Travel Guide: Things to do and Places to Visit in Taal, Batangas
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Taal is a small municipality in Batangas province. Contrary to common belief, the internationally renowned Taal Volcano and Taal Crater Lake is not actually located in Taal, Batangas, but in the neighboring town of San Nicolas. Despite this, Taal town is a hidden gem that is known for its well-preserved culture and buildings.
In fact, the central business district has been designated as a National Historical Landmark by the National Registry of Historic Sites and Structures in the Philippines. Aside from the peaceful streets and ancestral houses, here are the top things to do and places to visit in Taal:
1. Minor Basilica of St. Martin of Tours
More known as Taal Basilica, this is the largest church in the country and in the whole of Asia, with a height of almost 90 meters and a span of 48 m. The construction of this old church began in 1575 and was renovated several times within the span of 1642 to 1990. It had been damaged by natural calamities through time, but it continues to stand proudly.
2. Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay
The coralline arches of this shrine that houses the Our Lady of Casaysay have been around since the early 1600s. Aside from the bright, intricate designs of the shrine, the San Lorenzo Ruiz steps, which total to 125, are also a must-see. They lead to the church from the center part of town and vice versa.
3. Galleria Taal
The Galleria Taal is the first vintage camera museum to open in the country. The collection is owned by a local named Manny Inumerable, who started out as a simple camera enthusiast. Also in the museum are photos of the winners of the Ginoong & Binibining Taal, an annual pageant held in the municipality.
4. Buy Balisong
The Balisong is a weapon that resembles a butterfly knife. It is invented by a local during the early 1900s. If you can’t buy one for fear of being apprehended in the airport on your way back, then you can always watch the locals craft one instead. After all, Taal is the Balisong Capital of the Philippines and the authentic ones are produced here.
5. Eat Lomi
If the Ilocos Region has the pinakbet, Batangas has its Lomi. And you can get the best of the best only in Taal. Lomi is a noodle dish that has Chinese roots, which the locals have modified to create a whole new dish. The noodles are flavorful because they are sautéed with meat and vegetables, and the broth is thickened with cassava flour.
6. Eat Tawilis
Tawilis is the only species of sardines that lives in freshwater environments, and it can only be harvested from the nearby Taal Lake! This is why it is a delicacy in most parts of Batangas, including Taal. Locals like to eat this whole with tomatoes, onions, and unripe mangoes.
7. Try Tapang Batangas
We’re not done with breakfast meals yet. Taal has more to offer for this one. Tapang Batangas, interchangeably called Tapang Taal, is an oh-so tender pork tapa that is loaded with garlic, soy sauce, and a bunch of other ingredients. Not having this while in Taal is equivalent to not visiting Taal at all!
8. San Nicolas Ruins
This church goes by several names, including the “First Taal Church” and the “Old Taal Church Ruins”. In 1754, the nearby Taal Volcano erupted, damaging the nearby towns, including Taal’s St. Martin of Tours Church. Although the basilica is still intact today, much of the original parts of the church, such as these, remain, and they serve as memorable tourist destinations.
9. Casa VillaVicencio
This house, which was built in 1850 during the Spanish era, is located in Gliceria Marella Street. It is owned by Don Eulalio Villavicencio, and has been the location of secret meetings of nationalists during the social unrest. Today, it stands as a heritage house.
10. Villavicencio Wedding Gift House
Located next to the Casa Villavicencio is the Wedding Gift House, which visitors can stay in. Like its neighbor, this house dates back to the same era, and its interior is decorated with heritage.
11. Agoncillo-Mariño Ancestral House
Another must-see museum is the Agoncillo-Mariño Ancestral House, which was also built during the Spanish Colonial Era. It is one of the oldest houses in Taal and serves to commemorate the contributions of Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo, the wife of Felipe Agoncillo, a significant figure in Philippine history.
12. Healing Wells of Sta. Lucia
A huge earthquake struck Taal, Batangas in the 18th century and severely damaged a church so that it sank halfway, and has rendered renovation or reconstruction impossible. However, after a while, spring water gushed out of the two doors of the sunken church. Since then, it was called a well, and this miracle is believed to be caused by the Virgin of Caysasay, whom the church was dedicated to.
How to Get to Taal, Batangas from Manila
Taal is just at least three to four hours away from Manila.
If you plan to commute, JAM Liner is one example of a bus line that has stations in Cubao and Buendia. These trips can take up to 3 and a half hours long and costs Php 200 per head. Ask the driver to drop you off at “Taal Town” or “Taal Municipality”. Make sure to clarify that you are going to the town, not to the volcano or the lake.
Via the SLEX
On the other hand, if you plan to drive to get there, you can take the shortest route via the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX).
1. At the end of SLEX, turn to the “Lipa Exit” lane. Turn left when you see the Taal National Highway and drive straight.
2. Turn right before the road where the Phoenix Gas Station is.
3. Follow the road until you see Alitagtag’s welcome arch. There will be another gas station on the left, where you should turn right.
4. Drive for approximately 3 km straight until you see Sta. Terisita’s welcome arch. Drive straight until you reach the National High way Junction. Turn right.
5. You will see another gas station after 5 km. Keep left, the town proper is just 2 km away.