January 2014 – A quick trip to southern Luzon last January introduced me and my friend Vin to the pretty heritage town of Taal, Batangas.

It was very easy to get to this town, but considering that I was the one who prepared the itinerary, it was not surprising that we made a wrong turn (haha). Instead of riding a bus to Lemery, we went to Alabang, rode a bus to Lipa, then rode a jeep to Lemery (which passed by Taal). I do not recommend this route. If you know where to find Lemery buses in Alabang, choose that.

The history of the place escapes me; we merely went there to sample the Tapang Taal, the yellow adobo prepared with turmeric, and the famous kapeng Barako. Pilgrims flock to this town to visit the magnificent Taal Basilica (which claims to be the largest Catholic church in Asia), the Our Lady of Casaysay chapel, and the Sta. Lucia Well, a spring with healing powers. When we got there, a young boy who showed us around invited us to wash our face with the water scooped from the well for P20. We declined because we didn’t feel like it.

Taal is also popular for having many well-maintained ancestral houses. Because we went on a Tuesday, some of the museums/ancestral houses were closed to the public. Here are some of the beautiful structures that we saw.

If I am going to be completely honest, I’d admit that I really don’t care much about the stories behind the ancestral houses. I know I’m doing it wrong; I’ll probably appreciate the town better if I knew the stories of the families of the owners of the houses. But all I know is that these houses belonged to the landed gentry who helped fund the revolution, and then quickly surrendered to Americans. Anyway, we had fun exploring some of the ancestral houses that were open to the public, such as Marcela Agoncillo’s house. They do not charge an entrance fee but they are accepting donations.

Sadly, this was closed.

Thank you, rich families, for allowing us to visit your beautiful houses! And also to the tricycle drivers who did not even think twice to charge us a hundred pesos just because we did not know where the bus stations are.

(Photos by Vin dela Cruz; photos of the houses mine)