That Rustic Little Town Down South

That Rustic Little Town Down South

Waking up on a Tuesday morning with nothing planned to do for the rest of day could be a bummer for someone who yearns to being on the road. A prior plan was not pursued due to conflicting schedules of participating parties. I texted my buddy Chie (though I’m hoping and praying that day when I wake up she will be the first one to text, and her message will read, ‘Pau, let’s go to Batanes.’) and asked if we will go to anywhere-but-here. Sharing the same bored feeling, I suggested to have a day-tour in Taal. We had a quick agreement and finalized our plan.

Over the years, I have been hearing about this quaint town in Batanggas. How the steep roads were lined up by the most beautifully-preserved vintage houses in this part of the country. How people still greet strangers taking a stroll.  It has been said that one could not help but feel that they were thrown into the past and catapulted into the time of our national heroes.

Leaving from Sta. Rosa, Laguna, I took a van from Balibago Complex priced at Php 130.00 per person. This passed through the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay national highway, Alfonso, Cavite, then Lemery, Batanggas. I was expecting the driver to take the Star Tollway route since it will be much faster. I was not aware that it was Sta. Rosa day. The main Rizal Blvd. in dowtown Sta. Rosa was closed off from traffic to give way to the Sikhayan Festival parade. On the positive side, I had gotten the chance of taking photos of the Sikhayan event for this first time.

Since I am taking backpacking by heart now, I made baon for the two us. Tasty bread with yummy cheese whiz as palaman (filling). Water for our drinks and off to Taal! I asked the driver ahead if this will pass by the town of Taal.  Etched in my brain is Taal town first before Lemery.

I was thrilled that I took the Tagaytay ridge route. It was an instant field trip because I did not expect the magnificent views I was getting of the Taal volcano! Haha!  There was even a zig-zagging route we passed thru and you’d think I was on my way to Baguio.

I was not bored since my eyes were busy eating up the lush greens along the way.  Passing by Alfonso, Nasugbu and finally the Lemery archways, I got suddenly nervous because I already missed Taal! I told myself that the driver must have misinterpreted what I was asking. He may have thought I was referring to the Taal volcano and not the actual Taal town itself.  Consoling myself, I just thought that this is gonna be at least an adventure!  Turns out since I took the back door route, Lemery first then Taal after! Nuts!

And finally, after an hour and a half with my butt now almost permanently etched into the van’s upholstery, I reached Taal town just before 11 AM.

I met my friend Chie at the 711 store adjacent to the park since she came from nearby Batanggas City.  This girl is in perpetual vacation, mind you! :-).  I asked her to just leave her wheels behind so we can really feel what it’s like to do backpacking.

Taal Municipal Hall

We wasted no time and started taking pictures of the surrounding houses. I did not know where to actually start since so many heralding ancestral homes are on my sight! It was kinda hard taking a clear shot since there were tricycles parked along the road and pedestrians constantly coming here and there. I spotted Casa Punzalan from where I was standing. We peeked inside and found no one. We thought it was closed since the gates were padlocked.  So without anyone to bother us, we took advantage and had some pictures taken in front.

Casa Punzalan is a perfect hotel for budget travelers.

They offer fan rooms at Php 600.00 per night, common CR.  You may inquire by contacting +639217600527.




Our next stop is the Basilica de San Martin de Tours which is said to be largest church in Asia.  The surrounding buildings are dwarfed by its intimidating facade.

 

The church is even more magnificent inside.  The altar’s silver tabernacle is made of silver. One if its kind in our country.

Adjacent to the church is Escuela Pia. Escuela Pia was a school established in Taal in 1839.  I thought this was a museum of sorts.  I was a bit disappointed seeing that it was converted to a local office. A health office I think.

 

On the doorsteps of Escuela Pia


After two hours of photo-shooting, my stomach is now telling me to eat so we went to a local restaurant called Taal Bistro.  From Casa Punzalan, walk straight ahead, upon reaching Calle de las Alas, walk across the street and turn to your right.  Taal Bistro is at the first corner to your left. Before this day, I browsed the net for places where we can dine, I happened to land on this website, www.happyfoodies.com, an article posted by Ferdz Decena (any travel blogger would know him) about
Taal Bistro.

Taal Bistro exterior

Taal Bistro is pricey for the budget-conscious. Our meal consisted of tapsilog with additional itlog na pula on the side, one extra rice (divided by 2) plus orange and four seasons for our panulak.  We took advantage of free water refill. 🙂 I had to cover my mouth to prevent myself from laughing out loud. You see I have a 700 ml water bottle with me. Hehehe. I mean we were damn thirsty man! So our waiter, seeing how water-drained we were, came back with a pitcher of ice-cold H2O. The total amount we paid was P445.00 for two persons. Oh well, at least naubos naman namin ang meal.
 
While eating, I looked on our itinerary list and contemplated where our next stop will be. It was nearing 2 PM and it was sweltering hot!  While we were taking pictures earlier, a local woman even told us in passing ‘Mangingitim kayo nyan’ with a smile on her face. We decided to head on to the following: 1) Galleria Taal 2) Leon Apacible Museum and 3) Marcella Agoncillo Museum. 
 
Walking down the main road, Agoncillo St., I can’t help but wonder how is the life of privileged Filipinos back 200 years ago.  Staring up at these enormous structures reminded me how patient its builders must have been. Its intricate designs probably took a good portion of their planning. Where did they get their building materials? What do they look like? I guess it is best to look inside these magnificent abode to find answers to my never-ending questions.

One could not help but feel a sense of deja vu, a blast from the past!

We passed by this charming home down the street. We quickly took a shot and the homeowner, Mr. Bert Mojica, joyfully invited us inside. Funny thing is, he thought we were foreigners (huh!).  Not to sound boastful but this is not the first time we were told so. 🙂 Kuya Bert was very accommodating.  He let us take pictures inside and even invited us for an overnight stay. Minding our schedule, we regretfully thanked him and headed on our way.  

 
Mang Bert with his friend
With Kuya Bert.  He speaks good English (It’s because he thought we’re foreigners, lol!)

 


We first dropped by at Galleria Taal. Reading their leaflet, Galleria Taal used to be the ancestral home of Domingo Ylagan and Maria Martinez-Ylagan in the 1800s. Composed of two sections, the early house, located at the back portion has a disctinctive tiled roof and was built in 1870. The once stately home fell into disrepair until 2004 when a grandchild, Emmanuel Inumerable (Manny) initiated its restoration together with the assistance of his brother, Roberto, a civil contractor. Both painstakingly reconstructed the house, preserving the antiquity of the stately ancestral home.

Our pretty tour guide (yes she is darn pretty, I forgot to have our picture taken with her!) told us that the total amount of the reconstruction amounted to a staggering 4 million pesos! Whew! I can buy a new house and lot with that kind of money. But then, I replied to her saying that how I wish I had a home just like theirs. 
Galleria Taal is a museum of antique cameras. Collections of Sir Manny brought straight from abroad.

An antique 24k gold-plated Nikon camera

We then went on ahead to the nearest ancestral homes. Just right across Galleria Taal is Leon Apacible’s and a short walk from there is Marcella Agoncillo Museum.  Not many is familiar who Leon Apacible is. He was a lawyer and a representative to the Malolos congress. The guy from NHCP (National Historical Commission of the Philippines) said that Leon and Jose Rizal were actually classmates and good friends.  Whenever the latter will visit, the family will reserve a room just for himself. I stared at that room and imagined Pepe sleeping. Looking out the window. Writing at the desk. Thinking of his beloved Filipinas. Such memories I wish could come alive right before my eyes. 


We then had a short visit to Marcella Agoncillo home right down the street.  I noticed that Leon Apacible’s house is more well-maintained.  
Capturing ourselves on this centuries-old mirror

By mid-afternoon, I was already feeling tired due to the warm temperature. There are still many sights we have not visited but we decided to cut the old house tripping short and visited Our Lady of Caysasay church instead. After visiting the church and the shrine for a few minutes, out of the blue, we finally decided to go to the beach for a side trip. 

Sanctuary of Our Lady of Caysasay


According to www.taal.com.ph, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps is actually 125 granite steps from the Caysasay Church beside the Pansipit river which leads up to the center of town. Originally, the steps were made of adobe stone, but these were later replaced with granite or batong song-song in the year 1850 by Fr. Celestino Mayordomo. It is now dedicated to the memory of San Lorenzo Ruiz.

San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps located at the back of Caysasay Church

The Sacred Well of Sta. Lucia is located not far from Caysasay Church. 

Sacred Well of Sta. Lucia

We met this ‘couple’ along the way too!


It was nearing 6 PM when we decided to hire a trike to reach our next destination. This little resort we visited was almost deserted with no one on the shore except for several children playing. Watching them reminded me how simple life should be.

The sand was not white nor the waters lapping at our feet were crystal clear. What held our interest the most, and the reason we went here, was to watch the sunset. Gazing at it is like watching an experienced painter bring his work to life. Mixing hues, enriching its subject on canvass. The sun was peeking one time them hiding in another moment. Its rays casting long shadows of ourselves, seeming to say, I’m going to sleep now, but will you take a short walk with me first?

Little feet, where are you going?


We did not bring any swimwear so we just jumped around and played with the waves. Across the Balayan Bay, Mindoro island is slowly becoming blurry, settling into the dark sky. Dusk was fast approaching and I saw the first light of the night. With the wind kissing our faces, we smiled, relaxed and thought it was a great way of culminating our day tour to that rustic little town down south.



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