Well after getting our fill of the city, we took about an hour drive outside of Manila to visit the natural beauty of the Philippines in the Taal area. Taal is famous for having an active volcano. We decided to book our tour though Unchartered Philippines, and were very happy with our decision. On the day of our tour, they picked us up at our hotel in a large van (it was very clean) and our guide was extremely knowledgeable about the Philippines.
The volcano is situated in the middle of a large lake on a small island known as Luzon Island. In order to get to Luzon Island, you have to take a small boat.
Here’s our driver.
As you near the island, you will see a ton of fish farms. They primarily farm Tilapia.
As soon as we landed on the island, we were greeted by this goofy pony, he was having a ball rolling around in the sand. Ponies were brought to the island to bring tourists up and down the path to the volcano. Even though the hike was not very difficult, we were one of the few people who actually made the trek.
Here is another pony we met, I loved his hair do!
As I mentioned, the hike up to the volcano is actually a pretty easy one, there is not a steep incline until the very end. Also, watch out for the loose sand and rocks and of course the horse poop… As you make your journey up, you will see many locals riding horses with bags. Oftentimes they are carrying water as there is no fresh drinking water on the island and it has to be brought in from the main island.
When we made it to the top, we were welcomed with 2 deliciously fresh coconuts and stopped to take in the sights. The interesting thing about the Volcano is inside the crater there is a lake and it has a tiny little island inside. Although the volcano is still active, the crater has filled in with rainwater and is truely a unique landscape. The volcano itself has been quiet since the late 1970’s, but is still definitely active.
After the hike, we stopped in at Milan’s Native Foods and Grill in Talisay for lunch.
We tried the Grilled Maliputo, which had a nice flakey meat and great flavor.
But the star of the show was the Pork Sisig. The dish is made from parts of a pigs head (it sounds less tasty that it actually is) with an awesome sauce and topped with an egg all served on top of a sizzling platter. Give it a squeeze of calamansi (Philippine lime) and you will be asking for more!
Our next stop was to Taal Heritage Town, which is a flash back in time where you can see how a traditional Filipino town was set up. The first site we saw was the Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours. The original basilica was in a different location, but was destroyed by a Taal volcano eruption, the new basilica was constructed farther away and is the largest church in the Philippines.
The outside appears very plain and one might think that the church is quite run down, but once you get inside, you will see that it is definitely still in use. It is modeled after St. Peters Basilica in Rome. The entire church is made from adobo and is painted in trompe l’oeil or “trick of the eye” style, where the paintings look three dimensional.
As we were walking, our guide took a quick turn down some steps and Scott and I thought we were walking through someone’s yard! But it led to this, the Santa Lucia Well. According to our guide, there is a story of how 2 women saw the reflection of the Virgin of Caysasay in the well and they built this arch over it. The well water has been known by the locals to have healing powers.
As you continue down the path, it will lead you to the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay. This church is a much smaller one than the Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours and was originally the church of the common people of Taal.
The Taal area is very interesting and full of history and nature. Here are a few more photos from our walk around town.
Taal is worth the trip if you have the time, and you’ll really enjoy getting away from the city and seeing the other side of the Philippines. We can’t wait for the next time we visit the Philippines.