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Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco: What to Do Around Manila

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“People drive 7 hours to Vigan, why not here?”

That’s what our tour guide Pio Goco said when describing this recent movement to restore Taal Town. A member of the Goco clan, he’s one of many passionate Taaleños working hard to preserve this town’s heritage and bring it back into prominence.

I was one of those misinformed people who thought that only in Vigan, Ilocos Sur could you find this many ancestral houses in one place. Within minutes of driving through the town’s welcome arches, you’ll be transported to a time that many people my age (or younger) have seen only in our grandparents’ musky albums. From the capiz windows to the intricate woodwork to the largest Basilica in all of Southeast Asia, Taal Town had me wide-eyed and wondering how on earth did I not know about this place before?

Just two hours south of Manila, here’s how our day went exploring this historic little town through the eyes of a proud Taaleño, Pio Goco. Fittingly, it was a #ThrowbackThursday too. 😉 If you’re a tourist and don’t have access to a vehicle, then you can hire a chauffeured car for the day through Klook.

Goco Ancestral House

Pio’s tour starts at his family’s ancestral house. Built in 1876 by his grandparents Juan Cabrera Goco and Lorenza Deomampo, it was restored in 1999 in line with Taal being declared a National Heritage Town. Pio’s grandfather was a landowner renowned for his modesty and trustworthiness, serving as the Treasurer of the revolutionary forces operating in this part of Batangas.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Typical of these ancestral homes, I love these wide stairwells with massive steps.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

And just like that, you’re back in time. The open-spaced living room. Beautiful right?
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Love the capiz windows and the feeling of openness. Maaliwalas!
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Admiring the details
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Note the rounded corners. According to Pio, it’s a rare feature not typically seen in most ancestral houses.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

L: Vintage shot glasses and sewing machine
R: Doily
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Chatting it up in the dining area, waiting for lunch to be served. Pio’s tour starts with a homecooked lunch of beloved Taaleño specialties. Foodies will be pleased to know that Pio’s brother is Chef Rob Goco of Cyma and Green Pastures fame. Awesome!
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

The delicious spread prepared by the Goco family cook. Of course, no self-respecting Taaleño meal would be complete without tawilis — a type of freshwater sardine endemic to Taal Lake.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

My bounty
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Pinais na dulong, anchovy fry wrapped in banana leaves and steamed in a clay pot.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Suman con tsokolate, rice cake drenched in local chocolate. Another Taaleño favorite.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Paradores del Castillo

I’m not sure if this is part of his usual tour, but Pio was excited to show us this recently opened bed & breakfast along Calle Dr. H. del Castillo.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Called Paradores del Castillo, the owners restored the dilapidated del Castillo ancestral house and converted it into this charming 7-room bed & breakfast.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Brenee Mars posing by the stairwell leading up to the rooms.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Love all the wood carvings!
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

The common area. I didn’t take any pictures of the rooms because they weren’t ready yet at the time, but they are now. In fact, we already stayed there for a weekend and we loved it. CLICK HERE to read my full post on Paradores del Castillo.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps, Caysasay Church, & the Sacred Well of Sta. Lucia

L: San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps. Pio described how this flight of one-hundred and twenty-five steps used to demarcate rich and poor. The rich stayed up top while the poor lived at the bottom. Though over time, that perception has changed. In Pio’s words:

“Back then, it was a class society even in Taal. Its all about the haves and have nots. The aspirations of common people were to live in the hilltop of Taal so they can then say they have arrived.. In a way we still discriminate by class today but we are weaning ourselves from that. Character is more important than what you have anytime.”

R: At the foot of the steps is Caysasay Church, which was known at the time as the poor man’s church. The rich heard mass higher up at Taal Basilica.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Caysasay Church altar and painted ceilings. Encased high up behind the altar is the image of the Virgin of Our Lady of Caysasay. Believed to be one of the oldest in the country, it was fished out of the Pansipit River in 1603 by a fisherman named Juan Maningcad. Though waterlogged, the image had a heavenly lustre, causing Maningcad to prostrate himself and pray before the statue. Word about the image quickly spread, causing the parish priest and vicar to visit Maningcad’s house to verify his story. Upon seeing the image, they knelt down and venerated it.

You can take a flight of stairs to the room where the image is held and touch the statue if you like. There’s actually more to its history — including a time when the statue was said to leave its resting place every night before coming back in the morning — which you can read about HERE.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

In the same room as the statue is a shop where you can buy religious items like rosaries, prayer cards, and these small bottles of healing oil. This healing oil has special significance for us.

My mother-in-law had been bedridden for over a year, breathing through a trache and with a 24-hr nurse by her bedside. It didn’t look like she was going to get better, until she used this healing oil. Call it coincidence, but within a few days of using it, her health improved dramatically. She’s since been taken off the trache and is now weeks away from a full recovery. According to my mother, she’s never seen anyone recover from a tracheotomy before. We couldn’t believe it.

I’m not saying I believe that this healing oil is wholly responsible for her recovery, but my mother-in-law does. As a non-practicing Catholic, I believe in God but I don’t believe in organized religion. I’m a man of science, but I also believe in faith, and in the power of the human mind. If you believe that something like this healing oil can make you better, then chances are, it will.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

A short walk from Caysasay church is the Sta. Lucia Well. A sacred pair of wells, its waters are said to have healing powers.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila
L: This was the very spot where an apparition of Our Lady of Caysasay was seen in 1611. According to Pio, it was the first recorded sighting of the Virgin Mary in Philippine history.

R: For PHP 20, you can buy this set of candles with a wax figurine to make a wish. I wasn’t sure what the significance of the figure was so I Googled it. As it turns out, the two girls who saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary described her as having candles at her sides. She was also surrounded by kasay-kasay birds (kingfishers).
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Water from one well is used for washing your face while the other is meant for drinking. It’s said that the water’s healing powers is lost after each use, so a fresh bucket must be drawn for the next person.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Galleria Taal Camera Museum

Photography enthusiasts will love this place. A camera museum set in the Ilagan ancestral house, on display here is an extensive collection of rare vintage cameras dating back to the late 1800s.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Love them fancy door knockers! The Goco ancestral house had one like this as well.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Vintage Instantograph camera
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

The space was every bit as picture-worthy as the collection.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Collection of vintage Rolleiflex cameras. It’s the same type of camera printed on the back of a 500 peso bill.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

More vintage awesomeness. There were entire display cabinets of just vintage Canons or Nikons.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Half camera, half furniture. Another vintage Instantograph.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

This was really cool. What you’re looking at here is an actual photograph of Jose Rizal’s execution in 1896. What makes it even more interesting is that it was found at a flea market in Pennsylvania, of all places!
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Agoncillo Mansion (White House)

This stately white colonial American house was once the home of Gregorio Agoncillo. It’s one of the first mansions you’ll see when you drive into Taal Heritage Town. Gregorio’s sister, Maria Agoncillo, became the second wife of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Beautiful isn’t it? A collection of well-preserved Edwardian and Spanish-inspired furniture from the late 1800s and early 1900s can be found here.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

One of the bedrooms. CLICK HERE for more on the Agoncillo Mansion and the other ancestral houses of Taal.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Feliza Cafe y Taverna

Before heading off to the Basilica, we make a quick stop at Feliza Cafe y Taverna for refreshments.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

The cafe on the first floor…
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

…and time capsule on the second floor. So cool!
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Lovely dining room. Makes me want to sit at one end with a little bell and yell “Tubig, tubig!”
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Vintage spice jars
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Handcarved posts. Funny how this one was carved from a twisty piece of wood.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Everyone admiring the vintage pieces. CLICK HERE to read my full post on Feliza Taverna y Cafe.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours (Taal Basilica)

Standing 88.6 meters (291 ft) long and 48 meters (157 ft) wide, the Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours is the largest church in all of Southeast Asia.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Absolutely stunning in its grandness, especially from up close.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Inside the church
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

We walked up a narrow stone staircase / tunnel to the bell tower just in time for sunset.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

The view from the tower. Kinda gives you all the feels doesn’t it?
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Rectory dining area
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Rectory hallway
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Rectory moony moony
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

With the sun setting on our tour, there was just one stop left to make…
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

…Night Market!

Our tour started with food, so there’s no better way to end it than with more food. Just a few blocks from the Basilica is this small street food night market.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Stuff on skewers is always a hit. But if street food isn’t your thing, then you’ll be pleased to know that there’s a nice boodle restaurant right next door. It isn’t part of Pio’s tour but the food is cheap and good.
Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco — What to Do Around Manila

Though still in its infancy tourism-wise, the potential of this town is unmistakeable. It may not have the cobblestone streets or artisanal shops of Vigan (yet), but it has just as much in the way of charm, culture, food, and history. And let’s not forget, it even has its own miracle.

Yes, there’s a definite buzz about this place. We all felt it. It’s an excitement shared by Pio Goco and the rest of this dedicated group of Taaleños working hard to preserve this town’s priceless heritage.

You can email Pio HERE or call him at (+63) 917-373-7346 to book a tour. Unless I’m mistaken, minimum for the tour is 5 people and it costs PHP 1,500 per head for a group of 7 or below, and PHP 1,380 per head for groups with 8 and above. That includes lunch and all museum entrance fees. The tour starts with lunch at 11 AM at the Goco ancestral home, and ends at sunest atop the bell tower of Taal Basilica.

Taal Heritage Town Tour by Pio Goco

Email: [email protected]
Mobile: (+63) 917-373-7346
Length of Tour: Around 6 hours (11AM-5PM)

TOUR FEES: (inclusive of lunch and museum entrance fees)
PHP 1,500 per person (7 pax and below)
PHP 1,380 per person (8 pax and above)

For more Taal travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines
The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

For travel tips to Manila, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Manila, Philippines (from a local)
The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Manila, Philippines (from a local)

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June

Monday 24th of December 2018

Hi. It’s 2018 and found your blog through google. Very well-written indeed. I just want to ask if this is a purely walking tour? We’re interested in visiting Taal but my concern would be my aunt/uncle who would be joining us. They may not be able to endure long walks.

JB & Renée Macatulad

Monday 24th of December 2018

Hi June, it's best to contact Pio directly as he may have made changes to the tour. When we did it, it wasn't purely a walking tour. There were parts where we'd ride around in a van but I'm not sure now. You can contact him via the details provided at the bottom of the post. Hope you make it to Taal! It's an interesting place indeed. :)

Ramil Carlo

Saturday 29th of April 2017

Maraming salamat po sa blog ninyo. Informative, clear and sweet. Ang dami kong pupuntahan at papasyalan sa Taal, Batangas. ipagpatuloy pa po ninyo ang pagsusulat. Mabuhay po!

JB Macatulad

Sunday 30th of April 2017

You're welcome Ramil! Maraming salamat din po for the kind words. Enjoy Taal! :D

Janey

Monday 17th of October 2016

This is awesome! I've been wanting to go here forever and to bring my family. This post further convinced me to visit this long weekend.

I get scared easily, though, so I'd probably think twice before staying overnight at an ancestral home.

JB Macatulad

Tuesday 18th of October 2016

Have fun Janey! I know what you mean about the ancestral homes. Some of them can get pretty creepy, even during the day! But if you can, then I suggest staying a night at Paradores del Castillo. It's really nice. :)

Dexter Panganiban

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

Hope you can try our Tapa and Longanisa from Taal batangas. You can check it our from Gerry and Lheen :)

JB Macatulad

Tuesday 12th of April 2016

Would love to Dexter! Next time for sure. :)

ALEX NICOLA

Saturday 5th of March 2016

Hi JB. Planning to visit next week. want to clarify if Jam Liner as you said will drop me off directly to Taal Batangas. Your response in this regards is appreciated.

Thanks,

Alex

JB Macatulad

Sunday 6th of March 2016

Hi Alex, I've never taken that bus personally but I believe so. According to Pio, it goes through Taal Town or at least pretty close to it. Be sure to tell the driver that you're going to Taal Town so he drops you off there. Have a great trip. :)