The grandeur that was Taal

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By Danny B. Dangcalan

A Walk in the Park

Monday, April 14, 2014

BEFORE this tour, I only knew two things in Taal: its lake and its volcano. And it's not much, either. I only saw Taal Lake and Taal Volcano from postcards back in high school.

When Globe Telecom invited us for their Annual Stockholders Meeting at Fairmont Hotel in Makati last week, the invite comes with a heritage tour of Taal.

The operative word "heritage" did not sink in my cabin-pressurized head until we were at the old houses. I did not browse through the itinerary or bothered to ask our friends from PR Works. Until the last minute, I thought we will go sight-seeing in Taal Lake.


Our first stop was the Basilica de San Martin de Tours, or the Taal Basilica. Standing 291 feet long and 157 feet wide, it is considered the largest Catholic Church in the Philippines and in Asia. St. Martin of Tours is the patron saint of Taal.

The Taal Basilica was constructed in 1575, three years after the Taal town was founded by Augustinian missionaries. It was rebuilt in 1642 using stronger materials. In 1754, the church was destroyed along with the town of Taal in the largest eruption of the Taal volcano. It was then that the town and church were transferred farther away from the volcano to its present site, atop an elevated hill facing Balayan Bay. The ruins of the previous church can still be seen in San Nicolas.

Our next stop was at Villa Tortuga. Owned by fashion and interior designer Lito Perez, Villa Tortuga delivers a quintessential 19th-century lifestyle experience by letting guests eat period food and wear period clothes.

For lunch, we had their signature dishes like "adobo sa dilaw" or chicken adobo cooked with turmeric instead of soy sauce, sinopas na malunggay, and sinaing na tulingan. For dessert, we had thick chocolate and suman.

While still busy taking photos of the old piano and other memorabilia, my media companions hurried downstairs. As I hurried down to join them, I hear shrieks of laughter from the ladies. It turned out they couldn't contain their excitement at choosing which Maria Clara costumes to wear for the pictorial.

I joined the fun and find my own guardia civil attire. The pictorial took most of our time as everyone couldn't get enough of their photos, which all went to Facebook.

Our final stop was at Casa Villavicencio. Actually there are two houses that were dedicated to patriotic couple Don Eulalio Villavicencio and Doña Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio. The older one is a pre-1850 bahay-na-bato referred to as Casa Villavicencio. The adjoining house is called the Villavicencio Wedding Gift House because it was built as a gift to Doña Gliceria from Don Eulalio on their wedding.

Doña Gliceria Marcella de Villavicencio, also known as "Aling Eriang," was considered the "forgotten heroine of the Philippine Revolution." Born to one of the wealthy gentries in Batangas, Gliceria was one of those instrumental in the initiation of the Maluya Batalan, a revolutionary organization, that later played a pivotal role in the surrender of Spanish forces in the areas of Batangas, Tayabas, Capiz, and Iloilo. Gliceria supported this battalion morally and financially.

After a day's trip in these heritage sites, I realized that Taal's grandeur lies not on its famous lake and volcano, but by its glorious past, with stories of its local heroes and their role in Philippine revolution, as well as its iconic ancestral houses where its illustrious sons and daughters once lived.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 14, 2014.


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