Starting a new year always comes with the drive to try something new, learn something new… or go somewhere new. Somewhere different from your usual vacation destinations… like going on a mini field trip… or go back in time!
Last January 11, Arbie and I decided to go back to the Spanish era, and visited the Heritage Town of Taal in Batangas. Imagine, Calle Crisologo in Vigan… it’s just a strip, but it takes you back in time, right? Well, how about a whole town of Calle Crisologos? Plus equally good food, colder wind, balisong, embroidered products, and a more laid-back feel? I knooow! That’s Taal. It’s awesome!
We arrived in Taal at around 10 in the morning. We had breakfast on the way there. Thanks to Arbie’s explorative cooking, and trusty picnic basket and cooler–we’re loaded for the day trip.
Stop #1: St. Martin de Tours Basilica
This is the biggest Catholic church in Asia, I guess in terms of the size of the structure, not its capacity. We climbed up the bell tower, and in there the whole town is visible. It’s a nice view.
Stop #2: Taal Town Park
Well, it’s where we parked, located just in front of the Basilica. They have this huge concrete letters of the town’s name. You see, it’s a playground for the local kids! We wanted to have a picture with the letters… alone, but the kids were all over the structure. Arbie used his “charms” and told the kids, “Sige, kukuhanan ko kayo jan ha, pero kami naman susunod.” And so they left after we took photos of them allowing us to have these perfect turista shots:
Stop #3: Taal Town Market
Some of the products Taal is known for are their tapa, and embroidered and native products. They’re all over the market! We didn’t buy tapa, but we got a basket and some table cloth. And if you’re looking for good barongs and baro’t saya, Taal is the place to go!
Stop #4: Don Juan BBQ
Lunch tiiiime! This is one of the well-known restaurants in the area. We had Adobo sa Dilaw, Sinigang na Baboy, and Crispy Tawilis (of course!), all for a very sulit price of around 500 pesos!
Stop #5: Casa Gahol
Actually, we’ve just mistaken it for the entrance of Villa Tortuga. It is an art gallery. They have a pretty good collection of paintings!
Stop #6: Villa Tortuga
Villa Tortuga is an old house converted to a gallery of old objects. They also have a photo studio where you can have your photo taken while you’re wearing old style clothes and make it look like it’s taken back in the Spanish era. No required fees except for the studio photo.
Stop #7: Marcella Agoncillo Museum
Oh man, I fell in love with Marcella Agoncillo by just looking at the sculpture! This is the house where the Agoncillo family lived, before and after the revolution. Marcella Agoncillo was the one who sewed the Philippine flag. Yes, the sculpture depiction of the sewing is displayed here, but we were reminded that the flag was, in fact, sewn in HongKong. History refreshed! No entrance fee, but they accept donations.
Stop #8.1: San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps
This is the stairway connecting the Our Lady of Caysasay Church/Shrine and the Basilica.
Stop #8.2: Our Lady of Caysasay Church
The figurine of Our Lady of Caysasay is displayed here. Before we enter the church, we met a young boy named Army. He was selling us candles, but ended up serving as our tour guide, and told us the history of Our Lady of Caysasay. History: the figurine was caught in a fishing net… so many years ago.
Stop #8.3: Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine
Armin told us that the Shrine was built in the exact same location of the well where some two Marias supposedly saw the image of the Virgin Mother reflected on the water, while some birds called Casay-Casay was flying around her… hence the name. The water from the well was, from then on, believed to be miraculous. Wash yourself with the water, make a wish, and when your wish comes true, you should go back to the shrine and offer some red flowers. Hoping we’ll be back there soon with some red flowers!
Stop #9: Don Leon Apacible Museum
Don Leon Apacible was a government official back then, and this was his family’s house. So many cool old school stuff! No entrance fee, but they accept donations.
Stop #10: Galleria Taal
This is the Ilagan-Barrion ancestral house transformed into a gallery of old cameras! There’s more than a hundred of cameras displayed here, and some really cool old photos. The 3D camera blew my mind! Haha. This one has an entrance fee, around a hundred, I think?
Stop #12: STAR Tollway Roadside (Haha!)
Since we still had some food that Arbie prepared, and it was fcking cold, we decided to grab some kapeng barako in a gasoline station in the middle of the highway. It’s cold but we love the freezing wind, so we ate at the parking lot. Haha!
Taal is an hour and half drive from Calamba City. From QC, I’m not really sure. But it took me two hours to reach Calamba on a Saturday morning. Haha! Anyway, just Google Maps the directions, I’m quite directionally-challenged, I can’t help you with that. But I can suggest a good playlist while on you way there! Play all three albums of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros! Nothing beats Folk while driving on a country-side highway. It feels fucking amazing!
It was really a fun field trip! An educational trip feels so much different when you do it while you’re already working, and especially if you organize it on your own. You go to places because you wanted to learn, and not because you’re required to.