Taal Town: Galleria Taal

Galleria Taal

Welcome to the second part of my Taal Travel series.

Taal town, sometimes referred to as The Vigan of the South, is just a few hours’ drive away from Manila. It is one of the towns D and I go to for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s a lot to see in Taal, from the historical and grand Taal Basilica, to the beautifully preserved vintage houses.

One of the vintage houses that we recently explored was the ancestral home of the Ilangan-Barrion family, the Galleria Taal.

It was built around 1870 by Domingo Ilagan and Maria Martinez. They had six children, and later on their daughter, Candida I. Barrion would pay off her siblings to gain sole ownership of the house.

Candida’s husband, Antonino Barrion, was a lawyer and delegate to the 1953 Constitutional Convention representing the 3rd district of Batangas. The family moved to this ancestral house in 1944, after their original home in Batangas City burned down during the Japanese occupation. It was Candida who lived the longest in this house, however, several years after she died in 1975, the house was neglected. In 2004, her grandsons Manny and Bobby Inumerable restored the house, and in December of 2009 it became a museum for vintage cameras and photographs and was since then called Galleria Taal.

The photographs displayed in the museum were taken in the late 1800s to 1900s. There were some photos that struck me and made me gaze at them longer – wondering how very different life many decades ago was. The guide explained that some of the oldest photos took an hour to complete, that was why the subjects did not smile as it would be quite tiring. I imagined I would not be bothered to pose for photos if I was in that era. It would have been such a painful task!

Vintage photographs
Vintage photographs

The vintage and rare cameras also caught my attention. I admire the passion of the camera collectors. I used to have a camera when I was in high school – back when rolls of films were still being used, and one had to be careful so as not to ‘expose’ the films otherwise the whole batch of pictures would be ruined. Back then, I would not know how the photos would turn out until I had them developed – and if they were good, I had to line up in the photo studio once again to have them ‘recopied’. Having a camera and taking pictures back in the 80s to the 90s cost a fortune – what more if one lived back decades ago! These were my thoughts as I admired the vast collection of cameras in the Galleria Taal.

Vintage and rare camera collection
Vintage and rare camera collection

After the tour, we checked out the Candida Cafe at the ground floor. The restaurant serves the specialty food in Taal, like lomi, adobo sa dilaw, tapang taal, sinaing na tulingan, suman and empanada. We had the restaurant all to ourselves, and it was quite amazing to look at pictures of Taal from long time ago. It felt as if we stepped back in time.

Candida Cafe
Candida Cafe

If you have the chance to drive to Taal Town, I recommend checking out the Galleria Taal. It is located on the main road, at 60 Agoncillo Street, 4208 Taal, Batangas.

Taal Town: Taal Basilica

Taal Basilica at sunset

The town of Taal, Batangas, is one of our go-to places when we feel like doing a heritage tour. It is, after all, just a few hours’ drive from Alabang, and it is reminiscent of Vigan, Ilocos, which known for its cobbled streets and old heritage houses. Taal town has its fair share of heritage houses, and it is, for me, the “Vigan” of the south.

While it does share its name with the smallest volcano in the world, the Taal volcano, found in Tagaytay, the town of Taal is 15 kilometers away.

This is a series of blogs about historical sites that can be found in Taal Town, Batangas.

And the first on the list is the Taal Basilica, also known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, named after the town’s patron saint. They celebrate their patron saint’s feast every 11th of November.Taal

Recognized as the largest church in the Orient, being 95m long and 45m wide, Taal Basilica is a national shrine. It has withstood centuries of natural disasters and had undergone different stages of rebuilding and repair.

The original church was built by Father Diego Espina in San Nicolas in 1575. The church was destroyed in 1754 when the Taal Volcano erupted. Since then, the town relocated to where it sits today, and the church was rebuilt in 1755 by Augustinian priests on a plateau facing the Balayan Bay.

The church was damaged by a strong earthquake in 1849. In 1856, reconstruction work started, headed by architect Luciano Oliver. It was completed in 1878. The basilica has a Baroque architectural style, and is made of adobe held together by lime.

Another strong earthquake damaged the church bell in 1942, and then most recently in 2017, it was damaged by 3 strong earthquakes that struck neighboring towns of Tingloy, Mabini and Taysan. I remember faintly feeling the earthquake in 2017. I woke up D from his siesta and said I felt a slight tremor. 20 minutes after, I saw the trend in Twitter – and the earthquake was 124 kilometers away from where we were!Taal Basilica interiors

As we revisited the Taal Basilica this month, I was once again in awe of its grandeur. It still warmed the heart to see different birds flying and hearing them chirping, while we filled our lungs with fresh air. No visit in Taal Town would be complete without spending a few minutes in the Taal Basilica, and offering a prayer of thanks for all life’s blessings.

If you live or visit Metro Manila, and have a day you can allocate for a heritage tour, I recommend a trip to Taal town. For more details about The Heritage Town of Taal, Batangas, click here.

Aratiles fruit

aratiles

First of all, I’m not sure how it’s even spelled: Aratilis? Aratiles? Aratalis? It’s a small, berry-sized fruit I was very fond of when I was little. They’re called different names in other countries (Singapore or Jamaican cherry, Panama berry, etc). Anyway, the Filipino name, aratilis, is pronounced with the emphasis on the second syllable. Secondly, the reason I’m blogging about this is I’ve seen a line of aratilis trees on our way driving to my Minhwa class yesterday, and it brought me a lot of good childhood memories.

Come to think of it, I have not seen the aratilis fruit for a long time. I had to ask my dad to check out the aratilis tree in their backyard to see if there’s any fruit he could take a photo of. The ripe ones are cherry red, but these ones are not yet ripe. So here they are. When ripe, they are quite juicy and sweet.

aratiles
fruits from my childhood

I remember when I was young, I would spend hours climbing the tree next to our house, with a small sack in tow so I could stow my ‘harvest’. Now, much as I would crave for this fruit, I wouldn’t find it as it’s not sold in the supermarket or the farmers’ market. After our drive down the street to my class yesterday, I looked up what the benefits of this fruit are and these are what I found:

  • anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory
  • improves digestion
  • prevents cancer
  • pain reliever
  • lowers blood pressure and promotes cardiovascular health

Today, I went to the community plant nursery and asked if they have seedlings I could plant at our backyard at home. Much to my disappointment I was told they had none, but I could try looking around the neighborhood as the aratilis tree randomly grows, almost like a weed. My dad explained that the birds are the ones that propagate the seeds that’s why they grow everywhere. True enough, D and I found a couple of trees on our drive back home. I’ll try to look for fruits when I walk around our neighborhood next time so we could plant the seeds in our backyard.

Aratiles Tree
Aratiles tree

Sustainable Living: plastic-free shopping

dry goods

Hello everyone, for those of you new to my blog, I’m an environment advocate. And so, I support companies that promote recycling and plastic-free shopping.

I’m so excited to share with you a new find: I recently discovered Ritual.ph – it’s a small general store at the Languages International building along Arnaiz Avenue in Makati City.

At the onset the store makes quite an impression with its modern, clean, and chic interiors. I like how the merchandise was organized and placed in glass jars, or wrapped with paper. The shop supports local producers and farmers. I saw some wooden bowls that were beautifully crafted and I was told they were sourced from Dumaguete province in Visayas.

Ritual.ph sells various pantry items such as dried lemongrass, dried pandan, dried wild mint, turmeric, virgin coconut oil, salt, rice, flour, and beans. For food and drinks they have ice cream, coffee, cacao and cacao bits, kombucha, and chocolate bars. They also have bath and body items like gugo (sourced from Mt. Banahaw and used to increase hair volume, prevent hair fall and strengthen hair strands), scented salts, oils, liquid soap, shampoo, activated charcoal, balms, and kaolin clay. For cleaning materials they have baking soda, deodorizer, laundry bars, and liquid dish soaps. I also saw vegetable crayons, stainless straws, vintage notebooks, matches, and cigars displayed near the cashier.

I’ve recently tried their coffee – unfortunately at the time only Robusta was available so that was what I had. Next time I will try their Arabica coffee.

How it works is I, the buyer, would bring my recyclable containers, then I fill them up with, say, the liquid soap and weigh how much I got. The pricing of their refills are by the gram and I’m always pleasantly surprised by how affordable my purchases are. More importantly, I always leave the shop feeling quite contented that I didn’t add up to the plastic usage problem of our planet. img_2591

My favorite purchases are the lemongrass liquid soap, rosemary clarifying shampoo, and the lemongrass conditioning shampoo. The ingredients used for these are 100% biodegradable and do not contain harmful chemicals like sulfates, parabens and fragrance oils. The shampoos use coconut base, aloe vera and essential oils. They all smell so divine, to the point that I look forward to my showers so I can enjoy the refreshing scents.

I hope more and more shops like Ritual.ph open up in Metro Manila so that their reach will be wider. Ritual.ph can also be found at the Legazpi Sunday Market in Makati. For more details about my new favorite store, check out their website

This blog is not sponsored by Ritual.ph, and I wrote this because I’m so happy with finding them and the products I’ve bought so far.