Taal Heritage Town
Taal Basilica, the largest church in South East Asia
Dubbed Vigan of the South, and for good reason, Taal Heritage town is an enclave of culture and history. The biggest perk, just a two hour drive from Manila. Taal Heritage is small but packed with elegant architecture, historical monuments, rich stories and informative museums. It really is a gem of the past and a place worthy of a visit (or two).
Planning your visit and making your way around Taal is quite simple. There are some nice blog posts here, here, here and here that have maps highlighted with the popular sites to see and places to eat. Sadly, we didn’t look at these until after we had an eventful and time consuming lunch. Once you are in Taal, find a place to park and rely on your feet to get you around.
The Taal Basilica, canonically known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, is a Minor Basilica in the town of Taal, Batangas in the Philippines, within the Archdiocese of Lipa. It is the largest church in asia. the original church was first constructed in 1575 but was destroyed by the eruption of the taal volcano. since then it has been rebuilt in the current town of taal.
We visited both the Wedding Gift House and Casa Villavicencio. Why are they important? They’re super old and the families that owned them were super rich. I say this in jest because sometimes we lose the powerful history and only focus on the glitz.
The Villavicencio family was very wealthy but what they did with their money was profound. Their efforts helped fund a revolution that would eventually lead to the Philippines' independence. They would meet with the Katipunan - KKK (not the white supremacists) and Jose Rizal in a secret partitioned room in the Wedding House. Their donations helped publish Rizal’s novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo. source
Villavicencio Wedding Gift House
For his young bride, Eulalio built a house which was connected to his parents’ house by a bridgeway. Built in 1872, the new house was called Casa Regalo de Boda or the Wedding Gift House.
I was most impressed with the upkeep and tour of the Wedding Gift House. The condition of the home overall is more pleasant and well tended. The guide was an elderly woman, delightful and very informative. The Wedding Gift House also doubles as a B&B which I think would be a great romantic night away.
As you can see, the Wedding Gift House has been very well maintained and the ornate details have been well preserved over the years. The paint is not original but all the designs are. In addition the wood used in the home is all original as well.
Our lovely tour guide who has an extensive knowledge of the history of the home. This piano is even an original!
If you stay overnight at the Gift House B&B you get to eat your meals here!
We spent our 11th anniversary gallivanting around Taal Heritage Town which turned out to be quite romantic.
Jake and I first moved to Manila when we had only been married for 2.5 years and now we are 11 anniversaries in!
Gliceria Marella married Eulalio Villavicencio, a ship captain who owned a splendid bahay na bato, Casa Villavicencio, a pre-1850’s structure built on the northern slope of Taal town. It has a fantastic vista of Balayan Bay viewed from its sala. It is the only Taal home with an original tin ceiling and canvass trompe l’oeil walls.
Casa Villavicencio isn’t as well manicured but the tour of the house is very organized. A highlight of the tour was to see a secret underground tunnel that goes all the way to Taal Basilica from the dining room. The biggest bonus of Casa Villavicencio is the merienda of tablea pandesal and suman - all my favorite things!
For an unknown reason the yard and photo opportunity were not included in our tour, make sure to ask for it if you visit.
The tour begins with a short introductory video after which you proceed your way through the house. The home wasn't quite as preserved nor as aesthetically pleasing as the Wedding Gift House but still informative and enjoyable.
We learned that a window of this size means they were living a good life. I would have never known but appreciated this detail.
You can have a merienda at Casa Villavicencio or try Tampuhan Cafe. This blog post has a number of sarap options.
Tampuhan Cafe was one of the popular places to eat and I wish we would have had stomach room for a quick bite but we already had a merienda and lunch pala. I would have ordered the beef tapa and suman overload for sure!
|Filipiñana Photo Shoot|
Hands down my favorite part of the whole day tour was the Filipiñana photoshoot. Just one more step to becoming Filipiñana. I was seriously reveling in the attire, it was so fun! Villa Tortuga is a quirky shop dedicated completely to Filipiñana staged photos. They have racks of clothing that will fit all size and easy to put on as they just drape over the top of your clothes and fasten with ties in the back. A back drop is already set up for you but you need to provide your own camera for the ‘photographer’ to snap photos. I use the term photographer loosely because they are not a trained photographer. The photos, nonetheless, turned out great. I believe it costs around 200php for each individual.
Filipiñana Photo Shoot
My pants were charmed off by the whimsical details of Taal Heritage town. The preservation of aged wood, pops of color and loads of history tickled my fancy.
Details A Plenty
A few notes. Parking isn't easy to find and there isn't a ton of it. I would recommend picking a starting point from this map, parking at the start location and then walking in a loop around town. I would not suggest taking young kids on day trip to Taal Heritage town because it is a lot of time walking in the warm sun, the roads are not great for strollers and most of the sights are museums, which require quiet listening. We had a hard time finding places to eat. I was hoping for a historic meal or authentic Filipino food specifically for the area but it was hard to find. I wish I had read the posts mentioned earlier before our trip. I am happy there aren't chain restaurants in the area to dampen the vibe but I wish there were more obvious choices than the few we saw on Trip Advisor. We should have also done more research before heading down. From what I can tell there are no organized tours yet, which is a missed opportunity. There is more than enough exciting history and plenty of landmarks in Taal to have a successful tour - someone get on that!
Places we missed: the Flag Museum, Goco Ancestral House, art galleries, Antique Camera Museum, what else?