Heritage Town : Taal, Batangas

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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 skyscrapers 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.

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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.

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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.

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Casa Villavicencio, the grandest of the Taal heritage homes

the Agoncillo "White House"

the Agoncillo “White House”

dress up and get yourselves photographed in period clothes and setting at Villa Tortuga

dress up and get yourselves photographed in period clothes and setting at Villa Tortuga

the diorama depicting the sewing of the Filipino flag at the 1700s Marcela Agoncillo house

the diorama depicting the sewing of the Filipino flag at the 1700s Marcela Agoncillo house

you may chance upon "balisong" making at the Apacible House

you may chance upon “balisong” making at the Apacible House

old photographs and antique cameras in still another old mansion

old photographs and antique cameras in still another old mansion

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.

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Taal Basilica

I did not expect such ornate design in a church of this modest size

I did not expect such ornate design in a church of this modest size  : Our Lady of Caysasay

and finally, go to the wishing well and sprinkle/pour yourself with the water believed to be miraculous

and finally, go to the wishing well and sprinkle/pour yourself with the water believed to be miraculous

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,

Casa Real: the town hall

Casa Real: the town hall

the ruins of the original Taal Basilica in the nearby town of San Nicolas

the ruins of the original Taal Basilica in the nearby town of San Nicolas

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.

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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).

the common area for the Tampuhan B&B guests - - dine here or laze around

the common area for the Tampuhan B&B guests – – dine here or laze around

Come visit Taal. And maybe find a piece of yourself thru its past.

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Agoncillo Mansion, Taal, Batangas

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Not as grand as Casa Villavicencio, but nevertheless as interesting. Some will argue it is probably more interesting. That is because the mansion has a lot of antique items, including a huge mirror that the caretaker, Mang Domeng, said has been the object of desire of a wealthy female politician from the north, making offers to buy this antiquity.

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everything old, including the chandeliers

everything old, including the chandeliers

the coveted huge mirror is NOT for sale

the coveted huge mirror is NOT for sale

This is the house of Gregorio Agoncillo, the same house where Felipe Agoncillo was born. Felipe’s bust  is prominent on the garden in front of the house. Gregorio Agoncillo married a daughter of Gliceria Villavicencio, the recipient of the “wedding gift house” now known as Casa Villavicencio. Gregorio’s sister is the second wife of General Emilio Aguinaldo. Thus, more than the old furniture, a trip to the Agoncillo White House (and the casa Villavicencio) is actually a lesson in Philippine history.

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the bedroom - - I hope to stay here one time

the bedroom – – I hope to stay here one time

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The caretaker Mang Domeng has become a personal friend. After my first visit when my friends and I donated P70 each for the tour, he has given me free access and exempt from the donation/fee – – – thinking I was probably a tourist guide since I take friends to Taal a lot, and to the Agoncillo mansion in particular. But even after I told him I just love Taal and so I bring friends, he still exempts me from the visit fee. And asks me to park my car inside the property. Thus, I am developing affinity for this house. One day, I could take him up on his offer for me to actually stay overnight for a longer experience of traveling back in time.

I love to sit in this rocking chair and just watch people go by.

I love to sit in this rocking chair and just watch people go by. My wife probably felt she was a modern day Maria Clara

It is easy to find the White House. You can walk to this mansion from the Taal Basilica.