4 Things to See in the Heritage Town of Taal
The Chosen Juan immerses himself in the history of this quiet town
By Dave Agbayani
May 11, 2016
Before my visit to the fascinating town of Taal in Batangas, the first thing that comes to mind whenever I hear the word “Taal” would be the volcano. Second, of course, would be the lake. Honestly, I didn’t know that there was a town bearing the same name so I was pleasantly surprised when I got there. And I was even more surprised when I found out that it has a total of 312 well-preserved ancestral houses and a number of historical artifacts. My experience in the town of Taal enlightened me about this hidden gem of the country that’s just waiting to be discovered. Allow me to share with you these four things you need to see when you visit this “Heritage Town.”
1. EL PASUBAT Festival
In order to know Taal better, you need to remember one word: EL PASUBAT, which stands for Empanada, Longganisa, PAnutsa (peanut brittle), SUman, BArong, BAlisong, and Tapang Taal—the products that this town is known for. Before the month of April ends, Taal celebrates the EL PASUBAT Festival as it colorfully showcases these crafts and delicacies, accompanied by music, competitions, parades, and street dances. Just imagine all the yummy food being served at the festival!
2. Galleria Taal
Originally the ancestral home of Domingo Ilagan and Maria Martinez-Ilagan in the 1800s, Galleria Taal is now a vintage camera museum showcasing the collection of Manny Barrion Inumerable, one of the grandchildren of the original owners. But this isn’t just a museum for vintage cameras—as interesting as that already sounds—but also a gallery for rare and antique photographs. The photo that struck me the most was that of Jose Rizal’s execution, taken just seconds before he was shot. It was acquired in a flea market in Pennsylvania—for less than a dollar. I wonder if the guy who sold the photo ever knew that it was worth a fortune.
3. Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine
One of the craziest stories I have ever heard is about the disappearing image of Our Lady of Caysasay in addition to the bizarre tale of how it was found. According to the locals, the six-inch wooden sculpture was caught in the net of a fisherman in a river. He bowed before it as he was mesmerized by its heavenly luster. It was venerated by the church and placed in a special urn, but it would disappear every night and return in the morning. It was given the name Our Lady of Caysasay, named after the casay-casay or the silvery kingfishers (a type of bird) that circled around it when it was found after it went missing for a long time. Add to that the testimonials of the people who were healed after touching or praying to the wooden image. You can see this mysterious and miraculous sculpture in Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine and hear more incredible stories about it from the locals themselves.
4. Casa Villavicencio
Casa Villavicencio is one of the ancestral homes in Taal. Before touring it, we were led to a room where we watched a video about its owner, Gliceria Marella Villavicencio. I’ve never heard of her before, but I learned from the video that she is the “Forgotten Heroine of the Philippine Revolution.” Going around the house was a tremendous experience as I got to see the area where covert meetings were held by Andres Bonifacio himself with the members of Katipunan. Villavicencio was said to be really passionate about supporting the revolution that she smuggled ammunition and food for the Filipino troops. Aside from its rich history, the ancestral house is a beautiful structure built in classic Spanish architecture and adorned with precious antiques.
I never would have thought that there is a town just a few hours away from Metro Manila that is bursting with so much history. The next time I would like a dose of the past, I guess Taal would be the first on my list.