Taal Heritage Town, Batangas

I never knew beforehand that there is another heritage village located within my backyard. When I say backyard, this refers to an area within a '3 hour bus ride' radius of where I live - which is in Meycauyan, Bulacan. Alright it's give or take 3-4 hours from my place to Taal, Batangas. Well, I'm also unaware of the fact that aside from Taal Volcano, there's this town called 'Taal' that is located in Batangas. Last Sunday, I finally visited the place - not the currently sleeping volcano but the town itself.

Along with other travel bloggers I tagged along for a daytrip to the town of Taal, where we spent the great deal of morning and the whole of afternoon walking around the heritage village which consists of numerous Spanish colonial houses located along separate rows of streets. In contrast with Vigan's Heritage Village, in Taal you can actually step inside some of the old houses which has since been turned into a museum and were declared as historical landmarks and are now being looked after by caretakers.

This rustic town takes you back in time by giving you a peek inside some of the century old houses in the area. There's quite a few open for visitors like the Don Leon Apacible house, Doña Gliceria Marella Villavicencio Residence, the Agoncillo Mansion, Doña Marcela Marino Agoncillo historical landmark house, Casa Punzalan,  Shrine of the Virgin Caysasay and of course the Taal Basilica or otherwise known as Basilica de San Martin.

The interiors of these old houses were already redecorated, repainted and reworked to improve its conditions which has taken a beating in its more than a hundred years of existence. However, amidst all these improvements done in its restoration - one can still appreciate the unique appeal of its colonial architecture, the brick walls and floors, colorful tiles and antique furniture such as chandeliers, lamps, bedpost, accessories and many more.

I never got tired of pointing my eyes at each corner of the houses we visited as images of my grandparents house where transported back inside my mind as if it just happened yesterday. That house I had in my memory bank that dates back to my childhood in the 1980's, was constructed in late 1950's and it stood along a great part of our family tree's evolution until one by one it saw my mother and her siblings have their own respective families. Soon, everybody moved out then my grandfather died - a few years later my grandmother passed away and that house was torn down in the late 1990's and it was bittersweet for us to have gone through that. To think, that was just a mere 40 plus year old house. What more of these houses in the town of Taal and other heritage towns all over the Philippines.

Which has colonial houses still standing - through the efforts of heritage conservation advocates, that are more than a hundred years old. I felt the more inclined, we ought to be in fighting off commercialization of these heritage districts so as to not to rob future generations of an opportunity to peek into our glorious past.

Not all in Taal are made up of old colonial houses, there are now a number of modern houses built along these historical landmarks and I could imagine how it would be much better if we have a law, just like what countries in Europe have that prohibits anyone from constructing buildings, houses and other establishments that does not match architecturally with existing houses, especially those that dates many years back.

A uniformity of sorts when it comes to letting the past absorb the present even if its only through this infrastructures being put into place left and right by economic development. I'm pretty sure there's a lot of ways to balance development with nurturing and caring for our heritage sites all over the country.

The houses we visited were once owned by famous patriots who were known in social circle back in the day and were ardent supporters of the Philippine Revolution. Doña Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio of whom one of the houses turned historical landmark was named after - was referred to as the "Godmother of the Philippine Revolutionary Forces" by General Emilio Aguinaldo in June 12, 1898. Another Spanish colonial homeowner Felipe Agoncillo, was another popular hero of the revolution and was among the representatives of the Philippines at the 1898 Treaty of Paris.

When you think about historic towns, none can get more historic than Taal along with similar heritage villages found around the Philippines. I was glad that, after a long time of having only the Taal Volcano stands out as a purple thumb on my mind when one mentions the place "Taal" - today, I'll be willing to point out to anyone that one must not only visit the scenic Taal volcano and its surrounding lake, but thread their feet at the historic Taal town as well.

I'm glad I came on board on this day trip around my backyard and discovered for myself another place I should highlight on my map for future travels. Hopefully when I go back to this town, I'd be tagging along other friends of mine so they too, will get a bit of heritage conservation edge for added awareness of its utmost importance in our existence as a country.

From its wooden, stone structures, colorful ceilings and hand painted walls that represents its old and colorful past, walking around the town of Taal gives a different kind of fervor and delight - It must be that cold breeze of air that comes from the open space of the lake or the infectious harmless laughter of the towns' folk that makes you feel at home even though one is hours away from their accustomed place.

Traveling really gives that sense of homecoming even when you're just about to visit a new place. The town of Taal gives that kind of feeling. There I was, a part of generations that came after the older generations who once upon a time frolicked around the town plaza, attended mass at the Taal Basilica, fought alongside Philippine revolutionaries in search for independence from the Spanish.

Time might have created a long gap between then and now, but through this remnants of the old, from its old Spanish colonial churches, its antiquities on display like an old cooking utensil, a hot water pot, an aging piano, the grand staircase, old picture frames, 100 year old photographs and paintings all of it conspires to remind us, living in the present day that history is ongoing and rapidly changing as minute buries the previous minutes to oblivion, but it wont become 'history' if one forgets about it.

And only the stupid brushes aside history as if it never happened. Shout-out to new friends who I went with to the town of Taal last Sunday, Joel, Berniemack, AJ and Spencer. It was nice spending a day outside coming off from a long holiday break wherein all I did was eat, sleep and surf the internet at home. I got the chance to test my new telepoto lens as well. However, I regret not bringing my kit lens which has a wider angle starting from 18mm, because shooting from 18mm and below would have gotten me a better view of the interior of the old houses and the Basilica of Taal.

Well, there's always the next time to go back to Taal heritage town.

But, I did got some close shots of people living in the town, like the middle aged couple peeking out of their window, the hairy shitzu dog that barks softly on passing people like us, the young girl also by another window stealing a glimpse of the world outside and looking excited at her whole life ahead and the cute lady at the municipal hall near the statue of Rizal wondering why a mustachioed Rasheed Wallace look-alike is taking photographs at her direction.