Casas de Taal Tour

Praise God for friends around the world who are like my sisters even if we don’t get to see each other often.  I am thankful that many of them are near to share the adventure (together with the highs and lows) of trying to follow Jesus. Of course none of us are perfect but we help one another in our walk.

I appreciate that they laugh a lot. (I think it’s because they constantly lift up all their burdens and baggages to the Lord.)  They help me stay accountable and obedient to God.  They avoid gossip. They are loving, non-judgmental, compassionate, try to be good financial stewards.  If they give advice, they would most likely ask themselves first, “What does God’s word say about this?” before blurting out anything. They have many fun ideas that don’t get me into trouble 🙂

One of those fun ideas on this particular no-work day was to see the Heritage Houses in Taal, Batangas.

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L-R:  Lillian, Me, Marion, Ann, Gigi

A few weeks earlier, Lillian, Malou, and I had discovered things to do in Batangas City; while there, we found out about the Cases de Taal Tour given by Paradores del Castillo Hotel through the friendly owners, Ernie and Ria Villavicencio, who were seated at the table next to us. Since then, we planned to come back here. So sad that Malou wasn’t free on this day…

Not to be confused with Taal Lake or Volcano in Tagaytay, the Taal we went to is its namesake municipality in the province of Batangas fifteen kilometers away (from Taal Volcano, Tagaytay)  Its central business district is designated as a National Historical Landmark for the many historically significant events that took place here.

Here is our travelogue:

  1. Don Gregorio Agoncillo Museum – Dubbed as “White House,” this American Colonial home contains furnishings and artifacts from the 1800s.  Don Gregorio’s sister, Maria Agoncillo, became the second wife of General Emilio Aguinaldo.  Don Gregorio married Mariquita Villavicencio, daughter of Gliceria Marella Villavicencio.

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After touring the house, we were served our local specialty snack: Empanadang Gulay.

2. Galleria Taal (Camera Museum) – the first camera museum in the Philippines showcasing the impressive vintage camera collection from the 1800s of Mr. Manny Barrion Inumerable.  Here, we discovered that in the olden days, the way the ladies’ hair was portrayed on the paintings was indicative of their level of decency.  Hair that was neatly brushed up away from her face was a decent woman and if her hair was let down (nakalugay), that indicated that the woman in the painting was a “loose” one.

batangas camera museum group

3. Don Leon Apacible Museum. Lawyer and Judge, Leon Apacible, and his doctor brother, Dr. Galicano “Kanoy” Apacible figured in fighting for Philippine independence from Spanish and American colonizers in the late 1800’s.  After joining Gen. Miguel Malvar’s forces in 1897, Leon commanded a regiment which regained the town of Batangas from Spanish forces the following year.  In 1888, Kanoy was president of La Solidaridad, an organization which produced the publication (of the same name) that addressed the country’s problems and recommended solutions towards progress.  Dr. Kanoy also became Governor of Batangas (1908-1909); Representative of the First District of Batangas in the Philippine Assembly (1910-1916); and Secretary of Agriculture and Natural Resources (1917-1921).

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This was a beautifully appointed house with many well-made furnishings. We were, however, well entertained in the kitchen.

kitchen group

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4. Don Juan Boodle House. Boodle Fight is a military-style meal wherein all the main dishes and rice are laid out on heated banana leaves on top of the table.  At a signal, the people participating in the meal start to “fight” for their food and eat with their hands.  For the military where rank and hierarchy are always on top of mind, the boodle fight symbolizes brotherhood and equality among all regardless of rank.  Here at Don Juan, we were allowed to use utensils 🙂

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Taal Specialties Boodle Fight Lunch:  Tapang Taal, Longganisang Taal, Inihaw na Binakbakan, Pritong Tawilis, Adobo sa Dilaw, Sinaing na Tulingan, Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa with sliced tomatoes, onions, Atsara (Pickled Papaya) and steamed rice.

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5.  Taal Public Market.  Literally outside of our window from the Don Juan Boodle House, is the entrance to the market.  There are many dry goods for sale here such as Filipiniana attire for men and women, Philippine souvenirs. Bargaining is part of the culture.

6. Villa Tortuga is a Vintage Photography Studio. This was a very enjoyable stop. You could choose a Philippine period clothing (top or bottom) from the selection available and you will be provided the remaining matching pieces of your selection.

Tips to maximize your stop:

  • Make a prior appointment before coming.  There is a wrong telephone number on the internet. If you are able to reach someone through an online listed telephone number, make sure to indicate that you are interested in the Villa Tortuga vintage clothing photography studio.  If you just make an appointment without naming what you are expecting, you might end up with the same wrong restaurant we went to during our last trip.  If you are visiting this place as part of your Casas de Taal Tour, you are safe.  Our first Casas de Taal tour quotation did not include this stop but we requested to exchange other stops for this.
  • Bring a good camera (I just used my phone camera).
  • If you are sensitive to fabric, you can take along a thin V-neck long sleeve undershirt before putting on the costumes.
  • Bring a fan (paypay).  During the warmer months, the electric fans are panting to cool you down (unless if the aircons have been serviced since). For maximum comfort, decisiveness is key so you are not sweating so long waiting for your turn.
  • If you know your color season in advance, you can pick out potential colors from the hangers quickly.  Since everyone will have thick costumes on, now is not the time to be camera-shy and make everyone wait. If there are camera-shy kids in your group, try to practice or brief them at home before coming.
  • As soon as everyone has their costumes on, do the group shot immediately.  This way, whoever is finished with their solo shots can remove the costumes already and those who want to take solo shots can do so at a more relaxed pace.

The photographer was very gracious in giving everyone in the group solo shots.

villa tortuga group full

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7. Marcela Agoncillo Museum.  Marcela Agoncillo was the maker of the first Philippine flag.  She learned music, feminine crafts like sewing and needlework.  She and her husband, Don Felipe Agoncillo had six children. When her husband was exiled in Hongkong during the Philippine Revolution, General Emilio Aguinaldo asked her to sew a flag that would represent the country.  Along with her eldest daughter and a friend, she manually sewed the flag according to Gen. Aguinaldo’s design in five days.

This painting at the Pastor Ancestral House in Batangas City depicts the making of the flag.

img_1225-1The eight rays of the sun each represent a Philippine province. The three stars represent  the country’s three main island groups—Luzon, Visayas (originally Panay Island at the time), and Mindanao.  The white triangle is the symbol of the Society of the Katipunan; the colors blue, red, and white were commemorative of then President Emilio Aguinaldo’s gratitude to the United States at the time.

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8. Casa Villavicencio.   Don Eulalio Villavicencio who owned this house in 1896, was arrested and imprisoned for two years for his complicity in the Katipunan’s revolutionary movement.  He died shortly after he was released.  Because of his death, his widow, Doña Gliceria Marella Villavicencio, became a more passionate nationalist and supported the revolution’s activities by allowing the house to be used for secret meetings among revolutionary leaders, and providing food and arms. She also donated one of her ships to the newly proclaimed Malolos Republic and it became the first war vessel of the Philippine navy.  Underneath the dining room is a secret door that opens to a dungeon where Andres Bonifacio secretly met with Doña Gliceria:

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The house continues to be used by the present owners but it is open for public viewing as well.  There are many beautiful fine vintage details all over the house.

casa villavicencio panoramic sala

We had our traditional Batangas afternoon snack of Suman, Bonete, and Tsokolate Eh! al fresco and received our Mini Balisong souvenir.

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This is such a worthwhile, educational, pleasant, accessible, easy-to-achieve day tour for everyone including out of town visitors. Not only were the places beautiful and interesting… the stories behind them gave me a deeper appreciation for the freedom we have in our country brought on by the people who sacrificed and worked for the sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines. If not for their work, where else would we be first class citizens?

Speaking of which… here’s a previous post about our true citizenship:
DUAL CITIZENSHIP
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CASAS DE TAAL Tour Details:

Price: P1,499 per person  (Minimum of 5 persons)

10am-3pm (You would have to arrive in Taal before then. Coming from Metro Manila, the trip is about 2.5 hours.  We, however, opted for the additional Van Transport Service through the Tour Coordinator, Juliet Villar (Telephone +639175314831). The van provided a roundtrip pickup drop-off at a Quezon City address for P3,500 + toll fees + gas. (For groups of 6 or more, it’s P600 per person +toll fees + gas.)

Tour Price Inclusive of:

§  Welcome snacks (Empanadang gulay & Bottled water)

§  Lunch (Taal Specialties-boodle style)

§  Guided Tour specialist- We were very happy with our tour guide, Richard Mendizabal, not only for his rich knowledge in the historical significance of every place, but also for his artistic direction of most of our group photos, knowing where the best photo spots are.

§  All entrance fees

§  Afternoon snacks (Suman, Bonete & Tsokolate Eh!)

§  Mini Balisong for souvenir

Roundtrip Van Transfer

·         Php 3,500.00 1 van with driver (Maximum of 5 persons) Toll fees & Gas are not yet included.

·         Php 600.00/head (more than 5 persons) Driver, toll fees & gas are not yet included.

Juliet L. Villar, Tour Director

CASAS DE TAAL

Tel. nos. (632) 9135780

Telefax: (632) 9135548

Cell no. (0922) 803-8862 (0917) 531-4831

Website: http://www.taal.ph

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