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A Beautiful Heritage Town Near Manila: Top 8 Things To Do In Taal - Updated 2019

Updated Aug 13, 2019

The Spanish colonial period left quite a big mark on Philippine culture. Just look at the old towns established by the Spaniards where heritage can be found almost everywhere. Vigan used to be the prime heritage destination in the Philippines, but with the development of Taal, Batangas, this new heritage town may be more attractive for people wanting to take a closer look at Spanish heritage but do not have enough time to travel. Here are some of the things you can do in Taal.

1. Beautiful ancestral houses: visit the Goco Ancestral House

During the Spanish period, towns and settlements were established by the Spanish authorities in different provinces. Batangas Province was one such location, where towns such as Taal were set up. Those who belonged to well-to-do families built houses near the town center or the plaza, while poorer families settled for smaller houses outside the town center. Ancestral houses made of stone and wood, such as that of the Gocos’ were built during the Spanish period.

The house was built in 1876 and it still is decorated in the style of the period. Ornate wooden furniture and decorative pieces adorn the house. The grandson of the owner, Pio Goco, will gladly tell you about the history of the house. Owner Juan Cabrera Goco served as the treasurer of the revolutionary movement against the Spaniards during his time. The Goco House is not open to the public and can only be seen via a walking tour of the heritage town that starts with a visit and buffet lunch at the Goco House.

Goco Ancestral House and Taal Heritage Tour

Address: Corner of Marella and Del Castillo Street, Taal, Batangas

Price: 30 to 35 USD per person, inclusive of lunch and museum entrance fees

Opening Hours: Open during tours only.

Duration: around 6 hours required.

Contact: +63-917 373 7346

Website: Goco Ancestral House

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2. Preserved ancestral house: Agoncillo Ancestral House

Unlike the Goco House, the Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion, located along the Batangas Provincial Road in Taal, is designed in another style of colonial houses and is painted entirely in white. A statue of Felipe Agoncillo, the lawyer who was part of the negotiations for the Treaty of Paris, stands in front of the house. Currently a heritage museum, it contains the family’s collection of Edwardian and Spanish-inspired local furniture as well as interesting collectibles from all over the world. It is operated and maintained by the Gregorio Agoncillo Foundation.

Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion

Address: Batangas Provincial Road, Taal, Batangas

Price: admission fee of 1.50 USD

Opening Hours: 9 am - 5 pm.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

Access: From the town center, you can walk to the Agoncillo Mansion

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3. Marcela Agoncillo Ancestral House: one of the oldest

The Agoncillo House was built in the 1780s, making it one of the oldest houses in town. Built by Don Andres Mariño, the house became the residence of Marcela Mariño de Agoncillo, the woman who was instrumental in making the national flag of the Philippines, and her husband, Felipe Agoncillo who is said to be the first Filipino diplomat. The house has been converted into a public museum and a national shrine under the National Historical Commission of the Philippines. Located along Calle Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, Taal, Batangas, it can easily be reached by walking from the town center.

Marcela Agoncillo Ancestral House

Address: Calle Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, Taal, Batangas

Price: admission fee of 1.50 USD

Opening Hours: 8 am - 4 pm. Closed on public holidays.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

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4. Admire centuries-old churches: Caysasay Church

This Roman Catholic church was built in 1639, making it over 350 years old. The church is made of coral with an arch with a bass relief of the Virgin of Caysasay, also made of coral. The church is named the Archdiocese Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay because it serves as the home of the venerated statue of the Virgin Mary, which is said to be one of the oldest of its kind. The town’s veneration of the Virgin of Caysasay is well known among Marian devotees, with its stories of faith passed on from one generation to another.

Archdiocesan Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay

Address: Taal, Batangas

Price: no admission fee

Opening Hours: mainly during mass or services

Duration: around 1 hour required.

Access: Walking distance from the town center

Contact: +643-421 3035

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5. Basilica of St. Martin of Tours: the largest church in the Philippines

The Basilica of St. Martin of Tours in Taal, Batangas, is considered to be the largest Catholic church in Southeast Asia. Measuring 96 meters long, 45 meters wide, and 96 meters tall (315 x 147.6 x 315 ft), the church has an imposing facade that is said to be built in the Baroque and Neo-classical architectural styles. It is made of coral stones and adobe. The Basilica of St. Martin of Tours is named after the town’s patron saint, St. Martin of Tours. The original church was made near the shores of Taal Lake, but was later on transferred to its current site, on top of an elevated hill near the town center.

Basilica of St. Martin of Tours

Address: Calle San Martin, Taal, Batangas

Price: admission fee 1 USD

Opening Hours: open during mass, starting at 6 am.

Duration: around 2 hours required.

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6. Come for healing: visit the Healing Wells of Sta. Lucia

Found near the Caysasay Church, this is the site where local women saw a vision of the Virgin of Caysasay. Since then, a sacred shrine was built on the spot. To this day, the arch of the shrine still exists but the rest of the chapel was destroyed when the Taal Volcano erupted in 1754. The wells are said to bring healing to those who visit — visitors can either drink or wash their face with the spring water drawn from the well. You can also buy a candle for 0.50 USD, light it and make a wish at the shrine.

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7. Try local cuisine: Feliza Taverna Y Cafe

You shouldn’t leave Taal without trying local food, and one of its famed restaurants is one that is known for serving up gourmet dishes that make use of locally available food. Feliza Taverna Y Cafe is located in another ancestral house, the Dioknos’. The dishes have history in them too, as most of the dishes here showcase Spanish influence on Filipino food. Do not miss their fried freshwater fish that can only be found in Taal Lake, or their Chicken Relleno (stuffed chicken) with a homemade salsa. The restaurant itself is beautifully decorated with antiques, old photos, and memorabilia. Those who wish to stay the night, Feliza also has a bed and breakfast, located on the second floor of the Diokno house.

Feliza Taverna Y Cafe

Address: 6 F. Agoncillo Street, Taal, Batangas

Price: approximately 10 USD per person per meal; 40 USD for an overnight stay for two persons, inclusive of breakfast

Access: Walking distance from the town center

Contact: +643-740-0113; Restaurant Operating Hours: Tue-Thurs, 11AM-10PM / Fri-Sun, 10AM-10:30PM

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8. Save the best for last: majestic and mysterious Taal Volcano

Taal Volcano is said to be the second most active volcano in the Philippines, having erupted 33 times. But this has also made Taal the beautiful volcano that it is now. The main crater is located in an island in the middle of Taal Lake. Because the crater also has a lake, Taal Volcano is also described as “a lake within a lake.”

There are two ways to go about your visit to Taal Volcano. For the less adventurous travelers, you can see a spectacular, Instagram worthy view of Taal Lake and Volcano Island in nearby Tagaytay City. Part of the city surrounds Taal Lake and one of the best vistas can be seen Taal Vista Hotel. For the more adventurous, you can opt to visit Volcano Island itself. This will require you to ride a boat to the island and trek up an established trail that will bring you to the ridge of the crater. Several tour groups operate tours to Volcano Island.

See our full list of recommended Hotels in Batangas (province) and also compare the prices with airbnbs in Batangas (province)

Taal: heritage and the power of nature

Taal was formerly known just for the spectacular and still active volcano found near the town. Now that it is being developed into a heritage destination, Filipinos and foreigners alike can take a quick trip back in history without the long travel. Taal’s proximity to Metro Manila makes it a good day trip option, but for those wanting to take the time and stay a while, a weekend break would be ideal.

This article was originally published on Mar 11, 2017

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I am a freelance writer living in the summer capital of the Philippines, Baguio City. I am passionate about writing and living and anything in between.

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