One Year Around Luzon

Since July 28, 2018, I was able to spend a total of 33 days photographing 32 cities and towns in 11 provinces, including Metro Manila, in Luzon.

Wala namang seryosong goal. I enjoy sightseeing and today I celebrate a year of finding spare time to go out, take a bus, and see things.

Bus. Yes. I’m very proud of being able to visit 30 out of the 32 listed here by public transportation. (To be fair to myself, my left foot and leg was wrapped in a cast on my trips to Kawit and Balete.) I dunno, I guess I want to be able to give directions when asked about these places? I’ve nothing against joiner tours by van. I’d participate if time permits but they leave very early and my work schedule does not allow me to sign up for one.

I’m also proud of being able to do things on a budget. Never splurged on an accommodation. I’d do a place on a day trip when possible. Never spent on anything I don’t find necessary. Bus fares and boat rides already take a chunk of the trip budget.

I think one should spend a bit on must-try local fare, though. Local bars, cafes, and restaurants also define a city as much as its landmarks and cultural attractions.

Many places in Luzon are day trip-able. I figured it’s never about the name of the destination. Many sights around and near Metro Manila are worth seeing. I’d go to farther places when I can, especially in destinations around the Philippines. I want to see every town and city in the country and learn about their local history.

Casa de Segunda

Lipa, Batangas
July 28-29, 2018

San Martin de Tours Basilica

Taal, Batangas
July 29, 2018

Manila, Metro Manila
August 26, 2018

Emilio Aguinaldo Highway

Silang, Cavite
August 30, 2018

Balite Falls

Amadeo, Cavite
August 30, 2018

Paz Street

Balayan, Batangas
September 2, 2018

Pila Municipal Hall

Pila, Laguna
September 8, 2018

Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery

Nagcarlan, Laguna
September 8, 2018

Liliw Municipal Hall

Liliw, Laguna
September 8, 2018

Outlook Drive

Baguio, Benguet
December 8-9, 2018

Maligcong Rice Terraces

Bontoc, Mountain Province
December 9-10, 2018

Kamanbaneg Trail

Sagada, Mountain Province
December 10-12, 2018

Talipanan Beach

Puerto Galera, Oriental Mindoro
January 19, 2019

Lake Pandin

San Pablo, Laguna
January 26, 2019

Olongapo Public Market

Olongapo, Zambales
February 9, 2019

San Antonio, Zambales
February 9-10, 2019

Majayjay, Laguna
February 17-18, 2019

Holy Angel University

Angeles, Pampanga
March 23, 2019

Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine

Kawit, Cavite
April 7, 2019

PH BTG BALETE 20190409 (47)

Balete, Batangas
April 9, 2019

Pagkilatan Beach

Batangas City, Batangas
April 20, 2019

Bani Poblacion

Bani, Pangasinan
May 4, 2019

Calapnet Beach

Agno, Pangasinan
May 4-5, 2019


Lucena, Quezon
May 18-19, 2019

Alabat, Quezon
May 19-20, 2019

San Pablo, Laguna (2nd visit)
June 9, 2019

Museo ni Miguel Malvar

Santo Tomas, Batangas
July 9, 2019

Tanauan Museum

Tanauan, Batangas
July 9, 2019


Calamba, Laguna
July 6, 2019

San Juan, La Union
July 13-14, 2019

Baguio, Benguet (2nd visit)
July 14, 2019

Calasiao, Pangasinan
July 21, 2019

Dagupan, Pangasinan
July 21, 2019

Binmaley, Pangasinan
July 21, 2019

And I like lists:

My favorite cities: Angeles, Lipa, San Pablo
Prettiest towns: Binmaley, Pila, Taal
Cleanest: Angeles, Dagupan, San Antonio

Other favorites

Ancestral Houses: Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit; Casa de Segunda, Lipa; Emilio Aguinaldo Shrine, Kawit; Marcela Agoncillo Museum, Taal; Pamintuan Mansion, Angeles; Zaballero Mansion, Lucena

Bays: Balayan Bay, Batangas Bay

Beaches: Alabat Cove/Kabila Beach, Alabat; Calapnet Beach, Agno; Capones Island, San Antonio

Boat Ride: Abagatanen Beach to Calapnet Beach (Rena Pt), Agno; Pundaquit Beach to Anawangin Cove, San Antonio

Churches: San Agustin, Manila; San Pedro and San Pablo, Calasiao; San Martin de Tours, Taal; Santa Maria Magdalena, Kawit

City/Town Hall: Baguio City Hall, Binmaley Presidencia, Manila City Hall, Old Tanauan Municipal Building, Pila Municipal Hall

Food: Batangas lomi, Lipa; etag, Sagada; kapeng barako, Lipa; Pahimis Blend coffee, Amadeo; puto Calasiao, Calasiao; strawberry taho, Baguio; tapang Taal, Taal

Inuman: MEZ, Lipa; Moonhouse, Sagada; Rumours, Baguio; Surfer’s Point, San Juan

Lakes: Lakes Pandin and Yambo, San Pablo

Malls: SM City Calamba

Mountain Views: Banahaw de Lucban by topload in Majayjay; Mount Kufafey overlooking Maligcong Rice Terraces, Bontoc; Mount Mabilog overlooking the seven lakes of San Pablo and Calabarzon mountains; Marlboro/Kamanbaneg peak, Sagada with the sea of clouds

Museums: Center for Kapampangan Studies, Angeles; Miguel Malvar Shrine, Santo Tomas; National Museum of Fine Arts, Manila

Parks: Balayan Baywalk; Perez Park, Lucena; Pila Town Plaza; Wright Park, Baguio

Provincial Capitol: Quezon (Tayabas), Lucena

Restaurants/Cafes: Arabela, Liliw; Cafe de Lipa, Lipa; Chez Deo, Balayan; El Union Coffee, San Juan; Hill Station, Baguio; Sagada Brew, Sagada; Si Christina Gateau Sans Rival, San Pablo; Slabhouse, Sagada

River Views: Dawel River, Dagupan; Pantal River, Dagupan

Springs: Malinao Spring, Majayjay

Waterfalls: Balite Falls, Amadeo; Bokong Falls, Sagada


2018 Year Ender, Part 2

Baguio City Hall
Baguio City Hall, Baguio, Benguet

I’m so bad at promising myself to have a sense of urgency in coming up with this follow up. Here’s it. I have convinced myself that I should get this Part 2 done because it’s been over a week since I have completed Part 1 (check it out), January is ending and I’ll be off to my first out of town trip for 2019 this weekend.

I’ll edit the stuff as I read them later today, maybe? I just wanna get this one published.

Al Bastakiya

45 | Bastakiya Quarter
Al Hamriya, Dubai

Narrow alleys flanked by traditional Persian and Emirati buildings form a maze in Dubai’s Al Bastakiya Quarter. Located within Al Fahidi District, this labyrinthine Bur Dubai neighborhood ranked really high on my list of must-visit places when I planned my trip to Dubai.

See, I’m a big fan of old streets and old towns, and the restorations in Al Shindagha and inspired recreations in Al Seef or Souk Madinat do not hold a candle to the Al Bastakiya’s authenticity.

I chanced upon one workshop that specializes in woodwork and and the craftsmanship on display there – from the doors to the furniture are some of the most exquisite. It was kind of a let down, however, as there wasn’t much else to see apart from that and a handful of beautiful rugs for sale. Many establishments in Al Bastakiya are closed.


44 | MEZ
Ayala Highway, Lipa, Batangas

Beautiful pilgrimage sites are things I already expect to see when I decided to research my trip to Lipa. I also learned that it’s a wonderful place to go on a food trip. What I didn’t expect was a food park-type place for drinking and drunk singing. I had an awesome time here despite the rainy weather. My drinking buddies, Berns and Andrian, are excellent singers.

Beer buckets are reasonably priced in MEZ. I highly recommend this place to anyone spending a night in Lipa.

43 | Al Ain National Museum
1st Street, Al Ain

Part of the Al Ain Oasis tour is a visit to Al Ain National Museum, which lies on the eastern end of the UNESCO World Heritage-inscribed oasis.

As the oldest museum in the United Arab Emirates, the physical building that houses the collections is just not very impressive. The displays are themselves are top-notch but the labels and glass cases look dated.

Still, I enjoyed the museum artifacts and I especially love the weapons on display. The different types of daggers remind me of the ones used by Filipino Moros.

There is also information about archaeological findings throughout the UAE, most notably the cultural sites of Hafeet. I didn’t have those sites in my itinerary because they were in more remote areas of Al Ain so I appreciate the scale models a lot.

Also located in the museum complex is a building called Sultan Fort. I don’t have any information about it, but it’s similar in structure to the much more impressive Al Jahili Fort.

Outlook Drive

42 | Mines View Park | Outlook Drive | Mansion | Wright Park
Baguio, Benguet

The scenery from the view deck of Mines View Park is breathtaking, but heartbreaking too. Jhon pointed out to me that the brown patch of land on the surface of one of the nearer mountains is a part of the areas affected by the landslides brought about by a typhoon last September.

Apart from the views, Mines View Park is also a magnet for all things touristy. It’s a place to enjoy Baguio street food, mount a pink horse or don a traditional Igorot costume.

Outloook Drive is, as the its name suggests, a scenic road you can take from Mines View Park on your way to the Mansion and Wright Park. The views from Mines View Park from Outlook Drive are nearly identical, so I suggest you head here instead if throngs of people are a turn off.

I felt safe walking on this well-paved road, even when there aren’t designated sidewalks. The pine trees that line it provide ample shade even at noon.

Built in 1909 by the Americans as the official residence of the colonial Governnor General, the Mansion is one of the most historic points of interest in Baguio. Although the structure that currently stands on its lot is a replica built immediately after WWII in 1947, it is a faithful model to the original.

As a history nut, it is a bit of a let down to me that a tour of its interiors is not available.

Wright Park is a more tranquil, beautifully landscaped park in this part of Baguio. I love, love, love Wright Park, and mostly because I remember having a photo of a 5 year old me taken in this park on a family trip.

Because there weren’t that many people, I opted to pose here in a bahag, well, to kind of be in touch with my Cordilleran roots. I love how we’re not all PC on this one in general. I think that in general, we take pride in sharing our culture to interested people. Nonetheless, I’m still puzzled by the proliferation of obviously Amerindian headdresses in Baguio parks.

At the end of quieter part of a park there are stairs that lead down to more park grounds! The scene here is very different. The foul smell of horse manure permeates the air. I think the horses are not as healthy as they should be.

Downtown Dubai

41 | Dubai Mall | Dubai Aquarium | Souk al Bahar | Dubai Dancing Fountain | Dubai Opera | Books Kinokuniya | Huawei Experience Store | Garrett Popcorn | German Donner Kebab
Financial Center Road, Downtown Dubai, Dubai

Big malls normally do not impress me. I don’t like huuge crowds and going on a shopping spree is something I don’t think I have ever done. I am impressed by Dubai Mall, however. It’s big and family-friendly but its design has touches of classiness that’s not in your face.

Apart from the premium retail spaces one can expect to see in a premium mall, there are stores worth checking out. They have affordable options for dining (and a big food court). It’s free to look at the aquarium, the indoor Human Waterfalls, and the Dubai Dancing Fountain – which is, while super pretty, is only a must-see if you’re there anyway.

But Downtown Dubai is so much more than the fountain. There’s the pretty Souk al Bahar (which I didn’t see because I don’t need more retail therapy), the beautiful Dubai Opera, and a slew of very tall skyscrapers surrounding the open grounds, including Burj Khalifa.

Call it a man-made whatever, but I enjoyed the energy of this place and I have visited this place thrice in my short stay in Dubai.

Taipei 101

40 | Taipei 101
Xinyi District, Taipei

I didn’t do much in Taipei 101. Mimi and I simply walked around it and entered the mall. It gets as high as #40 on my list because I just love tall buildings and this one is soooo beautiful and it had been in my bucket list ever since it became the tallest building in the world.

Marcela Agoncillo Museum

39 | Marcela Agoncillo Museum
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo, Taal, Batangas

The picturesque town center of Taal, Batangas is teeming with pretty ancestral houses and the Agoncillo Ancestral House, which houses Marcela Agoncillo Museum, is one of its most beautiful.

Learning about the lives and patriotism of Marcela Agoncillo, most known for sewing the first iteration of the current Philippine flag, and her husband, Felipe Agoncillo, an outstanding diplomant, through the displays is one of the highlights of my Taal day trip.

The National Historical Commission of the Philippines did a good job in presenting not only the involvement of the proud Batangueno couple but also the history of the revolutionary flags, and the struggle for independence of the Philippines from American occupation.

NHCP also did a great job in restoring portions of the house. It’s a must-visit for fans of Philippine ancestral houses.

38 | Deira Clocktower | Al Rigga Mosque | Al Bassam Center | The Laugh Factory at Sun and Sands Downtown Hotel | Al Ghurair Centre | Starbucks Al Ghurair Centre
Al Muraqqabat, Dubai

I spent one of my mornings in Dubai just aimlessly walking through random streets in Deira. The challenge I gave myself was to navigate its streets from Deira City Center to Union Station. The sights and sounds I have encountered did not disappoint.

People watching at Starbucks Al Ghurair Centre is also very enjoyable. I have done this on two nights.


37 | Renfel Fastfood Center
Kapitan Simeon Luz Street, Lipa, Batangas

I like lomi. I don’t love it, but I’ll never say no to a warm bowl of freshly prepared lomi. But what everyone’s been saying about Batangas lomi is true: theirs are by far the best.

I happened to have my lomi fix at Renfel Fastfood Center in downtown Lipa. It’s an ample-sized eatery in a less busier street within the market area. It’s always full, and it is very evident that every guest is satisfied with the food.

36 | Madinat Jumeirah Tour | Souk Madinat | Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Al Naseem, Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Jumeirah Al Qasr
Jumeirah, Dubai

One of the activities I looked forward to doing the most in the Dubai intinerary I have prepared is the reserved Bab Al Yam brunch with Daniel. Naturally, that will rank higher than #36. What I’ll be talking about here is what we did after we ate like there’s no tomorrow.

Originally, we planned to drop by Souk Madinat and enjoy views from there. Since both Burj Al Arab and the mall are part of a complex of hotels operated by Jumeirah group, shuttle services from one location to another is free. We happened to take a ride from a kababayan.

She didn’t need to but she toured us to every drop off point in the complex. At each point are pretty views, so I had the chance to take many, many pictures.

Souk Madinat is nothing special really – imagine Greenhills items in an Arabic-inspired version of Greenbelt. I guess people go because, like in Greenbelt, the food choices and al fresco dining are the main attractions.

It’s the hop on-hop off impromptu tour we were treated to that made this activity special to me, and it didn’t hurt to be able to have a glimpse of the hotels and villas I will never be able to afford renting.

Antorcha Street

35 | Balayan Heritage Buildings | Immaculate Conception Church | Leo Martinez House | Jose Rizal Roundabout | Ermita House | Sixto Lopez House | Casa de Cacao Filipina
Balayan, Batangas

Like many towns in the Calabarzon region, Balayan had played several important roles in the past. It is also the hometown of many prominent personalities in Philippine history, including Galicano Apacible and Sixto Lopez.

What entitles Balayan to be among an elite group of notable Calabarzon towns is its built heritage. One fine example of its architectural gems is the beautiful Immaculate Conception Church. Built in 1795, it is one of the Spanish Period Catholic churches inscribed by the National Commission on Culture and Arts as National Treasure.

Apart from the church, there are ancestral houses. Fe, Union, and Antorcha Streets have grand residences that reminds the people of Balayan of their town’s prosperous past. Not all of these homes are well maintained and more samples of adaptive reuse could reinvigorate Balayan’s poblacion.

34 | Al Ain Palace Museum
Al Ain

The Palace of Sheikh Zayed, now a museum, is Al Ain’s most prominent landmark – and for good reason. The man is the first president of the UAE and this 1937 palace is where he and his family resided.

The palace is architecturally impressive. There’s a certain grandness in its simplicity and despite its ample open spaces there’s a sense of intimacy within its premises. Information about the sheikh and his lineage are displayed here, and while very interesting, I think that what I liked the most in this place is the geometric patterns on the buildings that make up the palace complex.

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall

33 | Chiang Kai Shek Memorial
Zhongzheng District, Taipei

Chiang Kai Shek Memorial in Taipei is as grand as it gets, I think. It’s no Forbidden City, but I get the same air of grandeur in its open grounds, loftily named Liberty Square. Mimi enjoyed a stroll in its manicured gardens until she got hungry.

The main gate is my favorite. Its arches seem to dance while the shape of its roofs give an impression that the gate is about to take flight. I also really love the porcelain white and blue combination.

San Martin de Tours Basilica

32 | San Martin de Tours Basilica | Taal Park
Calle San Martin, Taal, Batangas

San Martin de Tours Basilica is the largest church in Asia. Many sources say this so I looked it up on the internet and I was able to confirm that no other religious building that’s called a church on this side of the world is bigger than Taal Basilica.

From Taal Park, it looks big, but not any bigger than any other big Philippine church. It’s the beautiful columns that adorn its facade (some sources say it’s patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) that captures my attention first before its sheer size. Inside though, I could tell that it’s really big. It’s very spacious and a recent renovation makes it feel airier and brighter.

I have visited before on a Visita Iglesia and it’s as beautiful as I remember. I should also mention that during my visit, I wasn’t granted access to the views from the belfry. I was so looking forward to it.

31 | Al Awir Desert Safari
Al Awir, Dubai

I didn’t know I was going to be a fan of deserts until I have visited the Mojave Desert in 2013, so when the opportunity to see the Arabian Desert presented itself, I grabbed the chance. Technically, even the built-up area of Dubai is part of the Arabian Desert. I think that’s obvious. But it’s also obvious that it’s hard to appreciate the natural features of this desert if I don’t venture into the sandy, emptier parts.

Al Awir Desert Safari is also about dune bashing, camel riding and Bedouin-style dining and entertainment. I truly enjoyed the cultural aspects of the safari but no activity could compare to just standing there and simply taking in the awe-inspiring landscape of the desert itself.

Part 3, a week-ish from the latest post again?

2018 Year Ender, Part 1

Cuartel de Santa Lucia
Cuartel de Santa Lucia in Intramuros, Manila

As a consequence of being a fan of history and culture, cities and nature, architecture and urban planning, I can say that seeing places and taking pictures are two things I really enjoy doing. Travel allows me to encounter in person the things that I have read and learned about while photography is a reliable and convenient way to document my travels.

Now, travel has always been a thing I only get to do sporadically. However, in the first quarter of 2018, I was diagnosed with a degenerative illness that impacts my mobility over time. While I still am not able to afford to travel at any time, I have vowed to travel more, as much as my weekends, leaves, and budget would permit.

Nope, the travel bug hasn’t gotten around to biting me yet (and I guess it never will) but once in a while last year I have embraced the weekend warrior in me in this quasi-race against time. Doing so allowed me to visit more places within a year than I usually would. I know I’ve not done enough roaming to warrant a travel-themed year ender but give this one to me. I’ll never be as well-traveled as the globetrotting bloggers we all love to get tips from.

I didn’t fly to several locations in any month in 2018 so instead of doing the month by month thingy that travel bloggers do, I will simply be counting down the 60 places and experiences that I have enjoyed the most in 2018. Inspired by the Top 40 year enders radio stations do back in the day, I initially thought of writing about just 40 things. But the thought of not at least writing about the 20 items below those 40 will break my heart so, without further ado, I present to you my 2018 Top 60:

Sanxia Old Street

60 | Sanxia Old Street
No. 37-147 Minquan Street, Sanxia District, New Taipei City

Every district in Taipei has an area designated as Old Street – a single street or a collection of interconnected streets containing a stock of older buildings. Sanxia’s Old Street reportedly has the best collection of red brick shop houses. Walking through its arcaded sidewalks feels like going back to Taiwan’s bygone colonial era. While very beautiful, most of the shops sell the same kitschy tourist souvenirs. Nonetheless, its nearness to the urban center of more modern and crowded Taipei makes it worth checking out on a day trip.

Yingge Old Street

59 | Yingge Old Street | Starbucks Yingge
Chongqing Street, Yingge District, New Taipei City

Many Taipei travel tips suggest pairing Sanxia and Yingge together on a single day trip as these two districts are adjacent to each other and are an hour south from Taipei by train.

Yingge Old Street has impressive buildings too. Although these buildings don’t form rows upon rows of brick shop houses perfectly the way those in Sanxia do, Yingge’s advantage lies on what its stores sell – finely crafted ceramics at different price points.

Pottery is traditionally a craft that Yingge is known for and I like destinations where local artistry takes center stage. If you’re upgrading your dinnerware soon and heading to Taipei anyway, make a stop at Yingge and look at what its artisans have to offer.

Yingge has more than its share of must-try local eateries, but the most convenient place to dine upon visiting Yingge Old Street is its Starbucks, located at the intersection of Chongqing and Yuying Streets. This is where I had a filling set of baked pasta and chicken.

Al Fahidi Fort-Dubai Museum

58 | Dubai Museum | Al Fahidi Fort
Al Fahidi, Dubai

Considered as the oldest extant structure in Dubai, the tower and an adjacent section of the walls that make up Al Fahidi Fort have together been witnesses to the transformation of the city from its humble beginnings as a small trading port to the megacity that it is known as today.

Housed inside this impressive and unmistakably Arabian fort is the Dubai Museum. The well curated displays on its gallery illustrates the history of the Dubai Emirate. Particularly striking to me was the gallery that contain a life-size diorama of Emirati pearl divers. Other must-see displays include really old dhows that used ply the waters of the Persian Gulf and Dubai Creek.

Dubai is mostly known for its fantastic modern attractions, but to understand better why it had always been outward looking even prior to the discovery of oil, a visit to the Dubai Museum is a must.

57 | National Dr. Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall
Ren’ai Rd, Xinyi, Taipei

Dr. Sun Yat Sen is a well revered figure in the Sinosphere. Every important Chinese city, whether in the Mainland or in Taiwan, has a memorial park, museum, street or statue dedicated to him. In Taiwan, he is fondly referred to as the Father of the Nation. His national memorial hall in Taipei is set in a spacious and tranquil park with great views of Taipei 101.

I visited on October 10, Taiwan’s National Day, so the atmosphere was festive on that day. Everyone was all smiles and it didn’t take long before I felt kind of hyped as well – even though I’m not sure what everyone is saying to each other (and everyone has a different view on Taiwanese independence). I guess that’s the reason why I enjoyed strolling along the complex a lot and it became more memorable to me than it would had I visited on a regular day.

56 | Slabhouse Cafe
South Road, Sagada

Sagada is known for four different things – its remote location (12 hours by bus from Manila, 6 hours by bus from Baguio), its rustic, mountainous beauty, the outdoor activities it offers, and the indigenous practices of its inhabitants that continue to be practiced today. What every other person who’s been to Sagada would like to add one more thing to its rep is its spectacular food options.

The choices for dining are staggering in Sagada and many of them offer quality food if we go by the rave reviews of travel bloggers that have been to Sagada. Slabhouse Cafe is a short walk away from the town center and the guest house where I stayed (aptly called Sagada Guest House) and it serves good food at reasonable prices.

While I would recommend every dining establishment I’ve tried in Sagada, this is the only place where I dined twice. Upon arriving at Sagada from Bontoc, I had Slabhouse Cafe’s lechon kawali for brunch. On the next day, I had their chicken curry for dinner. All of their dishes are served with local rice (other sources say it’s red rice, other sources call it’s black rice).

BurJuman Centre from Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed St

55 | Burjuman City Centre | Jollibee | Noodle House | Paul | Wrapchic
Khalid Bin Al Waleed Road, Al Mankhool, Dubai

BurJuman City Centre is close to where I stayed when I was in Dubai, so I guess I could be given a pass for dining there several times? I had good food in Jollibee, Noodle House and Wrapchic. I would like to highlight Paul in this write-up. We do have Paul branches here in Manila too – food is good and I don’t need to elaborate on that (Paul BGC is too niminy piminy for me).

What I love in Paul’s BurJuman location is the al fresco area. There’s something super cute about having a cup of coffee on the sidewalk and watch people go about their busy lives especially here, as this stretch of the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Road is not touristy at all! Sadly, when I checked Google Maps to verify its location for this blog post, I have learned that this Paul location is now permanently closed. It wasn’t even a year since I last sipped coffee there. Things change and some do quickly.

Ximen Walking Street

54 | Ximen Walking District
Hanzhong Street, Wanhua District, Taipei

Taiwan Tourism promotes Ximen Walking District as Taipei’s very own Takeshita Dori (in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo). I see the youthful, energetic vibe, but the similarities end there. I think this place is unique to Taipei, a mishmash of the aforementioned vibe, bargain shopping a la Kowloon’s Mong Kok, multi-level popular high street and sports wear brands shopping like in Shibuya or Siam Square, and a combination of fast food and trendy (but not too posh) dining establishments like in Maginhawa.

More importantly, Ximen Walking District has the cheapest, good brown sugar bubble tea at NTD 40! I don’t even remember the stall having a name. You will just notice the queue. This is also a good place to buy souvenirs and to book an accommodation. It’s sandwiched between Ximen Station and Taipei Main Station and near central Taipei attractions.

Balayan Bay

53 | Balayan Bay + Baywalk
Paz Street, Balayan, Batangas

One of the things I miss the most in my university days is the frequent trips I make to Manila Bay. Sometimes I’d go with friends, most of the time, I go by myself. There’s something about watching a huge body of water that makes me feel hmm, I don’t know.

I did spend a good amount of time here watching people, boats and ships. The bay views are beautiful, the renovated portion now called Balayan Baywalk is a serviceable park.

Just like Manila Bay, however, trash builds up on the shores of Balayan Bay. It’s not as bad and I’m just really glad there’s a public park where people can enjoy the scenery.

Yongkang Street

52 | Yongkang Street | Sun Merry | Jimmy Mi-swa | King Mango
Daan District, Taipei

Another vibrant Taipei street that becomes extra lively at night is Yongkang Street – home of the original Din Tai Fung and also the place where shaved mango ice craze began. While Ximen Walking District is set in a large commercial district, Yongkang Street has a much more intimate, neighborhood-main-street vibe to it even if it’s just a few meters away from Dongmen Station on Xinyi Road.

Initially, I planned to sup in Din Tai Fung in Xinyi Road with Mimi because we’ve never braved the crowds in its hyped SM Megamall store location and because we’re in Taipei so having xiao long bao makes sense (it has Shanghainese roots, but it’s a quintessential Taipei dimsum item too). Craze involving food in Taipei is extra stressful, however, and apparently, Din Tai Fung locations in Taipei still see unbelievable queues.

Most of the other establishments along Yongkang Street are fully occupied too during meal times. We would have braved ordering in stores with menus only in Chinese characters, but our menu questions may not be entertained with patience because they have a lot of other customers.

And so we went to Jimmy Mi-swa, a small, family-owned eatery. We had a bowl of their signature noodle soup, which is prepared similarly to miswa here in Manila, but with bits of pig intestine and cilantro. For dessert, we went to King Mango. It isn’t the most popular shaved mango ice place on the street, so we went here instead of the jampacked Smoothie House.

Lots of local snacks are also sold on the street – it’s like a night market that’s not a proper night market, if that makes sense. On our way back to Ximen, we bought bottled fruit juices from a fruit stand and assorted bread from Sun Merry.

Balite Falls

51 | Balite Falls
Balite Road, Amadeo, Cavite

It rained hard the day I decided to visit Amadeo on a whim. The falls are brown due to the rain but it’s still so pretty. I would have taken a dip into one of its cement-paved pools but they close early. Oh well, the world is spared from a shirtless selfie of me beside the falls so it could be a good thing.

San Sebastian Cathedral

50 | San Sebastian Cathedral
G. Solis Street, Lipa, Batangas

I have visited Lipa on a Visita Iglesia before. I remember its cathedral to be grand and quite unique in shape. When I revisited the place in July, there’s a huge ass screen attached to its bell tower. Additions to the structure are ugly and water damage to the ceiling suggests poor maintenance.

Still, the painted walls and ceilings inside are awe inspiring and overall it is still very much worth visiting. I really am dismayed with how our old Catholic churches are maintained and renovated. They are our cultural treasures!

49 | Shifen Old Street
Pingxi District, New Taipei City

I’m not going to mince words here – the buildings in Shifen Old Street are ugly, especially when compared to those in Sanxia and Yingge. Pingxi District used to be an important coal mining town and Shifen was one of the railroad stops in its rail line. As a whole, Pingxi never experienced the sophisticated affluence of those towns and whatever riches mining has brought about to Pingxi has deteriorated when the operations ceased.

But that’s what makes Shifen charming and brimming with tourist potential. A stroll on its narrow alleyways by the railroad brings out its rustic, provincial appeal. To hasten the revival of its economy, Shifen resorted to selling the experience of flying sky lanterns to eager tourists. They even added an element of quasi-spirituality to it. Different lantern colors correspond to different wishes – one color is for good health, another color is for prosperity, and so on, and you get to write your wishes on the lantern you purchase before you launch them from the railroad tracks.

Shifen may be unabashedly touristy and the skylantern business isn’t exactly eco-friendly but the positive energy of other wish-making visitors makes the place lively and fun to visit.

Dubai Marina Skyline From Aquaventure Beach

48 | Aquaventure Beach | Aquaventure, Atlantis the Palm | Atlantis the Palm Barracudas Aquaventure
Palm Jumeirah, Dubai

Aquaventure in Atlantis the Palm proved to me why it’s best water park in Dubai when I visited. Everything is clean and organized and the guides are friendly. Fast food in Barracudas Aquaventure is good too. The gimmicks aren’t unique but whatever, they didn’t need to reinvent every existing fun concept in water parks to run an enjoyable water park.

What I did love so much from this place, because I’m not really a big fan of water parks, are the views from Aquaventure Beach. I really could stay there till sundown just admiring Burj Al Arab and Dubai Marina from the beach if I didn’t have another item in my Dubai to-see list.

228 Peace Park

47 | 2/28 Peace Park
No. 3 Ketagalan Boulevard, Zhongzheng District, Taipei

Before coming to Taiwan, I knew how divisive some political issues could be among the Taiwanese – even though our Asian History textbooks in high school tend to highlight KMT’s importance/legitimacy. I won’t get into it in detail, this is not a politics blog, but I just want to say that I have never imagined that the actual magnitude of the passion the Taiwanese have towards CKS-led KMT – regardless of how favorable they view the subject matter – even up to now, is really big.

2/28 Peace Park is named to commemorate the beginning (February 28) of a series of very important events in Taiwanese history that isn’t really openly talked about up until the 1990s.

It is a beautiful, albeit not well-kept, green park, with a handful of meaningful monuments.

The Red House

46 | Red House | Da(d0t)com Chicken Chops | Golden Flower
Wanhua District, Taipei

The Red House is an iconic building just right outside Exit 1 of Ximen Station. Originally built by the Japanese as a public market, it now provides a space for Taipei’s creatives to display their goods.

The area is not only a haven for local artists. The square behind the Red House hosts a handful of LGBT-friendly establishments. Behind the bars and along Neihu Street are cheap eateries that serve tasty Taiwanese fare. I had a taro bubble tea at Golden Flower and chicken chops at Da(dot)com Chicken Chops.

Heritage conservation, repurposing spaces to instigate urban renewal, providing retail spaces to support local talent and safe spaces for LGBT to congregate, good and affordable food – the Red House area ticks all the right boxes that make it a center for all things cool.

Part 2, maybe some time next week?

Ancestral Houses of Taal, Batangas – Part 2

In an earlier post, I have made a round up of notable ancestral houses in the heritage town of Taal, Batangas. In this post, I will be sharing photos of houses I have no information about.

Unlike most of the identified homes, which have been repurposed as bed and breakfast hotels, cafes, museums, or private homes with walking tours, many of the unidentified structures listed here are either private residences or abandoned.

Note that not all homes have the features of a typical, turn of the century bahay na bato. Some are pre/postwar modern, but are nonetheless beautiful and well kept.

As there are many unidentified houses, there will be a Part 3. For this particular post, I’ll be featuring houses from the arch to the San Martin de Tours Basilica, homes around Casa Real, and homes along Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo up Calle Vicente Ilustre and Calle Doctor Hermenegildo Castillo.

Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo, from the arch to Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion
1. Whitewashed house left of the arch
2. House with red roofing right of the arch
Taal Welcome Arch

3. House with a sign that reads “St. Peter”

4. Blue and white house

Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo, from Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion to San Martin de Tours Basilica
5. House with red rooming
6. House with wood doors with a rectangle design
Calle Marcela M Agoncillo

Calle Graciano Punzalan, in Front of Taal Social Plaza (Basketball Court)
7. 2-story house on the left
8. 3-story house in the middle
9. 3-story house on the right
Taal Social Plaza

Calle Gliceria Marella, from Rizal College of Taal to intersection with Calle General Ananias Diokno
10. House beside Rizal College of Taal
Calle Gliceria Marella

11. House with pale yellow gate and enclosed balcony
Calle Gliceria Marella

12. Vermilion house with “M.K. Solis” gate
Calle Gliceria Marella

13. Big white house with modern materials
Calle Gliceria Marella

14. Brick house
Calle Gliceria Marella

Homes Surrounding Casa Real/Taal Municipal Hall
15. White house beside 7-11 with a small porch
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

16. Dark house beside Cabrera House
Casa Real

17. Smaller house beside Cabrera House
Casa Real

18. Two conjoined houses beside Cafe G
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

Calle Marcella M. Agoncillo, Between Calle General Ananias Diokno and Calle Vicente Ilustre
19. House with a zaguan painted red
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

18. Mint green house
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

19. House marked as Kuya Benzon Lomi House & Restaurant
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

20. Shophouse with label “Lyn Cuento Store”
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

21. House with pink accents
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

22. Empty renovated house at the intersection of Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo and Calle V. Ilustre
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

These houses may not be as well maintained or as old. The people who lived in them may not be as prominent as the Agoncillo and Villavicencio couples or the Apacible brothers, but their preservation and upkeep is just as important. Their mere presence prevents the notable houses from being isolated remnants of Taal’s glorious past and completes the old town atmosphere of Taal’s center.

If you happen to have information about these houses and their previous and/or current owners, feel free to share them.

Planning a Trip to Taipei

Trip will be 5 days long and will cover Taipei and New Taipei City

Day 1 – October 7, Sunday
You will arrive at Taoyuan Airport, Terminal 1 in the morning. Pick up the pocket WiFi you have reserved, buy and EasyCard and take the Airport train to Taipei Main Station. Continue your journey towards Longshan Temple Station to enjoy Bangka Park, Bopilao Historical Block and Longshan Temple. If you have more time, you can also check two other nearby temples – Bangka Qingshan Temple and Bangka Qingshui Temple.

Longshan Temple
Longshan Temple by Sarah Grimwood

After a satisfying lunch at The Aroma, check out the Nishi Honganji Relics and take touristy photos in the Red House area. Also worth visiting is the Taipei Tianhou Temple nearby. Before checking in, have a light snack at Ay-Chung Flour-Rice Noodle because miswa is love.

The Red House at Ximen, Taipei ( 西門紅樓 )
The Red House at Ximen, Taipei ( 西門紅樓 ) by Benjamin Hsu

Rest a bit in your hotel room before you take the train to Xiangshan Park Station. An exit leads to the trek atop Elephant Mountain, where spectacular views of the city, including Taipei 101, could be found. Enjoy the breathtaking views before you descend the mountain to get to Taipei 101 up close.

Taipei 101: Through the trees
Taipei 101: Through the trees by sabrandt

Check what’s inside the Taipei 101 mall but don’t spend much time in it because dinner awaits at Din Tai Fung in Xinyi Road. The Hong Kong branch may be the one that received a star from Michelin, but it’s in this Da’an District branch where it all started. A block away from Din Tai Fung is King Mango. Try their shaved ice dessert.

Day 2 – October 8, Monday
This day is going to be packed so you need to be up as early as possible. The first stop will be Academia Historica, followed by the Presidential Office Building, and then Taiwan Provincial City God Temple. Grab your morning coffee at Wilbeck Cafe before heading to 2/28 Peace Park. Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, the city’s largest public square, is next. If you’re lucky, you’ll be witness to the changing of the guards ceremony.

Taiwan-National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall-中正紀念堂
Taiwan National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall by Ringo Lee

For brunch, head to Hangzhou Xiao Long Bao. They serve good dimsum according to online sources. You will also visit Dr. Sun Yan-Sen Memorial, before heading back to Taipei Main Station for your first journey outside the city – Yingge.

Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall by bunya541

Yingge used to be a thriving commercial center outside Taipei that takes pride of its pottery traditions. Now a district within the newly created New Taipei City and only a bit less than an hour away from Taipei city proper by train, it is renowned for its Old Street which is lined by old buildings repurposed to house shops that sell pottery and ceramics. Yingge also has a Ceramics Museum, but this day will be a Monday, so expect it to be closed.

Yingge Shooting by Candy Wang

There’s no straightforward way to visit nearby Sanxia, your next destination, from Yingge. Take advantage of this fact to take a cab. The ride will take only 10 minutes, and fare is said to be less than NTD 100. Sanxia has a beautiful temple and lovely streets with old buildings. Take your time to explore the place before you trace your steps back to Yingge, and to Taipei.

Sanxia by undies(Sean Huang)

At night, head to Liaoning Street Market, the first of the three night markets you will visit on this trip. Why this market? This is where Chang’s parents work, at least in the fictional world of Wong Kar Wai’s Happy Together. Sleep as early as you can, because Day 3 is going to be just as packed.

Taipei Liaoning Street Night Market / 遼寧街夜市
Taipei Liaoning Street Night Market / 遼寧街夜市 by still_shotz

Day 3 – October 9, Tuesday
Natural attractions and old mining towns will be the highlight for Day 3. At around 7 a.m., you should head to Zhongshan Hall. Take some photos and then proceed to Gakuden Bakery. This will be the meeting place for the day tour’s shuttle to Yehliu Geopark.

Taiwan Yehliu geopark
Taiwan Yehliu geopark by Philipp Chistyakov

Yehliu Geopark features interesting rock formations at the northeastern coast of Taiwan. The next stops will be the Yin Yang Sea, 13 Layer Remains, and Golden Waterfall.

13-Layer Remains (Remains of Copper Refinery)
13-Layer Remains (Remains of Copper Refinery) by Kris Wang

Around lunch time, you will be shuttled to Jiufen, an old gold mining town with quaint old streets lined with tea shops, snack shacks and beautiful red lanterns. Jiufen ranks high among many visitors to Taipei because it is allegedly an inspiration for the setting of a popular Hayao Miyazaki animated film.

Taiwan - Jiufen
Taiwan – Jiufen by Hinoe_

Shifen is your next destination. It used to be a prosperous coal mining town. Like Jiufen, it has experienced a renaissance of sorts since it started focusing on tourism. You will stop by Shifen Waterfall first at around 3 p.m. By 4 p.m., you will be led to Shifen Old Street. Here, you can buy and fly a personalized lantern. The shuttle tour ends when you’re back in the city.

Shifen Old Street
Shifen Old Street by ruich_whx

Hunt for dinner at the stalls in Raohe Night Market. Nearby are Taipei-Fu Chenghuang Temple and the Rainbow Bridge. You will be very tired at the end of Day 3.

Rainbow Bridge
Rainbow Bridge by Mr. Saengphon

Day 4 – October 10, Wednesday
10/10 is Taiwan’s National Holiday. Celebrations, according to a few Taiwan-based friends, will be limited to key areas in Taipei, so take advantage of this fact and head out of the big city and venture to Beitou, a hot spring town that flourished during the Japanese colonial period. Visit Thermal Valley and admire the vapor that rise above its 90 degrees C pond. If you fancy dipping into one of the public hot springs in the area, you can head to Beitou Hot Springs. As this day is a national holiday, pray that the place is not as packed. If it is, then your journey farther northwest to Tamsui should commence sooner.

Beitou Thermal Valley
Beitou Thermal Valley by Jayden Electro

From Tamsui Station, take a bus to the Fisherman’s Wharf. In it is the Beautiful Lovers Bridge that accentuate the beauty of this riverside and seaside district. As you trace your way back to Tamsui Station, you will pass by Fort San Domingo, a fortified area with historic links to the Spanish Empire, the Dutch East India Company, the British, and Qing Dynasty. Closer to the MRT Station are Tamsui Old Street, Fuyou Temple, Tamsui Longshan Temple, and Tamsui Cultural Park.

DSC02115-ed淡水漁人碼頭–華燈初上 by GOLDEN KUO

Taipei Confucius Temple and Baoan Temple are your next stops. Nearby Dalong Street Night Market is the least known and most local among the night markets you’ll visit on this trip. This is your last night in Taipei. Hunt for food you haven’t crossed off your list of Taiwanese food to try.

保安宮 Bo-An Temple
保安宮 Bo-An Temple by anthonioo & Mei-Ling

Day 5 – October 11, Thursday
Make the most our of your last day by heading to Shandao Temple. It’s not special, but it’s close enough to Fuhang Soy Milk, a breakfast place that serves traditional Taiwanese breakfast. Also nearby are Central Art Park and Taipei Artist Village. Be sure to be back at your Ximen hotel before noon because you need to checkout before lunch time.

fuhang soy milk 6
fuhang soy milk 6 by wrdtl

Your plane out of Taipei won’t take off until 7 p.m., but since you’ll be carrying your luggage around, you have no other option but to head straight to Taoyuan Airport after checkout.

Ancestral Houses of Taal, Batangas

Casa Real
Cabrera House | Private Residence
Calle Jose W. Diokno
I found the name of this house just across the street from Casa Real through a blog post from Neil Alvin Nicerio. [A] He visited 2012 to attend Taal’s EL PASUBAT festival.

Casa Asinas
Casa Asinas (1870) | Private Residence
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
Casa Asinas is owned by Rogie Reyes, who also owns the renovated Villa Tortuga, [Q] another ancestral house along Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo, and Casa Victrola Cafe in Calle Dr. Hermenegildo del Castillo. [M] Before heading to Taal, it never showed up in Internet searches. I was only able to know the name of this house because it’s posted on its wooden gate. It’s likely currently a private residence. On my visit last July, there were people on the upper floor.

Casa Gahol
Casa Gahol (1890) | Art Gallery | Cafe
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
Casa Gahol houses a gallery of artworks curated by internationally renowned glass sculptor Ramon Orlina. The maternal side of Orlina’s family is the Gahol Clan. [B] It also has a cafe name Francisco’s that overlooks Pansipit River. The cafe serves local desserts like suman, as well as drinks such as iced coffee and frappuccino. [C]

Casa Emiliana
Casa Emiliana | Restaurant
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
The name of this house is posted on its Calle Dr. Hermenegildo del Castillo side entrance. The restaurant on its zaguan serves breakfast fare such as tapang Taal, Taal longanisa, as well as pancit. I did not find any mention of this place elsewhere. On Google Maps street view (currently displaying images taken in 2015), this place has a signage that says it’s called T.A.A.L. Tourist Info Center.

Casa Punzalan
Casa Punzalan | Bed and Breakfast
Calle Graciano Punzalan
Casa Punzalan is an ancestral house converted into a hotel. [C] It is a stone’s throw away from the basilica.

Casa Recuerdos
Casa Recuerdos | Souvenir Photos
Calle Dr. Hermenegildo del Castillo
Casa Recuerdos offers 2 free souvenir photos of visitors in period costumes if they join the Casas de Taal tour organized by Paradores del Castillo. [D][E]

Casa Villavicencio
Casa Villavicencio (1850) | Private Residence with Guided Tours
Calle Gliceria Marella
Constructed in 1850, Casa Villavicencio, also known as Casa V, is the residence of patriotic couple Eulalio Villavicencio and Gliceria Marella Villavicencio. Important figures who have been guests in the house include revolutionary leaders like Andres Bonifacio, Miguel Malvar, Vito Belarmino, and Felipe Calderon. [F]

It is a private residence but it is open on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for guided tours and pictorials. Visits on other days could be arranged. [G] It is a part of Casas de Taal tour organized by Paradores del Castillo. [E]

Galleria Taal
Galleria Taal | Museum | Cafe
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
Also known as Ylagan-Barrion House, Galleria Taal is established as a photo gallery in 2009. It houses a camera collection of Manny Barrion Inumerable, including cameras that date back to the late 1800s. It is first camera museum in the Philippines. [H] Candida Cafe, which serves mostly breakfast fare, is on its ground floor.

Galleria Taal is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. [H] It’s a part of Casas de Taal tour organized by Paradores del Castillo, [E] as well as Pio Goco’s Food and Walking Tour [I]

Goco Ancestral House
Goco Ancestral House (1876) | Private Residence with Guided Tours
Philippine Cultural Property PH-40-0006 [K]
Calle Gliceria Marella
This well-preserved house originally belongs to Ambassador Raul Goco, the son of Juan Cabrera Goco, the Treasurer of the Filipino Revolutionary Movement. [J]

As a private residence, the house is not open to the public. However, it is part of Pio Goco’s Food and Walking Tour of Taal. [I]

Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion
Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion | Museum
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
This beautiful and stately white-painted American colonial house belongs to the Agoncillo family. [C][F][L] It is fronted by a bronze statue of Felipe Agoncillo, who’s widely regarded as the first diplomat of the Philippines and husband to Marcela Agoncillo. [C] Inside, there is a collection of well-kept Edwardian and Spanish-inspired furiture from the late 1800s and early 1900s.  [F]

The house is preserved by the Don Gregorio Agoncillo Foundation, in honor of Corazon Agoncillo, Gregorio’s daughter and benefactress of Taal. [L] Admission fee is Php 70 [F] It is also part of walking tours offered by Paradores del Castillo [E] and Pio Goco [I]

Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
Jesus Is Lord Church | Church
Calle Marcella M. Agoncillo
The 2nd floor of this bahay na bato is repurposed as a place of worship for members of the Jesus Is Lord Church, as of July 2018. I have no additional information about this house.

Casa Victrola
La Casa Victrola Cafe | Bed and Breakfast
Calle Dr. Hermenegildo del Castillo
La Casa Victrola Cafe is owned and operated by Professor Rogie Reyes of DLS-College of Saint Benilde and Chef Earl Salazar or De La Salle Lipa. It began its operations on September 2016. Its varied menu includes local delicacies such as suman and tsokolate, tapang Taal with atchara from neighboring Calaca, Batangas, pasta, and different types of frappuccinos. [M]

Leon Apacible Museum
Leon Apacible Museum | Museum
Philippine Cultural Property PH-40-0017 [K]
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

This mansion turned museum was built in the 19th century. Don Leon Apacible was the finance officer of Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo’s revolutionary government. [C] It houses furniture and fixtures that complement the Art Deco elements incorporated to the house when it was renovated in the 1940s. [C][N]

Presently administered by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the entrance to the museum is free. [N] It is part of the tour offered by Paradores del Castillo. [E]

Marcela Agoncillo Museum
Marcela Agoncillo Museum | Museum
Philippine Cultural Property PH-40-005 [K]
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo

Although the first flag of the Philippines was sewn by Marcela Agoncillo when she, her husband, Don Felipe Agoncillo, and their children, were living in exile in Hong Kong, [C] their ancestral home offers a wealth of information about the Philippine revolution flags and the evolution of the national flag. The displays also provide insights about the public and private lives of the patriotic couple.

Presently administered by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, the entrance to the museum is free. [N] It is also part of walking tours offered by Paradores del Castillo [E] and Pio Goco. [I]

Paradores del Castillo
Paradores del Castillo
Calle Dr. Hermenegildo del Castillo
JB Macatulad of Will Fly for Food said that Paradores del Castillo is “hands down the best place to stay in Taal Heritage Town.” [O] It opened in 2015 as a bed and breakfast place, boasts of renovated furnishings that marry the old with the new, and a breathtaking view of Batangas. Walking tours offered by Paradores del Castillo [E] and Pio Goco [I] include this hotel in their itineraries.

Calle Gliceria Marella
Tagpuan | Restaurant
Calle Gliceria Marella
I passed by Tagpuan Cafe when I exited the basilica. From its store sign on its facade it reads that it offers burgers and pizza among other snacks. I have no additional information about this restaurant.

Tampuhan Cafe
Tampuhan Cafe | Bed and Breakfast
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
You can’t miss Tampuhan Cafe on a stroll along Calle Marcella M. Agoncillo. Its whitewashed exterior walls are adorned with life-size painted portraits of Apolinario Mabini, a lady in Maria Clara, and an officer in period uniform. Its rooms may be old but if you want to spend the night in Taal but you are on a budget, you cannot go wrong with Tampuhan Cafe. For Php 850 a night per person, you get to enjoy an airconditioned room with free WiFi and a complimentary breakfast. Bathrooms are shared. [O]

Villa Tortuga
Villa Tortuga | Bed and Breakfast
Calle Marcela M. Agoncillo
Villa Tortuga is an ancestral home where groups can arrange colonial-era dinners, rent period costumes, and take home sepia-toned pictures of the event. Meals are Php 1,500 per person. If you wish to just visit the house and admire the restoration work of fashion designer Lito Perez, entrance fee is Php 50. Likewise, there’s a souvenir shop at the ground floor. [C][O]

The tour operated by Paradores del Castillo stops by Villa Tortuga. [E]

Villavicencio Wedding Gift House
Villavicencio Wedding Gift House (1872) | Museum
Calle Gliceria Marella
Also known as Casa Regalo de Boda, this house is gifted by Don Eulalio Villavicencio to his wife, Dona Gliceria Marella, on his wedding day. [P] The current owner of this brightly colored house is Jocelyn Quiblat, a great granddaughter of Gliceria Marella. [A]

Entrance fee is Php 80. [F]

Other Notable Ancestral Houses
Unfortunately, I was not able to visit all the notable stock of ancestral houses in Taal. Most of them only came up as I do my post-visit research about the town.

These homes are:
Casa Conchita [Google Maps]
Casa de Dimaano [A]
Casa de la Rosa [R]
Casa Ylagan-de la Rosa [C][K][S]
Feliza Taverna y Cafe/Diokno Ancestral House [T]
General Ananias Diokno House [U]
Villa Severina [Q]

[A] Nicerio, Neil Alvin. “Batangas Adventure: Taal.” The Backpack Adventures. (published 23 December 2012, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[B] San Juan, Thelma Sioson. “A Suggestion to Women Who Like to Be Linked to Aquino.” (published 28 April 2018, retrieved 21 August 2018)

[C] Zeta-Yap, Edgar Alan. “Pathways to the Past: Taal Town’s Heritage Trail.” EAZY Traveler. (published 2 May 2012, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[D] No author. “Casa Recuerdos.” Paradores de Taal. (no published date, retrieved 21 August 2018)

[E] No author. “Travel to Taal, The Vigan of the South.” Paradores de Taal. (no published date, retrieved 21 August 2018)

[F] Macatulad, JB. “Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines.” Will Fly For Food. (published 14 June 2015, version accessed 12 June 2016, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[G] No author. “Eulalio & Gliceria Marella Villavicencio House.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[H] No author. “Galleria Taal.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[I] Macatulad, JB. “Taal Heritage Town Food & Walking Tour with Pio Goco: What to Do Around Manila.” Will Fly for Food. (published 08 March 2015, version accessed 15 October 2017, retrieved 21 August 2018)

[J] No author. “Goco House.” Taal.PH. (published 26 July 2017, retrieved 11 August 2018)

[K] Wikipedia. “List of Cultural Properties of the Philippines in Calabarzon.” (page last updated 20 April 2018, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[L] No author. “Don Gregorio Agoncillo.” Taal.PH (no published date, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[M] Ilagan, Mitzi. “La Casa Victrola Cafe Proves That Age Doesn’t Matter.” (published 5 December 2016, retrieved 22 August 2018)

[N] No author. “Don Leon Apacible Museum.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[O] Macatulad, JB. “The First Timer’s Guide to Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines.” Will Fly For Food. (published 15 June 2015, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[P] No author. “Villavicencio “Wedding Gift House”.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[Q] Europeo, Drew and Czy Reputana. “Engagement of Roi Severo & Che Palomar.” Reflective Chemistry. (published 19 December 2012, retrieved 24 August 2018)

[R] No author. “Casa de la Rosa.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 8/10/2018)

[S] No Author. “Casa Ylagan-de la Rosa.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 8/10/2018)

[T] Macatulad, JB. “Feliza Taverna y Cafe: Where to Eat in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines.” Will Fly for Food. (published 9 June 2015, version accessed 30 November 2017, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[U] No author. “Gen Ananias Diokno House.” Taal.PH. (no published date, retrieved 10 August 2018)

[V] Aleckzandra, Patricia. “A Taste of Taal Authenticity at La Casa Victrola Cafe.” FoodFindsAsia. (no published date, accessed 22 August 2018)

Edit History
Last Updated: 24 August 2018 – Added information about Casa Asinas; source listed. Revised subsections for Casa Gahol, La Casa Victrola, Marcela Agoncillo Museum, Tampuhan Cafe, and Villavicencio Wedding Gift House. Added section Other Notable Ancestral Houses and sources to list items. Added related source to La Casa Victrola Cafe. Added tags.

Lipa Travel Guide

Laurel National Highway

On surface level, Lipa does not seem like a city with many cultural things to offer. Like Manila, it sustained heavy damage during World War II and its stock of palatial homes of concrete and wood has decreased significantly. Dig a little bit deeper and its cultural heritage, one that’s strongly connected to its glorious, golden years as the center of the coffee industry in the Philippines – and for a short period, the world – will reveal itself.

Morada Avenue

But while one has to make an effort to seek Lipa’s colorful history through the city museum, its grand Catholic cathedral, and a handful of extant old houses, understanding why locals say Lipa is the premier lifestyle hub of Southern Luzon is not very difficult. Its inventory of food parks, coffee shops, dining establishments, and watering holes can rival those of any city in Metro Manila in both quantity and quality. Its malls are equally massive and small businesses thrive at its downtown area.


Lipeños are inherently cosmopolitan in nature, but this wasn’t always the case. Before the early 1800s, one could say that since the Augustinians set up a mission in 1604 to convert the locals, it was just one of the many towns in Batangas. Local historian RR Torrecampo recounts that “in 1808, Galo de los Reyes began the widespread cultivation of the coffee trees by compelling the people to plant the same and thus brought about the wealth, splendor and fame that Lipa had after this time.” [A] Its fertile soil and cool climate made coffee growing a profitable industry and eventually, the entire province of Batangas  “rose to fame as the leading cultivator of coffee in the country.” [B]

De Julio Street

Things to See and Do
Casa de Segunda
Casa De Segunda/Luz-Katigbak Ancestral House
Philippine Cultural Property (PH-40-0001) [C]
Built in 1880 by Don Norberto Kalaw Katigbak, Lipa Gobernadorcillo from 1862 to 1883, and Dona Justa Metra Solis, this typical, 19th Century bahay na bato is named after Segunda Solis Katigbak, also known as national hero Jose Rizal’s first love.

Segunda eventually married Manuel Metra Luz, a man from a prominent Lipa family of artists and scholars, in 1886. They lived in this house with their nine children, as well as their descendants.

Repairs to the damages sustained by the house in World War II in 1942 was initiated by Paz Luz Dimayuga, one of Segunda’s children. Full restoration of the house and the garden was undertaken by Paz’s grandchildren. [D] Memorabilia from the Luz-Katigbak clan is prominently displayed throughout the house.

198 Jose Rizal Street
Admission: Php 20 [E], Photography Php 100 [F]

De La Salle Lipa
De La Salle Lipa
President Laurel National Highway

Fidel Reyes
Fidel A. Reyes Bust and Historical Marker
P. Torres Street corner G. Solis Street
Fidel A. Reyes is a prominent Lipa-born nationalist writer. His 1908 editorial ‘Aves de Rapina’ (Birds of Prey) in Spanish language publication El Renacimiento exposed the misdeeds of Dean C. Worcester, an American zoologist and then Secretary of the Interior of the United States colonial government. He is also notable for being an assemblyman in 1912, and the first Filipino director of Trade and Industry. In 1967, he donated property to Lipa for the establishment of the Philippines’ first ever SOS Children’s Village. [G]

The bust and historical marker is erected in front of the Reyes family home at the corner of P. Torres and G. Solis Streets. It is created by National Artist Abdulmari Asia Imao upon the commission of the National Historical Institute. [H] Currently, the lot is occupied by the Lipa location of Don Juan BBQ Boodle House.

Luz-Bautista House
Luz-Librea-Bautista House
P. Torres Street
This Babylonian-inspired stone mansion is built by the patriarch of the Luz clan, Don Jose de San Miguel Luz for his daughter Maria Luz, who is married to Leon Librea. Drying the lumber, sawing the wood, and transporting it from Mindoro to Lipa took time and it was completed in 1881, 10 years after construction commenced. [I]

Construction materials include molave (posts and frames), narra (flooring), santol wood (ceiling and partitions); adobe, lime, and sand (walls and columns); and galvanized iron (roofing). A cloth painted with designs copied from famous European paintings covers its ceilings. [I]

Don Jose decorated the house with the finest pieces of furniture from both Europe and the Philippines. Additional bedrooms and a bathroom were constructed in 1917. It served as a Japanese headquarters between 1941 and 1944, and as a hospital in 1945. [I]

Private property, no walk-ins or scheduled tours

Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace Parish
Mary, Mediatrix of All Grace Parish
P. Torres Street

Morada Avenue
Old Houses

San Sebastian Cathedral
San Sebastian Metropolitan Cathedral
Philippine Cultural Property PH-40-0013 [C]
Claro Mayo Recto Avenue
The present building’s construction began in 1779 under Fray Ignacio Vasquez Pallares. Sections were added through the years until it was completed some time during the administration of Fray Benito Baras, between 1865 to 1894. It became a cathedral in 1910, when Lipa became a diocese. [J]

Where to Eat and Drink
Cafe de Lipa
Cafe de Lipa


Solis Street
Kamotecue and Bananacue

Metro Events Zone
Ayala Highway

Torres Street
Lipa Grill

De Julio Street
Fast Food Chains in Lipa

Where to Shop
Morada Avenue
B. Morada Avenue

Big Ben Complex
Ayala Highway

SM City Lipa
SM City Lipa
Ayala Hightway


[A] Torrecampo, RR. “The Life and Culture in the Town of Lipa, Batangas in the 1800s.” Batangas History. (published 1 March 2018, retrieved 20 August 2018)

[B] Dimen, Yoshke. “Cafe de Lipa: Reviving Kapeng Barako Glory in Batangas, Philippines.” (published 9 April 2012, retrieved 13 August 2018)

[C] Wikipedia. “List of Cultural Properties of the Philippines in Calabarzon.” (page last updated 20 April 2018, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[D] Dimen, Yoshke. “Casa de Segunda: Meeting Jose Rizal’s First Love in Lipa City, Batangas.” The Poor Traveler. (published 19 April 2012, retrieved 13 August 2018)

[E] Jaya, Jherson. “Casa de Segunda: Home of Pepe’s First Love.” Lonely Travelogue. (published 20 December 2012, retrieved 18 August 2018)

[F] This is what the caretaker charged for photography on my 31 July 2018 visit.

[G] Torrecampo, RR. “Fidel A. Reyes, the Lipa-born Nationalist Writer of the Early American Era, and the Case of the Bust to Honor His Memory.” Batangas History. (published 1 March 2018, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[H] Now National Historical Commission

[I] Lipa City Tourism and Museum Council. “The Luz-Librea-Bautista Ancestral House.” Lipa Tourism. (no published date, retrieved 19 August 2018)

[J] Lipa City Tourism and Museum Council. “San Sebastian Cathedral.” Lipa Tourism. (no published date, retrieved 19 August 2018)