Taal, for many Manilenos, is all about the popular tourist destination of Tagaytay in Cavite and the dormant volcano.
But a lesser known town of the same name in Batangas province is home to rich heritage structures dating back to the Spanish era in the 1500s.
Most famous among the well preserved structures is the Basilica de San Martin de Tours, the largest basilica in Asia and constructed between 1856 and 1878.
The façade of the magnificent Basilica resembles that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Getting to the heritage town will only take you about two hours and a half South of Manila and many Manilenos can easily make a day trip.
The best way to explore the heritage town is on foot.
Here, the Spanish structures have been maintained well through the cooperation of ancestral owners of the houses, the local government, and the Department of Tourism.
Taal town of Batangas
An ideal experience in Taal is to enter the Basilica and be mesmerized by the intricate wall designs, century old religious artifacts, and statues of saints.
The Basilica’s belfry is also worth the climb for a magnificent aerial view of the whole town; you may also take your loved one with you for sight-seeing and a romantic sunset.
A few meters walk from the Basilica will take you to other historical buildings like the Taal Municipal Hall, known before as the Casa Real.
A former Catholic school called Escuela Pia can also be found beside the municipal hall.
The town of Taal is also known for the 17th century image of Mary Immaculate being housed in Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine.
The church can be reached through a tricycle ride; tourists should not worry about their safety as Taalenos are very friendly, helpful and accommodating.
A friend joining us in the tour was spotted by a tricycle driver walking under a scorching heat of the sun to get the car parked at the Basilica. The tricycle driver offered him a ride for free.
A few meters from the church is the apparition site of Mary Immaculate at the well of Sta. Lucia. It is also the site of the 17th century chapel ruins.
In 1620, a stone chapel was built next to the spring where the Lady of Caysasay appeared. The church was destroyed in 1754 during a violent eruption of the Taal volcano.
Windows to the past
Take another tricycle ride from the Caysasay shrine to the oldest houses in Taal, which is the house of Dona Marcella Agoncillo, who hand sewn the first Philippine flag along with her eldest daughter and a friend upon the request of General Emilio Aguinaldo.
There is a lot of interesting heritage houses in Taal and somehow a day visit seems not enough.
Taal also boasts of genuinely unique culinary experience that will please your palate.
Among the must try favorites are Adobo sa Dilaw, Tawilis, Maliputo, Tapang Taal, Sinaing na Tulingan, Suman, Tsokolateng Taal and Panutsa.
When going home, don’t forget to buy the world famous Balisong (fan knife) exquisitely handcrafted and Taal Barong that Filipinos and diplomats use for formal occasions, Burda placemats, Abaniko (native fan) and mantels (table runners).