Taal adventure alternative


It was probably the best adventure I had exploring the volcano island of Taal. After doing the usual Daang Kastila tourist trail many times, I was finally able to do again the challenging Mt. Tabaro to crater lake trail, and saw how the volcano island has fully recovered after the 1965-1969 eruptions. The lava from the 1969 eruption had hardened and the local tourism office built a beautiful concrete trail on top of it, even calling it Lava Trail. I saw how trees had grown after 50 years and birds had returned and made the island their home.

That was in February 2019. I was looking forward to making another Taal adventure. Then, Jan. 12, 2020 eruption happened. And the island went back to the way it was in 1969. Or, maybe even worse. I cannot wait for another 50 years to step on the island again. I have to find another way of enjoying Taal volcano.

I started by looking at the old trails that connect Tagaytay ridge with the lakeshore towns of Talisay and Laurel. They were used before by the locals to climb to higher grounds for safety every time the volcano erupted. Among these trails is via Sambong that connects Tagaytay to the town of Laurel. It’s an eight-kilometer trail starting from Mendez crossing, passing through thickly forested paths to a village called Sitio Bitin before finally descending to Laurel town center. This portion of the ridge is already part of the Taal Volcano Protected Landscape, and among its interesting features are layers of rocks of varying colors that give clue to volcano’s ancient eruptions and a magnificent hidden waterfalls flowing on a huge rusty red rock.


From Laurel town, tricycles can be rented to go to Agoncillo via the lakeside road. It’s an interesting ride as it takes you as close as possible to see the volcano island after the 2020 eruption, particularly in Barangay Buso-Buso in Laurel where a view-deck was built to see how the once beautiful green island has now turned into a barren, gray landmass. You can also stop by at the deserted village in Agoncillo that the lake water had claimed as a result of many volcanic earthquakes.

From Agoncillo, it’s another tricycle ride to San Nicolas town. It is where the original Taal town was founded in 1572. During the volcano’s deadliest recorded eruption in 1754, the original town was buried beneath layers of stones, mud and ashes. Nothing was left except the wall of the church and the convent. The ruins of the old church made from coral stones still stand in San Nicolas, a silent reminder of the volcano’s fury.

After the 1754 eruption, Taal town was transferred to a higher ground to its present location in Caysasay, about six kilometers southwest of San Nicolas (about 15 minutes tricycle ride). The new Taal became Batangas’ provincial trade and commercial center during the Spanish time, attracting rich families like the Agoncillos, Villavicencios and Dioknos to build palatial homes. On the town’s highest point, a church dedicated to St. Martin de Tours was built from 1755, but was again damaged by volcanic earthquake in 1852. The present church was built in 1856, and it was completed in 1878.

Today, Taal is one of the country’s most beautiful heritage towns, with over a hundred beautiful and elegant ancestral houses still standing. It’s Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, which has survived many transfers and damages due to volcanic activities, is considered as the country’s grandest and biggest Catholic church. The local market continues to sell products that convey the town's rich history and heritage: embroidered Filipiniana dresses, balisong, suman sa lihia, peanut brittle, tablea, dried tawilis, and tapang Taal. It’s hard to believe that despite its new location, the town is but a few kilometers away from one of the country’s deadliest volcano, whose name it still carries.

I think that I will no longer be able to set foot on volcano island ever again. But there are now other alternatives to going on an adventure around Taal. And they also take one on a journey to trace the history of this beautiful but furious volcano.

(The author is a senior who recently retired. His taste for adventure has not kept him from travelling, usually via not-so-usual routes.)