It was unquestionably a case of deep infatuation at first sight! After a short beach holiday in the coastal barangay of Anilao in Mabini, what was originally planned as a leisurely lunch (three hours at most) to reconnect with a close high school chum and acquaint ourselves with the Heritage Town of Taal, resulted in six solid hours of not just catching up, but of finally meeting and admiring the splendid place!
We were totally fortunate to snatch Pio Goco, my aforementioned friend, on one of his less busy days from his full time job offering tours of Taal’s rich cultural heritage. Pio, son of the late esteemed Solicitor General Raul Goco, descends from one of the town’s most illustrious and oldest families. After living in the United States for almost two decades, he came home in 2011 to attend our alma mater’s Silver Jubilee Homecoming. A sage and appreciative of the finer things in life, he found himself a couple of years later volunteering to overlook the renovation of his family’s ancestral abode with the unequivocal approval of the Goco clan and the full support of his father. He reveals that serendipity made everything fall into place and that he’s finally found his true calling. I absolutely agree. I’ve never seen Pio as happy and enthusiastic!
A bit of a factoid: just like a considerable number of Manileños and before moving to Tagaytay eight years hence, I was doubtful if Tagaytay was part of Batangas or Cavite. I was almost certain that Taal Volcano was in Tagaytay! Listen up! I was wrong! Tagaytay’s in Cavite. Taal Volcano’s in Batangas! We’ve simply got a most enviable view from the highlands!
And the lovely and still semi-sleepy town of Taal is where everything distinctly Tagalog emanates – faith, religion, culture, heritage. I shall divulge all things Taal in full detail in my next posts. After all, six hours are surely not enough to discover even one fourth of what this magical place has got to offer. What we saw was just the tip of the iceberg.
In the meantime, come join me in taking a glimpse of the Heritage Town of Taal.
Since we took Pio by surprise, he wasn’t able to prepare his celebrated lunch spread that has graced the Philippine’s respected food publications. From his splendid home, we walked a stone’s throw away to the Paradores Del Castillo which serves the town’s traditional delectable dishes. After a couple of hours of reminiscing about our Ateneo de Manila days and gorging the cafe’s glorious grub fest, we opted to visit the miraculous Our Lady of Caysasay and the Sacred Well of Sta Lucia by foot through the Taal’s very own, again centuries-old, Spanish Steps called Hagdan-hagdanan. It’s summer time and Pio, Mr Thinker himself, brought us to a hole-in-the wall refreshment parlour where the best, the creamiest, the velvetiest Filipino dessert Halo-Halo could be devoured! We were then off the the jaw-droppingly picturesque Taal Basilica. Not only is its Baroque architecture impressive but its amazing interior and sheer size as well! Our last stop was the quaint local market where local delicacies like the delightful suman (rice cakes), rich tablea tsokolate (unsweetened pure chocolate balls), and the celebrated, uniquely Batangueño Kapeng Barako could be purchased for a song.
I reckon the heat index that day easily reached 40 degrees celsius! And yet the unforgiving hellish temperature did not deter us from basking in Taal’s undeniable beauty and charm, albeit momentary. It was almost sundown when we said our fleeting goodbyes. Can’t wait to come back and get to know you better, Taal! See you again sooner than soon and our profuse thanks, Pio! Cheers!
*Do check out the Goco Ancestral House Facebook page. Pio Goco offers tours which starts with lunch, 11am at the family home. For inquiries, call +639173737346.