When I first heard of the Taal Heritage Town, I thought it was about the volcano. Little did I know, Taal has the largest Catholic church in Asia, rows of ancestral homes, and rich history. Traveling here feels like a trip back in time especially when you hear the stories of the past.
Our visit here was a spontaneous one. My friend and I were only supposed to go to Lipa to buy a wireless mouse when I saw a picture of Taal Heritage Town online. I asked my friend if we could go check the place. She said yes and off we went. Wohooo!
Having gone to Vigan before, I was excited to see what the so-called ‘Vigan of the South’ would be like.
HOW TO GET THERE
From Manila, ride a bus heading to Lemery. You can take the JAM Bus Liner from either Cubao or Buendia. The fare is around 180 to 190. Next, ask the driver to drop you off at Taal Heritage Town. Viola! Welcome to the past.
TAAL HERITAGE TOWN
WHERE TO GO
Upon arrival, we immediately noticed the ancestral homes around the Taal Heritage Town. Seeing the buildings up close, we had that I wonder what it was like living-in-the-past moment. Unlike Vigan, all ancestral homes here are in top shape, and most of the houses even allow overnight stays, dining and touching of furniture. Despite not having kalesas like in Vigan, the tourist spots are a walk away from each other. You don’t need any transportation when going from one spot to the other.
Here is a list of the must-see places in Taal.
1. Basilica of St. Martin of Tours
Entrance Fee to the Upper Part of the Church: 50 pesos
Holding the title of being “Asia’s Largest Catholic Church”, the Basilica is a beauty to see. Despite being reconstructed, the church still stands tall by the town.
Going inside, you’ll get a view of the marvelous architecture only old churches can provide. It was a bit hard to take a decent photo since we went there on a Sunday and there were a lot of people.
For 50 pesos, you can further explore the upper part of the church. You can go to the top, check out the bells and get a view of the town.
2. Galleria Taal
Entrance Fee: 100 pesos
Known for being the camera museum, Galleria Taal is a must visit if you are a camera fanatic. For 100 pesos, you will see different types and brands of cameras from different times. The best part? It is knowing that all these cameras are still working. According to our guide, they are not being used because of the lack of films sold in the market for these old cameras.
We also saw a collection of photos here in the Galleria. Most are in black and white featuring the home owners, old Manila and some various pictures. My favorite photo is of this girl.
3. Apacible Museum
Entrance Fee: None
The Apacible Museum contains the life story of the Apacible brothers Leon and Galicano and how they fought for Philippine Independence. Inside the house, you will see antique collections, old furniture and paintings. Despite being old, the house is well taken care of. It is still in top shape.
There is no entrance fee but donations are accepted.
4. Casa Villavicencio
Entrance Fee: 100 pesos (with snacks)
Upon entering, you will be shown a short video about the Godmother of the Revolutionary Forces, Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio. When we went up the second floor, we immediately noticed the tin ceilings. In the past, tin ceilings were considered to be a symbol of wealth since only a few could afford such. Beautiful hand-painted wallpapers covered the walls. Exuding luxury and wealth, the place is a must see when you get the chance to visit the Taal Heritage Town.
If you like antiques, you will love this place. We saw the dining area with its long tables and the secret door where the Katipuneros used to hold their meetings during the revolution.
For only 100 pesos, you can tour around the house and dine at the garden. Snacks include suman, hot choco, and some bread. My favorite was the choco. If you want to bring home some, you can buy the cocoa used in making the hot choco.
READ: Manuel Uy: Beach Camping
5. Wedding Gift House
Entrance Fee: 80 pesos
My favorite house, the wedding gift house is located right beside the Casa Villavicencio. One of the reasons why I find this house intriguing is its past. Eulalio Villavicencio, a ship captain, gave the house to his soon to be bride Gliceria Marella. Imagine having a man give you a house as a gift? Who still does that?
On the first floor, you can see a copy of the original English translated books of Jose Rizal. As a ship captain, Eulalio once gave Jose Rizal 18,000 pesos for the publication of his works. As a thank you, the Villavicencio family were given the books.
What makes it more unique is the wallpapers. Being the most colorful among all the ancestral homes in Taal, it was easy to fall in love with the place. From what our guide told us, the place was based on Victorian houses.
On the second floor, you will find a lot of mirrors designed to the very last detail. What I love about this place is that you can sit on the furniture and even sleep on the beds. Yes, the house was converted into a bed and breakfast. You can contact Ate Joyce at 09178970363 for accommodations.
Check out my review of the place: Taal Villavicencio Wedding Gift House
6. Marcela Agoncillo Museum
Entrance Fee: 80 pesos
As the second ancestral home turned into a museum, Marcela Agoncillo Museum was once the home of Felipe Agoncillo and wife Marcela Agoncillo. Sewing of the very first Philippine flag was done in this house by Marcela, her daughter, and Rizal’s niece. The house features the life of Marcela and Felipe as they fought for Philippine Independence, and the symbols of the Philippine Flag.
Despite being turned into a museum, the house is still in a good shape where one can find the typical elements of a Filipino ancestral house.
7. White House
Entrance Fee: 70 pesos
When entering the Welcome To Taal arch, the first house you’ll see is the so-called White House because of its color. Unfortunately it was already closed by the time we got there since this was the last house we went to. We only had a glimpse of the outside. Having been born in this house, Felipe Agoncillo’s statue can be seen outside the house.
8. Escuela Pia
Just a few meters away from the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours is this sturdy looking structure. Escuela Pia is a school supervised by the church. During the American regime, the place was made into a central school.
When we tried to enter the building, there was an ongoing birthday party. I guess you can book this place for events.
9. Villa Tortuga
Entrance Fee: 50pesos
Tortuga meaning turtles, Villa Tortuga is our next stop after walking around the Taal Heritage Town.
Established by the prominent fashion designer Lito Perez, Villa Tortuga offers a once in a lifetime chance to try on some Filipino traditional costumes including a photo session for 250 pesos. Since visiting Taal was just a spur-of-the-moment decision, we didn’t bring enough money with us to pay for the rentals so we opted to pay the 50 pesos entrance fee and tour the house.
On the second floor, there are rooms for rent where you can stay for the night and experience what it’s like living in an ancestral house. The place also offers a dining experience. I’ll be sure to go back to this place and eat while wearing costumes.
10. Our Lady of Casaysay Shrine
At the end of the 125 steps of San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps is the Casaysay Shrine. It was built to honor the 17th century image of the Virgin Mary. Unlike the Taal Church, the shrine isn’t as big and as old but it is still beautiful.
11. Sta Lucia Well
Known for being miraculous, the well is a must visit. Built in the early 1600, the well is marked by an arch with a bas-relief image of the Virgin. Going there is a bit tricky. While going down the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps, look for some smaller steps on the right that lead to the well. If your lost, just ask some locals on how to get there.
WHERE TO EAT
Before checking out the ancestral homes, we first stopped by the Ala Eh Taal Lomi Sa Plaza for a lomi. The place is only a few meters away from the Taal Church, just beside the road.
For 35 pesos, you can have a taste of the famous Batangas lomi. When our order was served, it was a shock to see how full the bowl was. It was overflowing with toppings namely chicharon, liver, and kikiam. For just one bowl of lomi, we were stuffed.
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