Carcar is a good drive south of Cebu if one is interested in old houses. This post is a photoblog. Enjoy Carcar’s old homes!
This is a nice tour once you have done the usual Cebu tour of the Magellan’s Cross, Taoist Temple, the Sto Nino Shrine, the Gorordo Mansion, Tops, etc. Time to head south.
Hit the road going to Argao and Cagbalete and head back via Toledo, Balamban, and return to Cebu City via Nivel Hills – – where Marco Polo Hotel is.
You will be passing thru The cities and towns of Talisay, Minglanilla, San Fernando, Naga, Carcar, Sibonga, Argao, and then return via the coastal city of Toledo. You need to rent a car or hire a taxi for this wonderful tour. Hotel cars can be arranged for P5,000 for 8 hours, taxi’s can be negotiated for P3,000.00.
Stop and take photos.
Carcar is a major stop. You can buy shoes and slippers, or ampawa and chicharon. These are the major finds in this city. But the visitor will most likely spend a bit more time taking photos of Carcar’s beautiful church, the museum beside it, and its many old homes.
Among photo hobbyists, the biggest stop is probably Sibonga with the castle-like Simala Church. The structure is very much unlike any other church in the country. Perhaps unlike any other church in the world.
To non hobbyists, it is a pilgrimage place, pretty much like the Manaoag church in Pangasinan where devotees queue to get to touch the statue of the virgin
The top attracation of Argao is the cathedral. There is a nearby cafe for the weary and the famished, before heading back to the city.
The town of Taal in Batangas is only 2 hours away from Manila, and the escape from the city to this heritage village can be really dramatic. Almost like night and day. Imagine leaving the skyscapers and the humongous malls and then allowing yourself to travel back in time to something like 300 years ago. After a very short land travel.
Taal was once the wealthiest town in Batangas and the grand mansions are a testament to its glorious and historic past. Many of the homes have been preserved and are open to visitors. A few have been transformed into cafes and restaurants, while some have opened their doors to visitors for bed and breakfast.
The most noteworthy of the mansions are Casa Villavicencio, built as a wedding gift of a wealthy shipowner to his lady love who was belatedly acknowledged for her role in the Philippine revolution. There is also the Gregorio Agoncillo mansion, from where his uncle Felipe Agoncillo was born. The house is now famously known as the White House. There is Villa Tortuga where visitors can relive the past complete with period costumes. A visit to the Marcela Agoncillo house, probably he oldest of the famous houses, is so informative and is recommended for history buffs. The Apacible mansion allows visitors to see balisong actually being crafted. Across from the road is an old house where antique cameras and photographs are exhibited.
There are also the two most famous Taal churches – – Taal Basilica, the largest catholic place of worship in Asia. And the shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, a charming church with an interesting wishing well at the rear section, a few steps up a hill thru the San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps.
There is also the old Escola, now a center of Taal culture, the Casa real (town hall) plus the nearby town of San Nicolas, the site of the first Taal town and its basilica,
Truly, Taal is a most interesting destination. I have made at least 6 trips in as many months and it seems I will be making some more. Such is the effect that this town spells on visitors who love history.
I have also written separately about all these destinations within Taal, including a recommended cafe with bed & breakfast facilities (no, I am not paid to plug this place – – – I went on my own and paid the full amount for the lunch I ordered).
Come visit Taal. And maybe find a piece of yourself thru its past.
The basilica is officially called the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours. It is the largest Catholic place of worship in Asia.
The basilica as it presently stands is not the original Taal Basilica, no matter that it is very old. The first was actually built in the old town of Taal by the banks of the Taal Lake. A volcanic eruption ruined the basilica and the whole town had to be relocated to the present day Taal, and the basilica was built on this “new” location. The former Taal town is in a barangay called San Nicolas, now a town on its own, independent from Taal. A visit to San Nicols, therefore, is a necessary trip for travelers who want to understand better the history of Taal and its basilica.
The Taal Basilica is gigantic and so beautiful. A friend of mine from Masbate remarked that 10 of their town’s church could fit into the basilica.
Let me show the photos to better present how grand this church is.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay is always my first stop when I get to Taal. First of all, it is a feel good church. Small enough that I feel like I can have a heart to heart talk with the Lord.
It is beautiful. The ornate design on the ceiling is rather unexpected for a church of this size. Structurally, the church is not imposing. Neither is it impressive. Yet, it is beautiful, The facade looks like it has been sprayed with a fresh coat of paint, but the sides tell the story of how old the church is.
I like this church since most of the kids here who act as “guides” have become sort of friends. I say ‘sort of” because I hardly remember their names, but I remember some of the faces. Yes, I have visited many times that my face has become familiar to these kids.
The kids offer to guide visitors to the wishing well towards the back of the church, a few steps up the Lorenzo Ruiz steps. Any visitor going there for the first time will be impressed with the kids who narrate the story of how the statue of the Lady of Caysasay was found on the well, complete with dates. They will also sell candles and your purchase of the candles for offering at the altar near the well is like the “guide fee”. Be prepared to be peppered with requests from the other kids for you to also buy candles from them. You can refuse, or offer to give them small amounts as “consuelo” for keeping you informed, and entertained. If you refuse, the kids do not press too hard enough to annoy. In fact most of them will say “next time”, hoping you remember their faces so you can buy candles from them next time. And you will be pleasantly surprised they will even say they will pray for you. These kids are nice.
The prayer and candles offerings at the altar, and the effect of the water are said to bring good results, and good luck. It has been said that some sickly pilgrims have been cured.
Truly, the virgin at the church is said to be miraculous. But if one does not believe in miracles, the beauty of the place is enough reason to go, and say a prayer.
When one goes to Taal, Batangas, it is easy to find the church. Everyone knows where is, and there is ample parking space in the church yard.
The house of Marcela Agoncillo is probably the oldest of the Taal heritage gouse, built in the 17oos by her grandfather. It is in this house where Marcela sewed the first Philippine flag, but not to be mistaken with the flag of the first philippine Republic which she sewed while in exile in Hongkong with her husband Felipe, the first Filipino diplomat and patriot.
As one enters the house, tidbits on history can be read. At the bottom of the stairs is a diorama that shows Marcela sewing the flag. The Agoncillo family has kept their furniture and other memorabilia in this house, including laminated certificates of commendation for the illustrious members of the family, mostly in the library at the entresuleo.
The house is being maintained by the Department of Tourism – – no entrance fee is stipulated but donations are welcome.
Villa Tortuga is a very special destination in Taal. I must admit I skipped it on my very first trip. But when I learned of their studio and the period clothes available for hire, I have kept coming back. I have brought my family twice, and three sets of friends on many different occasions. Each time, we were there for a single purpose: photography while wearing those clothes that made us look like we lived in those days. Especially when we finish the photos in sepia, even as we took them in full color using dslr camera. That is going ahead of the story, so I will post some of those sepia photos last.
The house is right at the corner when coming from Caysasay Shrine as visitors head to the Heritage Village. Parking is available on an empty lot at the back, on the right side if you are facing Villa Tortuga. Entrance fee is P50, but another P200 will allow you to live in the past wearing clothes you can pick from a wide selection.
Like the other heritage homes, the house is furnished with old furniture. Guests can pre-book and arrange lunch within the villa. Enjoy the past while living in the present.