Ala Eh! Taal, Batangas

I was fascinated when we visited a small town of Taal, Batangas. It was for the Immersion activity of 4th year ABComm students as part of the requirements in our Intercultural Communication subject.

Taal is richly endowed with well-preserved structures and a proud heritage. It has a deep well of lineage and culture that enlightened me more about the evolution of a country & its people. It was declared as a national shrine on January 16,1974.


Our first stop was in St. Martin de Tours Basilica.


It was named after the patron saint of Taal, Saint Martin de Tours, whose fiesta is celebrated every November 11th. The Basilica’s size and Baroque façade is awe-inspiring. It was hailed as largest Catholic Church in Asia, it was designed  by the famed Spanish architect Don Luciano Oliver, stands 95 meters long and 45 meters wide on a plateau in the heart of Taal.

Its extraordinary structure is even more captivating with the addition of dome ceilings hand painted with intricate detail. It was amazing. The original ceiling was painted by Giovanni Dibella, one of two Italian artists who painted the ceiling of San Agustin Church.  The style is trompel’oeil or “trick of the eye” which gives a 3-dimensional effect. Its tabernacle is made of silver, the only one of its kind in the Philippines.



I can’t imagine how much hard work, patience and passion was poured just to finished this awesome artwork!

Yet the most outstanding element is the illuminating altar wall made with shinning sterling silver and gold, symbolizing the sacred liberation of the tabernacle.

3Now if you’re a good observant, which I’m not, because I wouldn’t notice it if not because of my classmate, You can see the shape of a triangle with an eye on it, which for other people is a sign of Illuminati meaning “Enlightened”.


Historically, the name refers to the Bavarian Illuminati, an Enlightenment-era secret society founded on May 1, 1776. The society’s goals were to oppose superstition, obscurantism,religious influence over public life and abuses of state power (Madrid,2012), but for the people of Taal, Batangas, that triangle with an eye is the Eye of Providence (or the all-seeing eye of God) a symbol showing an eye often surrounded by rays of light or a glory and usually enclosed by a triangle. It is sometimes interpreted as representing the eye of God watching over humankind.

For a minimal fee, I was able to scale the bell tower housing, one of the largest bells in the country and you know what? it wasn’t easy to go upstairs, I must warned you if you are claustrophobic,


and since I forgot to ask our tour guide what this place is being called, I called it myself, Stairway to Heaven, because of the lights coming from outside the mural window.

and here’s my few steps to bell tower,

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and finally, I got it on top! here’s the bell that was built in the 15th century. According to our tourist guide, this bell was used manually way back by the priest using a rope. Now, it is all machine operated.



and the wind is so very refreshing that is why, I always shout in videos “welcome to Baguio!” I actually want to step on that big stone behind me for a better photo but I’m pretty much sure that the security guard wouldn’t like the idea.


and when you’re not afraid of heights, you’ll be able to see the beauty of Taal from above! This photo is a proof that Taal has well-preserved Heritage Houses.

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One of my favorite spot in Taal, Batangas is the Escuela Pia, a school supervised by the church and was named after the congregation established by San Jose of Calansanz, during the 17th century. It is originally named as ESCOLA PIA “escola” is a Portuguese word for school, while “pia” originated from the latin word referring to a girl, which means pious.

Originally, Escola Pia was constructed in 1853 to temporarily house the Virgin and hold masses during the construction of the Basilica.  It later became home of the Colegio de la Sagrada Familia, which was a school dedicated to the moral formation of the youth.


It is now used as the cultural center for the town.

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I wasn’t able to take picture of Casa Real from outside, but I will never forget how welcoming is the Municipality of Taal.

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Introducing the Taal’s delicacy, Panutsa. Taal is known for food products and sweets unique to the town. The panutsa, a peanut brittle candy is manufactured at Barangay Seiran.  It’s always as good as it is no matter what time of the day you choose to have a bite. Panutsa is available in different sizes between small bite-sized up to as huge as a regular plate, but aside from the taste of Panutsa, I also enjoyed watching the old man doing a demonstration of Panutsa making.


Actually, my classmate also tried mixing the Panutsa and it seems like he enjoyed the experience!



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 Casa Regalo de Boda



Our next stop is the Wedding Gift House or Casa Regalo de Boda, owned by the couple Gliceria Marella and Eulalio Villavicencio built in 1872 which has now been restored by Martin Tinio, Jr. It is a pre-1850’s structure built on the northern slope of Taal town. It has a fantastic vista of Balayan Bay viewed from its sala.  With its exterior painted in its original colors of mint green and yellow, this imposing house stands proud with its beautiful garden and wrought iron gates.  It is also the only Taal home with an original tin ceiling and canvass trompe l’oeil walls (


The couple helped finance the revolution. Their donations helped publish Rizal’s novels, Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.  The house was used to stock these novels for distribution to the people of Batangas in 1892. Early edition copies of these novels, along with other delicate historical memorabilia, are still preserved at the house.


It’s so sad that I wasn’t able took a picture of the House from outside, but I still have some photos of the well preserved indoor architecture and some priceless antiques.

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It is said that it is a miniature of the ship that Jose Rizal boarded when he left Pilippines using the passport of Jose Mercado.

It is said that it is a miniature of the ship that Jose Rizal boarded when he left Pilippines.

but before i saw these priceless antiques, I immediately fell in love with this stair! I don’t why and I can’t explain why, but as far as I remember, when I was a child, I was fascinated with elegant stair because I thought it defines your status in society, in a simpler explanation, it makes you look rich! wealthy! It was like a nostalgia, I was like standing alone in a bubble, seeing myself way back in the Spanish Era.


but what was more surprising was when I reached the top of the stairs, there was an old lady making an embroidery. It was amazing to see how Burdang Taal is being made. Taal is known for, Burdang Taal , its fine hand-embroidered Barong materials, pillow cases, bed covers, table cloths and napkins.




The Ilagan-Barrion ancestral house in Taal has been converted into an art gallery. Last March 20 – May 31,2010 the gallery was opened to exhibit Old Philippine photos and a collection of  vintage cameras. (


It is a living camera museum and a heritage house in Taal, an important reminder of what is worth preserving from the past. It features an exhibition of rare Philippine photographs from the 1870′s to the 1980′s, from John Silva’s collection, as well as hundreds of vintage cameras in working condition, from Manny Inumerable’s collection.  The  camera museum is considered as First in Southeast Asia  and one of the few camera museums in the world. There are more than 120 cameras in the collection and still counting !

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and here’s Mr. Manny Enumerable favorite.


This camera was made in 1984 in celebration of Nikon being declared as the European camera of the year . Only 2,000 pieces of this 24-K gold plated camera were made . The body is covered with lizard skin and had matching gold plated lens and is encased in a nice wooden box. This is highly sought by camera collectors around the world because of its beauty and rarity .

and of course, I wouldn’t let myself out of that house without any picture!


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Galleria Taal also offered us a demonstration of Balisong Making. The world-renowned Balisong fan knife, also known as “Batangas knife”, is expertly hand-crafted and use wood, bone or animal horn as gilt.


Other bladed materials such as bolosand knives of various shapes and sizes are produced by blacksmiths from Barangays Balisong and Pandayan where we visited the next day to see Mang Leo’s Balisong where I saw different kinds of Balisong! I also heard that the largest Balisong in the country can also be seen in Brgy. Balisong, but I wasn’t able to see it because we were running out of time.

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A travel wouldn’t be so complete without dropping by in a hometowns public market to buy their local products! So I made sure that I’d visit the Taal’s Public Market to see their delicacies and Burdang Taal.

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Here are some photos taken during our 3 days stay in Little Bridge. If you could notice, there are only few pictures of mine, well, I enjoy more clicking the shutter rather than posing in front of the camera 😉

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That was my three days of awesome Taal, Batangas #smdjourney! but before I end this, let me share with you the most unforgettable image I saw through my lense.

IMG_0103 IMG_0106THEM. I’m not sure if they were doing this because of their love for their tourism, to be able to promote well their hometown or because they need to earn money, feed themselves and their family, but whatever it is, I salute these children for their hard work, patience, passion and innocence. I am not even sure if they know what they are doing, what its purpose, but one thing is for sure, they are still a children. They still deserve to play, have fun and make some memories. #


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