Peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain).  Insulares (Spaniards born in the Philippines). Mestizos or half-breeds who take unbridled pride in the “more superior half” and would rather ignore the “inferior”, perhaps accidental, perhaps never-intended half. And then there were the Sangleys or Chinoys, along with the Indios.

St Martin De Tours Basilica

Inside the Basilica

Interestingly, the Spaniards born in the Philippines were initially called “Filipinos” while the natives were called “Indios”.  Over time,  they were tagged as Insulares  while the Indios remained……, Indios. 

A Very Grand Altar and Magnificent Ceiling and Dome. Only In Taal, Batangas.

Santa Lucia Well near Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine


What was that? Like it or not, such was the imaginary caste system in the olden days. Hate to think that it may actually still ring true today as the ugly side of our history rears itself back into present-day society. I dare not venture a guess, but there must have been such a great divide then as depicted in Rizal’s Noli and El Fili.  Passing many ancestral houses along a narrow street in Taal, Batangas, looking out the windows of such heirloom houses, imagining the senor and senoras in their caruajes while Indios walk along the same narrow streets, we had a glimpse of the past in this heritage town. 


Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine


This vision all the more reinforces how great our heroes were and are.  Many of them come from the Mestizos or half-breeds,  the Ilustrados, yet they reached out to join the Revolution with the peasants in the name of love for country.  Many of them opened their huge houses to hold secret and not-so-secret meetings with the others who joined the Revolution.  All patriots. Rich and Poor.  Ilustrado or Unschooled.  They were bound by the same love for country.


A Painting of Juan Matingkad Fishing Out the Image of Our Lady in Pansipit River


We visited 4 of these heritage houses in Taal.  Wish there was time to visit more. Perhaps even sit down for a dinner in some ancestral house in full Filipiniana regalia. But on this humid day,  we were quite content to have visited these 4. But I intend to head back. So the blog on the heritage houses would have to be put on hold.  For now,  let’s talk about the 2 religious sites in Taal, Batangas.  Make that 3, to include the Santa Lucia Well which is marked by a coral stone arch with a bas relief image of the Virgin. It is claimed that the spring water has miraculous healing powers. Having said that, I do not understand how the local government here cannot do something to ensure that the sacred place and its waters are kept clean.  


Inside Caysasay Shrine


Mi apologia. But we need to vent our frustrations some more.  We had a couple of guides from a local tourist agency and a couple more from the Municipal Hall.  The town of Taal is one interesting heritage town so rich in history. But we felt so deprived of a “guided tour” as we traipsed along the heritage houses and religious sites without much ado on what these landmarks mean to us.  We asked questions too, and found the answers so inadequate. We do not blame them, as they were likely not “prepared” and guided to conduct a proper tour.  But this should alert the Tourism Officers and the local government to ensure that every Taal Resident is aware of their history, their heritage.  Tourism in this neck of the woods can only prosper if even locals like us, Indios as we are, can appreciate the story and the history behind these landmarks. 


The Hagdan-Hagdanan, now called San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps.


For the life of me,  I think their spiel was limited to the following:

1.   The image of Our Lady of Caysasay was fished out of Pansipit River by one fisherman named Juan Maningkad.

2.   The image had this habit of disappearing and reappearing in the place where it was originally found.

3.   When it vanished for a longer time,  it was found anew guarded by 2 kingfisher birds called Casay Casay.

4.   The Parish Priest then decided to have the Shrine built upon the site where the image was discovered. There it remained. 


Now, I’m oversimplifying here but that’s the gist.  Who wants a long complicated story, anyway?  As for the Sacred Well of Santa Lucia,  who knows why it is called Santa Lucia Well?  They had no answers.  We only know there used to be a Chapel there but only the Arch with the bas relief remained after a Taal Volcano eruption back in 1754.



Neither do they know why the Hagdan-Hagdanan made of granite stones leading up to the center of town is now called San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps. Perhaps it was renamed in honor of the first Filipino Saint soon after his canonization?  Who knows?  * so frustrating*


Back to the Taal Basilica (St Martin De Tours )


So, I have decided I should go back.  Maybe get a better tour guide.  Or perhaps simply do more research.   After all, the Net has all the answers.  But that is not the point. Taal is so rich in history you could almost smell its tourism potentials. Not just from locals, but this colonial town nearly “frozen in time” makes for a convenient sidetrip from Manila, or even a weekend destination after Tagaytay City.  


Maybe I should join them up there!



(My blog on the Taal Heritage Houses in TravelBlog. Just click on this link.)