Southern Tagalog Kulinarya Caravan: Discovering the ancestral gems of Batangas
Our Southern Tagalog caravan continues as we move on to tasting the flavors of the province of Batangas. From Tagaytay, Southern Luzon’s Summer Capital, we took an early morning road trip to the town of Taal in Batangas.
Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours
Taal was declared a heritage town for its well-preserved ancestral houses that are popular backdrops for period films. It is also known as the Balisong Capital of the Philippines, popular for its craftsmanship in making the world-famous fan knives.
We arrived in Taal just in time for the Sunday Mass. The entire plaza was filled with mass goers, and we were served our breakfast right in the middle of the crowd. Our breakfast, called “Taalmusal”, was a buffet spread with local fare like Longanisang Taal, Pork Tapa, fried eggs, fried rice, and Taal’s famous hot chocolate made from locally grown cacao.
Inside Taal Basilica
After breakfast, we explored the beautiful Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, including the small museum at the old convent. The museum houses antique pieces donated by locals, as well as preserved collection of antiques from the church, including old jars and bells.
Convent of Taal Basilica
Also known as the Taal Basilica, the church is the largest one in the Philippines and in Asia. Locals celebrate the fiesta of its patron saint St. Martin of Tours every 11th of November.
Tabliya from Taal
The interiors are breathtaking, although we were not able to explore it in its entirety since there was mass going on. After our quick look inside, we headed to the municipal building of Taal, where we met with some locals who demonstrated how balisongs are made.
Visiting the ancestral houses of Taal
We also visited some ancestral houses, including Casa Villavicencio, a pre-1850’s structure that stands atop the northern slope of the town. From the living room area, it has a fantastic vista of Balayan Bay. It’s the only remaining Taal home that stands with its original tin ceiling and canvass trompe l’oeil walls.
Inside the Wedding Gift House of Taal
The couple who owns the house helped finance the publishing of Dr. Jose Rizal’s two novels, the Noli Me Tangere and the El Filibusterismo. Inside the house, we found original copies of these two novels.
Lady demonstrating the local Barong embroidery of Taal Batangas
The house is also called the Wedding Gift House, as it was built as a newlywed gift. In 1872, Eulalio Villavicencio built the house – which connects to his parents’ house next door – for his young bride. The new house was called Casa Regalo de Boda or the Wedding Gift House, which has now been restored by Martin Tinio, Jr.
Miraculous Well of Sta. Lucia
After visiting the Wedding Gift House, we went to Caysasay Shrine and the miraculous Santa Lucia Well. Made famous by the story of two women who saw the reflection of the Virgin of Caysasay in the water, this spring-fed well is now more popularly referred to as the Miraculous Well of Sta. Lucia.
Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours from Taal Municipal Building
Since the story of the two women, a lot of people have attested to the healing and therapeutic powers of the spring. A coral stone arch now marks the spot where the Virgin’s image was reflected.
Balisong Maker in Taal
After visiting the Miraculous Well, we headed back to the municipal hall for lunch. Our spread had fried tilapia, chopseuy and beef caldereta.
Exploring the town of Talisay
After having lunch, we headed to Talisay, Batangas for our last stop for the day. First, a stopover at Club Balai Isabel to leave our bags, then we headed to San Guillermo Parish Church for our welcome reception and our fourth passport stamping.
View of Taal Volcano from Club Balai Isabel
Upon our arrival, we found some local dancers who are about ready to perform their local Sublian Karakol dance. Of course we thought we were just going to watch the performance, but I was surprised to find out that we were not just staying in the sidelines. Instead, we were going to take part in the actual parade!
PHILTOA President Mr. Cesar Cruz performing Sublian Karakol dance in the streets of Talisay Batangas together with local cultural performers and Tour Participants
All of us participants danced with the locals until we reached the beautiful Talisay Board Walk. Upon arriving at the Board Walk, we were welcomed by several tables and a stage in front. The local government of Talisay was so hospitable, and I must say, their tourism officers are doing a good job in promoting what the town can offer to its tourist.
Talisay Board Walk
Cooking Demo by Chef Peter Lamano
Tilapia ala King with Roasted Talisay Nuts by Chef Peter Lamano
Part of the program was a cooking demo showing the local fare of Talisay. Chef Peter Lamano led the demonstration as he prepared Tilapia ala King with Roasted Talisay Nuts – a dish in which all ingredients are locally sourced. After the cooking demo, there were a couple of cultural dance presentations featuring local folk dance routines, and then we had dinner.
After our sumptuous dinner, we headed back to Club Balai Isabel to rest and prepare for our next stop – Laguna!
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