Batangas: Land of Beauty and Bravery

by • February 20, 2013 • Destinations, FeaturedComments (0)8820

Anilao Shrubs

Anilao Shrubs by penreyes/Creative Commons

Savor a slice of paradise in the many seaside towns and villages.  Dive into the depths of Anilao, Batangas’ very own underwater Eden.  Swin and dive into the tropical waters of Verde Island Passage, described as the center of the world’s marine biodiversity.  Frolic on Laiya Aplaya, San Juan town’s famous stretch of white sand beach, and hop around the many offshore islets.

Wonderful Anilao

Wonderful Anilao
by georgereyes/Creative Commons

An octopus in Anilao's underwater corals

Octopus
by nicoboxethai
(fr Flickr) under CC BY 2.0

Imbibe a bit of the rich history and cultural heritage of the province.  See the sights around the different towns, where historical landmarks, shrines and museums display the memorabilia of many heroic sons and daughters of Batangas.  Travel back in time at the Taal Heritage Village and marvel as the well-preserved ancestral houses dating back to the Spanish colonial era.  Visit the many centuries old churches, each one architecturally awe-inspiring.

Church in Taal, Batangas

Church in Taal, Batangas by Shubert Ciencia/Creative Commons

Heritage House in Taal Batangas

Heritage House in Taal Batangas
by Shubert Ciencia/Creative Commons

Indeed, a multi-faceted beauty, Batangas never ceases to catch the eye of the discerning visitor with its many charms and wonderful surprises.

Batangas

The magnificent view of Calatagan

Calatagan
by Roberto Verzo/Creative Commons

The province of Batangas , just a few hours away by land from Metro Manila, presents an eyeful of discoveries for the traveler, Batangas City, the bustling capital of the province, is the center of commerce and the seat of governance.  Known as the Industrial Port City of CALABARZON, Batangas City is one of the fastest urbanizing cities in the country today.  Its international caliber port facilities serve as the focal point of both international and inter-island trade and commerce.

Taal Lake and Volcano

Taal Lake and Volcano by Maroon Surreal/Creative Commons

Get a healthy dose of nature.  Explore the small wonder that is the Taal Volcano, surrounded by the mysterious depths of Taal Lake.  Trek Volcano Island, or take on other mountains in the province, explore the many waterfalls, and enjoy the rich flora and fauna.  The countryside is verdant with coconut plantations, mango orchards and coffee farms.  Take a tour and experience the activities and lifestyle of the rural folk.  Sample the local brews: rich Batangas coffee known as kapeng barako, and the potent coconut fire-water called lambanog.

Accessibility

Road to Batangas

Road to Batangas
by Roberto Verzo/Creative Commons

Batangas, about 110 kilometers south of Manila, is easily accessible by land transportation.  The South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) is the main artery connecting Metro Manila to the 32 municipalities and three cities of Batangas.  From the SLEX, take the Calamba exit, then proceed along the provincial highway until you reach the first town in Batangas, which is Sto. Tomas, and the nearby Tanauan City.

Travelers can take the Southern Tagalog Access Road or STAR a 43-kilometer extension of the SLEX that makes the drive that much smoother and traffic-free.  The STAR leads to the major cities of Lipa and Batangas, the provincial capital.  Batangas City has an international port where ferries and ships connect the province to Mindoro and other island provinces in the south.

Another route is via the Coastal Road, which winds alongside Manila Bay and through the towns of Cavite.  The way to Batangas then continues along Aguinaldo Highway to Tagaytay City.  From here, the road leads to the towns around Taal Lake, and further west to the resort towns of Nasugbu, Lian, Calatagan and other coastal areas.

The well-developed highway and road network in the CALABARZON Region links Batangas with its neighboring provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Rizal and Quezon.  Major bus companies in Metro Manila ply the roads to and around CALABARZON on a regular basis.  Terminals are located along Buendia and Taft Avenues in Manila, at the Araneta Center in Cubao, Quezon City, and along EDSA in Pasay City.

Batangas video by jovitbalayan81

A Slice of Paradise

Anilao, Mabini     A world-famous dive destination, the coastal village of Anilao has many sites worthy of any discriminating diver.  The Cathedral is a giant rock formation at about 450 feet that looks like an underwater amphitheater.  Seeded and restored with coral from other sites, it is home to throngs of eager fish waiting to be fed by visiting divers.  Another site is Caban Cove, with plenty of small tropical fish and an interesting drop-off good for shallow dives.  Layag-Layag Point has crystal clear water and coral heads teeming with marine life.

Anilao

Anilao by jett366/Creative Commons

Matabungkay

Matabungkay
by Hyougushi/Creative Commons

Matabungkay Beach, Lian     A two-km long white sand beach facing the China Sea, Matabungkay is ideal for water sports, such as swimming, boating, yachting, fishing and snorkeling.  Dotting the shoreline are several summer cottages and resorts.

The beautiful view in Munting Buhangin Beach Camp

Munting Buhangin Beach Camp by Roberto Verzo
(fr Flickr) under CC BY 2.0

Munting Buhangin and Natipunan Beach, Nasugbu     The small cove of Munting Buhangin, a name that translates to “small sand,” is a favorite haunt of local and foreign tourists, and offers water enthusiasts a fine stretch of powdery white sand fringed with foamy blue waters.  Natipuan Beach lies in a sandy cove with refreshing waters ideal for swimming.

Laiya Aplaya

Laiya Aplaya/Creative Commons

Laiya-Aplaya and Hugon Beaches, San Juan     San Juan town is fast becoming known as a premier area in Batangas with its sparkling stretches of white sand beach.  The seaside village of Laiya-Aplaya is especially popular with its many beach cottages and dive resorts. Mahabang Buhangin Beach, which translates to “long sand,” also boasts a cave and a living colony of corals offshore.  The beach in Barangay Hugon has white sand with a sandy bottom littered with  smooth rocks  ideal for swimming and snorkeling.  Apart from its beaches, San Juan offers divers the best coral reefs and rich colonies of marine life offshore.

Sombrero Island at A Distance

Sombrero Island at A Distance by Jun Acullador/Creative Commons

Sombrero Island, Maricaban     The island resembles the shape of a hat.  Underwater, it is shallow along the rim, down to about 50 feet. Another interesting site in the Mabini area is Batalan, a marvelous location for underwater photography because of its varied coral formations and abundant fish life.

Tingloy Island

Tingloy Island
by MadSaiyantist/Creative Commons

Tingloy, Maricaban Island     Merriel’s Rock and Papaya Point are interesting locations just off the town of Tingloy on Maricaban Island.  The wide variety of corals and numerous reef fish are enough to fascinate even a marine biologist.

Enjoying a dip in the Hot Spring of Batangas

Enjoying a dip in the Hot Spring of Batangas by The Wandering Angel/Creative Commons

Mainit Hot Spring, San Juan     Located ideally at the foot of a mountain with thick vegetation, Mainit Hot Spring offers therapeutic mineral waters and a refreshing dip for bathers.

A Healthy Dose of Nature

Taal Lake and Volcano

Taal Lake and Volcano by Maroon Surreal/Creative Commons

Taal Lake and Volcano     One of Southern Luzon’s centerpiece attractions  Taal Lake and Volcano can be reached through the lakeshore towns such as Talisay, San Nicolas, Agoncillo and Laurel.  Known to be the smallest active volcano in the world, Taal Volcano is surrounded by a lake on a 8.8-km islet, itself lapped by a 27-km long lake.  Both the lake and the volcano are situated within the crater of an extinct volcano.  Adventurers can trek and explore the many geological features on Volcano Island.

Talisay near Taal

Talisay near Taal by Roberto Verzo/Creative Commons

Talisay     One of the major jump-off points to Volcano Island, the town of Talisay has a number of resorts and a yacht club with facilities for sailing, kayaking, boat rental and camping in tents or in native cabanas by the lake.

Mt. Makulot, Cuenca

Mt. Makulot, Cuenca
by suntoksabwan/Creative Commons

Mt. Maculot, Cuenca     One of the highest and most prominent peaks in the province.  Mt. Maculot is a favorite with local mountain trekkers.  It is said to have been the last stronghold of the Japanese Imperial Army.  Several tunnels built by the Japanese soldiers are found in the area.

Boat to Verde Islands

A passenger boat to Verde Islands by Jun Acullador

Verde Island Passage     Described as the center of the world’s marine biodiversity by a joint research group from the American Smithsonian Institute, Verde Island Passage is an underwater wonderland.  Accessible by pump-boat from Batangas City, the area is characterized by spectacular reef formations of more than 300 species of corals, and underwater rock canyons that host nearly 60 percent of the world’s shore-fish species.

Falls

Falls by jpo_photo/Creative Commons

Calijon Falls, Malvar     Two major falls and two smaller ones make up this attraction.  One of the bigger falls is about 10 meters high, with clear water rushing down to a shallow pool.  The two smaller waterfalls form a series of small cascades and showers.

Ilijan Falls, Batangas City     Ilijan’s waters originate from a big spring on top of a mountain and cascade gracefully down a series of bowl -shaped stone pools.  The seven huge pools carved naturally from the rock face look like a beautifully arranged flight of stairs.

Calatagan

Calatagan by What’s on My Mind/Creative Commons

Calatagan Houses

Calatagan Houses by Roberto Verzo/Creative Commons

Calatagan Peninsula     Surrounded by the South China Sea on one side and Balayan Bay on the other, the Calatagan Peninsula is a popular weekend retreat of Manila’s well-to-do, who frequent the resorts and vacation homes lining the scenic coast.  There is also a small market where fresh seafood can be bought directly from local fishermen.

A Taste of Arts and Heritage

Heritage House in Taal Batangas

Heritage House in Taal Batangas
by Shubert Ciencia/Creative Commons

Taal Heritage Village, Taal     Taal reigns as one of the most architecturally preserved sites of the Spanish colonial era in the Southern Tagalog region.  The quaint and picturesque town showcases beautiful Antillean and art deco period homes, as well as old churches and historical landmarks associated with many key events of the Philippine Revolution of 1896-1898.  It is also the embroidery capital of the region, with many skilled artisans producing delicately embroidered native cloth in fine, intricate designs.

Casa de Segunda

The Foyer and Garden of Casa de Segunda by lipatourism.wordpress.com

Casa de Segunda Katigbak, 198 Calle Rizal, Lipa City     The ancestral home of a prominent local family, the Casa is a typical Spanish colonial structure that has been adapted to tropical climes.  It is named after Segunda Katigbak, reputedly the first love of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.  It has been designated as a “heritage house” by the National Historical Institute for having harbored generations of artists, poets, and persons of learning and distinction.

Apolinario Mabini Shrine, Tanauan City     The shrine houses the remains and personal memorabilia of the revolutionary hero known as the “Sublime Paralytic” and the “Brains of the Katipunan.”  Mabini’s moral convictions and political principles inspired the Filipinos in their search for national identity.

Marcela Agoncillo Historical Landmark, Taal     The birthplace of Marcella Agoncillo is now a shrine honoring the woman who sewed the first official Filipino flag during the Philippine Revolution.  Displayed here are the  different flags of the Revolution, and the family’s collection of memorabilia.

Gen. Miguel Malvar Museum and Library, Sto. Tomas     Named after the last Filipino general to surrender to the Americans, this national landmark is a repository of the general’s memorabilia.  It also houses a collection of oil paintings belonging to the family.

Laurel Park and Plaza Mabini, Batangas City     Situated at the Provincial Capitol, Laurel Park is distinguished by a landmark bronze sculpture by noted Filipino artist Ed Castrillo.  The park boasts a Multi-Purpose Center with sports courts and facilities for seminars and meetings.  Plaza Mabini, situated in the Poblacion, is a landscaped oasis.  The tree-lined park with its fountains, benches and gazebo is a favorite picnic and leisure area.

Jose P. Laurel Memorial Library, Tanauan City     On A. Mabini Street is the former residence of the late President Jose P. Laurel, who served as head of state during the Japanese occupation.  Now a historical site and public library, the house contains personal effects and a collection of memorabilia.

Special Interest Activities

Leisure and Sports

Windsurfing in Anilao

Windsurfing in Anilao Batangas by chaosandcreations/Creative Commons

Trek across Volcano Island to Taal Volcano or take on the many mountains that tower over the province.  Visit a coconut plantation, a mango orchard or a coffee farm and immense yourself in farm activities and the rural lifestyle.

Spend a relaxing vacation by the seaside resorts of Nasugbu, Calatagan, Mabini, Bauan, Lobo and San Juan towns.  Explore the underwater world of Anilao, a world famous dive site.  Hire a boat to visit outlying island in Balayan Bay,  Batangas Bay and the Verde Island Passage.  Facilities for diving, snorkeling, wakeboarding, windsurfing, jetskiing and island hoppin are available at many resort establishments.

For an alternate kind of relaxation and wellness experience, sign up for a stay at The Farm at San Benito in Lipa City.  Here, visitors can avail of wellness treatments that rejuvenate and energize the whole being amidst meditative spa atmosphere.

Golf Destinations

Mt. Malarayat Golf & Country Club

Mt. Malarayat Golf & Country Club
by Constantine Agustin (fr Flickr) under CC BY 2.0

Visitors can tee off on a great game of golf at the Mt. Malarayat Golf and Country Club in Lipa City, at the Evercrest Golf Club and Resort in Nasugbu, Batangas, or at the Calatagan Golf Club, which holds the distinction of being located within an arboretum planted with over 3,000 species of local and foreign trees.

Accommodations

Hotels, inns and lodges in key cities and towns provides simple amenities for a quick countryside getaway.  Coastal towns offer a wide range of accomodations: from coze and reasonably priced cottages with basic conveniences, to plush resorts with all the trappings of a luxury seaside hotel.  Many resorts also provide water sports equipment and motorized boats for rent.  Conference facilities are also available in the bigger resort establishments.

Good Food

Batangas Bulalo

Batangas Bulalo by Roberto Verzo (fr Flickr) under CC BY 2.0

Batangas beef is considered the choicest and tastiest in the country.  Enjoy a meal of steaming rice with the Batangas specialty dish mouthwatering bulalo or bone marrow soup, available at the many restaurants in the province.  Also sample some kare-kare, the famous oxtail stew cooked in peanut sauce.  Add a side dish of tangy green mangoes with the perfect condiment bagoong or shrimp paste from the town of Balayan.

For dessert, try the crunchy panutsa (peanuts cooked in molasses), the native rice cakes of Tanauan, or preserved sampalok (tamarind) fruit.  Finish your native meal with a cup of robust barako coffee, or a swig of heady lambanog.

Great Buys

Barong Up-close

Barong Up-close by brownpau/Creative Commons

The town of Taal is renowned for its exquisitely embroidered pina and jusi cloths, used to make native-style formal wear such as the barong Tagalog for men and the baro’t saya for women.  These delicate cloths are also made into bed and table linen, hanckerchiefs, and other items.

Batangas Knives

Batangas Knives by permanently scatterbrained/Creative Commons

Souvenir and crafts shops in Batangas also carry a wide variety of handmade decor items crafted from rattan, bamboo and wood.  Tropical fruits, vegetables and other produce can be bought at markets and wayside stalls.  Take home a pack of Batangas coffee, regarded as one of the best-tasting coffees in the world.  Another popular drink of the province is the bitingly sweet fermented coconut liquor known as lambanog and their homemade cutlery or knives called “Balisong.”

Tourist Spots

Caysasay Church

Caysasay Church by Shubert Ciencia/Creative Commons

Taal Heritage Village

  1. Batangas Memorial Foundation Museum and Library     Relics of a glorious past are displayed in this 18th century house on V. Ilustre Street that serves as the Batangas Memorial Foundation Museum and Library.  The house has endured two world wars and has undergone two major renovations in 1870 and 1940 to attain its present state.
  2. Ilagan Ancestral House Marcela Agoncillo Street     A well preserved residential structure constructed in the late Spanish period the house is still used by the descendants as a private residence.  Visitors can be accomodated only by special arrangement with the owners.
  3. Leon Apacible Historical Landmark     The ancestral house of Leon Apacible, one of the heroes of the revolution, now serves as a historical shrine that displays the personal effects of the hero along with his family’s collection of memorabilia.
  4. Basilica of San Martin  de Tours, Taal     Reputedly patterned after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the Basilica was constructed in 1859 to honor the town patron whose feast is celebrated every November.  The church, with its theatrically baroque facade silver tabernacle and richly complex design features, is an interesting study for architectural enthusiasts.
  5. Our Lady of Caysasay Church and Shrine, Taal     Beside the Basilica of Our Lady of Caysasay Church, repository of Batangas Province’s many distinctive cultural artifacts from the Spanish colonial period.  Among these relics is the 27-cm high image of the Virgin of Caysasay, which was fished out of the waters of Batangas in 1603.
  6. Santa Lucia Wells, Taal     Connecting the Taal Church and Caysasay Shrine is a flight ot 123 rough-hewn marble steps branching off on a path to the Santa Lucia Wells.  The site used to be a brook where the Virgin of Caysasay was believed to have performed miracles.  Water from theses wells is believed to be curative.
  7. Escuela Pia, Taal     Standing prominently in the town plaza is the Escuela Pia, a centuries old Spanish vintage edifice that used to serve as an educational institution during Spanish times.

Ligpo Island     located on the western coast of Bauan, Ligpo Island is rich in coral formations of different types and huge gorgonians abound in the area.

Lighthouse

Lighthouse by jojo nicdao/Creative Commons

Punta de Santiago Lighthouse, Calatagan     Built in 1890, it is one of the earliest lighthouses that still functions up to the present.

Beach

Beach by jojo nicdao/Creative Commons

Sepok Point, Marikaban Island      Located on the northwestern part of Maricaban Island, Sepok Point has white sand shores typical of a tropical cove; it is a good place for swimming and snorkeling.  There are good dive sites offshore.  There is a cave at 125 feet, accessed by a tunnel, which makes for challenging adventure.  There are excellent coral formations, abundant pelagic fish, and other outstanding photographic opportunities.

Mahabang Buhangin

Mahabang Buhangin by jojo nicdao (fr Flickr) under CC BY 2.0

Verde Island     An island off the southern shores of Batangas mainland, Verde Island has an extensive stretch of shoreline with a ribbon of fine white sand also called Mahabang Buhangin.  At Tinalunan, wind-tossed waves surge against rocky cliffs supporting a long plateau.  From atop the plateau, catch a breathtaking view of the surrounding seascape.  Cueva Sitio is ideal for picnics.  Its main attraction is a rock shelter that provides cool shade.  The most popular dive sites offshore are the drop-offs found at 300 feet, and the remains of a Spanish galleon that ran around in 1620.

Other Churches to Visit

Bauan Church

Bauan Church by Shubert Ciencia/Creative Commons

Batangas has many churches worth visiting, among them: the Church of San Jose, Tanauan Church, the Church of San Guillermo in Talisay, the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bauan, and the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City.

  • San Sebastian Library of the Arts, Lipa City     The San Sebastian Library of the Arts opened its doors on February 10, 1996 starting with a modest collection of art books and memorabilia donated by Mr. Danilo Dolor, a prominent Batangueno and patron of the arts.
  • Carmelite Convent, Lipa City     A popular site for the devotees of the Virgin Mary, this convent of the Contemplative Order of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel was the site of a mysterious “shower of petals” to a visionary nun after World War II.

Cities and towns in Batangas and their approx. distance in km from Manila

Agoncillo     120        Alitagtag      140         Balayan     106         Balete     92         Batangas City     111         Bauan     126          Calaca     117

Calatagan     115         Cuenca     86     Ibaan     110         Laurel     104        Lemery     129        Lian     100        Lipa City     78         Lobo     143

Mabini     140         Malvar     72         Mataas-na-Kahoy     82         Nasugbu     102         Padre Garcia     90         Rosario     96         San Jose     96

San Juan     115         San Luis     108     San Nicolas     120         San Pascual     118         Sta. Teresita     137         Sto. Tomas     65     Taal     130

Talisay     84         Tanauan City     68         Taysan     105         Tuy     98

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