Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Batangas: Taal heritage town walking tour

Taal, Batangas is one of the best-preserved Spanish colonial towns of the country. And it's home to a good number of heroes of the Philippine Revolution including the principal seamstress of the Philippine flag, Marcela Mariño Agoncillo.

At the heart of Taal is the Taal Basilica, dedicated to St. Martin of Tours and said to be the biggest Catholic church in Asia. In front of it is the Taal Municipal Hall which was built during the Spanish colonial period. Scattered around town are dozens of ancestral homes, old school buildings and other heritage structures. Which is why the town is perfect for a walking tour.

Last Sunday, we got to visit three heritage houses during our walking tour including the Villavicencio House and the adjacent Villavicencio "Wedding Gift" House, as well as the Marcela Agoncillo House which is a National Historical Landmark. In fact, Taal has at least seven National Historical Landmarks including the Taal Basilica, Taal Municipal Hall, and Escuela Pia.

Entrance fees to the houses are Php50 per head which is usually included in the walking tour fee. And take note that many of the houses are only accessible through the these walking tours.

From the Villavicencio Houses, you can walk down to the Caysasay Shrine through the centuries-old San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps. Also in Taal are the homes of Gregorio Agoncillo and Leon Apacible also National Historical Landmarks.

And don't forget to pass by the Taal Market to check out the piña (pineapple) fabric and barong embroidery. I always buy my embroidered jusi and piña cloth from there since it's almost half the price than if you buy your barong in Manila. Taal is also home to balisong-making, panutsa (peanut brittle) and produces a really tasty derecado longganisa.

Heritage Tours and Travel
Bennet (0918) 3155634
Mayette (0918)3644549
Jaren (0910) 8110350

There are half and whole day packages with meals (see their site at heritours.multiply.com)

Where to stay in Taal
Baby Joven-Quiblat and Benny Quiblat have rooms available for visitors. You can reach Baby at (0917) 8970363 for rates and avalability.

Robert Arambulo, a balikbayan architect from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, also has rooms available in his restored Taal house called Casa Severina. Contact him at (0917) 5018060.

Casa Cecilia has eight bedrooms and a restaurant that serves great tasting Taal cuisine. Specialties are bulalo (with a twist) and their maliputo. Contact numbers are (043) 4080048 or (0906) 2225339.
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