Before Quezon, there was the province of Tayabas. Before Lucena, it had a capital town also named Tayabas.
From 1605 to 1901, Tayabas was the capital of the province originally named Tayabas. It was the heartland of the old province. It was also its religious and commercial center. Travelers from Bicol make a stop-over in Tayabas on their way to Manila.
During Spanish time, towns that were classified as centers for regional consolidation and for disseminating Spanish governance and culture were called Villas. They were considered the grandest and most developed. Only eight places in the Philippines were conferred with such title. And the ‘most noble’ of them all is La Muy Noble Villa de Tayabas.
It was founded by two Franciscan missionaries in 1578. Two years later, it was established as a parish with San Miguel Archangel as its patron saint. The first church made from bamboo and other light materials was built in 1585. After 10 years, it was rebuilt using stronger materials. It continued to be rebuilt and expanded through the years and, in mid-1850s, it was enlarged to its size at present, making it the longest church in the country.
President Manuel Luis Quezon described the former provincial capital as the “gayest and riches place in the province.”
At the end of the Second World War II on March 15, 1945, Tayabas was burned down to the ground after a bombing raid. The Muy Noble Villa with its rows of beautiful old houses that could have rivaled Vigan’s Spanish-era structures was completely lost.
How to get there
Tayabas at 200 meters above sea level is located at the foot of Mount Banahaw. It is 165 kilometers from Manila.
From Manila, drive south using the South Luzon Expressway and exit at Santo Tomas in Batangas. From there, continue to drive along the Pan-Philippine Highway passing thru Alaminos and San Pablo City, before entering the Welcome to Quezon arch in Tiaong. From there, the road continues to Tiaong and Candelaria. Avoid the traffic-congested centers of these two towns by using the by-pass roads.
The road continues to Sariaya. At the end of the Sariaya road, the road forks: go straight to the old Banahaw road. This leads to Tayabas. It is also possible to turn right to Lucena, then, at Jollibee Lucena, turn left to the road that connects to Tayabas.
Another alternative is to turn left at San Pablo and continue driving to Rizal, then Nagcarlan, Liliw and Majayjay. From Majayjay, there’s a back road that leads to Lucban, Quezon. Take the road going to Kamayni Jesus and continue to drive to Tayabas.
What to see, what to do
Despite destruction brought by the Second World War, there are still many Spanish-era structures to visit in Tayabas.
At the town center is the Minor Basilica of San Miguel Archangel. Because of it is in the shape of a key, locals refer to it as the Susi ng Tayabas. It received the title Minor Basilica from Pope John Paul II in 1988. It is now considered as one of the oldest and biggest churches in the Philippines.
Located a block from the Minor Basilica is the chapel of Nuestra Senora de Angustias. Often referred to by the locals as Ermita church, it was built in 1838. It was one of the structures destroyed in the bombing during the war . It was eventually restored and now sports a fresh paint of purple.
Another restored structure is the Casa Communidad. It was built in 1831 to serve as the guesthouse for visiting Spanish dignitaries. In 2000, the National Historical Institute reconstructed Casa Communidad. The structure now houses the local museum and the municipal library.
Visit also the old cemetery that was built in 1887. This Camposanto de los Indios has an interesting chapel and gate with Spanish inscription about death.
Tayabas also has many Spanish-era bridges. The most famous is the Puente de Malagonlong. Located at the road going to Mauban and built between 1840 and 1850, the 136-meter long bridge is the longest ever built during the Spanish colonial period. It solid design withstood the dynamites planted there to stop the Japanese advance during the war.
Where to stay, where to eat
Just a few steps from Casa Communidad is a hotel in Spanish-inspired architecture. This is Mi Casa enTayabas with 10 beautiful rooms decorated in eclectic colonial style.
Another interesting place to stay is the Nawawalang Paraiso Resort and Hotel. Located along the road going to Lucban, it is an ideal place for a relaxing family vacation at the foot of Mount Banahaw. There’s also a newly opened resort in Lucban called Natagpuang Paraiso.
For dining, Tayabas is a gastronomical delight. The most popular dining place is Kamayan sa Palaisdaan. It started as a family business in 1992, offering freshly caught pla-pla and hito from their fishpond. It now offers favorite Tayabas dishes like Inihaw na Tilapia and Inihaw na Spare Ribs. Try the sweet pilipit made from calabasa and the buchi being sold by ambulant vendors.
There’s another new restaurant that makes people stop and try its unique food offerings. It’s called Air Summit Gourmet and it’s actually an old Boeing 737 converted into a restaurant. It serves group meal packages for a group of four for P2,500.00.
But if the cost of meals at Air Summit Gourmet is sky high, then step into Tayabas famous food street: Calle Budin. It the best place to grab Tayabas’ famous rice cake, the budin. They are always freshly-baked there, and inexpensive. There are also several stall there selling nilupak, pastillas, halayang ube and tikoy.
There this one famous product that every visitor to Tayabas must bring home—the famous lambanog or coconut wine. There are many distillers in Tayabas, but the old Mallari Distillery located in front of the municipio that has been producing lambanog since 1908 still makes the best.
All these make every trip to Tayabas a treat for the soul and stomach. And with lambanog, for the spirit!