahay na Bato’: a ground floor made of stone and an upper storey made of narra.
The house boasts some of the unique features of a Filipino ancestral home.
The ventinilla, when opened, allows the breeze of air to come into the house. It’s like your modern AC, minus the unit itself and electricity consumption.
Pio Goco, family descendant and current owner of the house, welcomed the Ford Taal Heritage Drive team to a sumptuous lunch of must-try Taaleno food in dinnerware used by former Ambassador Goco and his visitors back in the day. (Don’t worry. They’re squeaky clean.)
The delightful feast included the famous tapang Taal, adobo sa dilaw, sinaing na tulingan, kalamias, hilaw na mangga na atsara, a modified version of bulalo and sinantolan sa gata with okra. The last one, however weird, actually tasted amazing!
Desserts such as the suman with choco tablea and salted caramel nuts were unforgettable treats, too!
2. Marcela Agoncillo Museum
Museums in this heritage town are old houses, Pio told us. Marcella Agoncillo’s residence is no different. In fact, it’s one of the oldest built in the late 17th century. It was in this house that the Philippine flag was hand-sewn by the trio that included Marcela. The house is being maintained by the Department of Tourism.
One room inside the house is intended for prayer. We were told that these pieces of furniture are hella expensive.
The Agoncillos family portraits hanging on the wall gave that Hispanic/European vibe to the living room. #aesthetic
The museum is also filled with objects Marcela herself used: a desk, pots and even her sewing machine.
3. Leon and Galicano Apacible Museum
Just a few steps away from the Marcela Agoncillo Museum is another ancestral home-turned-museum of Leon and Galicano Apacible. Leon is a lawyer and a judge of the Court of First Instance of Batangas City. He became the finance officer of Batangas with the proclamation of the Revolutionary Government.
The museum tells the story of the Apacibles in 5 galleries: Batangueños in Revolution, Life of Leon Apacible, The Leon Apacible House, Life of Galicano Apacible, and War-time Diplomacy and Public Service.
The house is consistently Art Deco, with movement in the decorative architecture. This is evident in various shapes found in floor patterns and even the arrangement of chairs.
Not to spook you out, but sightings of a ghost were documented in this room at the second floor. Can you spot anything or anyone?
4. Taal Basilica
At the center of it all is the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours more commonly known as the Taal Basilica. Built in 1856, it is considered the largest church in the Philippines and in Asia, standing 88.6 metres (291 ft) long and 48 metres (157 ft) wide. (…and we thought Manila Cathedral was already big!)
The church’s interior is even more impressive. The dome’s design, made from lead, was the pattern followed in painting the entire basilica’s originally blank ceiling. It was collectively painted by various artists from Batangas.
The basilica’s convent is also regarded as one of the oldest in Asia. Inside are gigantic wood furniture and sculptures and even a framed ‘naturally mummified cat’ on display. (No. We won’t include images of that. You’re welcome.)
While the journey to this part of Batangas was full of road challenges, the Ford Everest we were driving delivered against tough terrains such as steep slopes, 5-kilometers of sharp zig zags and even narrow provincial roads. The amazing leg room, leather seats and noise cancellation certainly made the ride comfortable. Oh, and did we mention its fuel efficiency? To and from the heritage town of Taal, the tank was still more than half-full.
When would you visit this side of Taal? We’re definitely coming back for more sights and food!