Taal Volcano is an enigma.
Like a Dalagang Batanguena, she is meek and gentle. But once you make her angry, she explodes and brings out her balisong.
From the Tagaytay ridge, Taal Volcano and her lake is a remarkable sight. The spectacular landscape of the volcano island and its blue lake framed by the mountains of Makiling and Maculot makes an awesome vista. But she is the Philippines’ second most active volcanoes, with 33 historic eruptions that has killed more than 5,000 people.
Inside its crater lake is a small island called Vulcan Point. This small rocky island is the remnant of the old crater floor that collapsed during the 1911 eruption. Tourist brochures now refer to this as an island inside the lake (crater lake) on an island (volcano island) inside a lake (Lake Taal) on an island (Luzon).
The eruptions of Taal had caused many of the original towns of Batangas to be transferred to higher locations. Among them is the town of Taal that was established in 1572. For more than a century and a half, the town of Taal prospered. However, in 1749, the glory days of the Old Taal ended. Taal Volcano started erupting violently. In 1754, the volcano made its biggest eruption, destroying completely the whole town of old Taal, including the original church of Saint Martin de Tours.
After the volcanic destruction, the town of Taal moved to its current location atop of the hill. There, the new Basilica of Saint Martin de Tour started construction in 1755.
Another historic eruption was the one in 1911. People as far as Manila heard thundering explosions during the early morning of January 30, 1911. Dark clouds shot up in the sky and covered many of the towns in Cavite, Batangas and Laguna with ash. Hot steam and gas were forced out of the crater killing almost living creatures on the volcano island, from trees to animals and over a thousand people.
The last of Taal’s deadly eruption was in 1965. This time the eruption took place not at the crater lake but in the south side near Mount Tabaro. This phreatomagmatic eruption generated lava and mud flow. The 1965 eruption killed about 100 on the island.
How to get there
Most of the boats going to the volcano island can be rented in Talisay, Batangas.
The easiest way to get to Talisay is to drive to Tagaytay. Drive south via SLEX and exit from Santa Rosa. From there, continue drive via Santa Rosa-Tagaytay road. This road usually gets heavy with traffic on weekends, so it is best to pass this road very early in the morning. In Tagaytay, there are two ways to go down to Talisay: either via Sungay road or via Leynes. Via Leynes, turn right from the Tagaytay junction and drive to rotunda and take the road on the right after the police station. This 14-kilometer trail leads to the boat stations in Barangay Leynes. Via Sungay, turn left and drive to the junction before Picnic Grove, then take the road left to Sungay. This shorter, but steeper trail leads to the boat stations in Poblacion.
Alternately, one can also reach Talisay by driving to SLEX and then STAR tollways, and exit from Tanauan. From there, turn right and continue drive to Talisay and head straight to the boat stations in Poblacion or to any other lake resorts in the area.
It is also possible to get boats in Agoncillo, Batangas. But to reach Agoncillo, one must drive to Tagaytay and continue drive to Nasugbu, Tuy, Calaca, Lemery and then Agoncillo.
Boat rental from Talisay to volcano island is currently fixed at P2,000 per round-trip. The boat can accommodate a maximum of seven people. Tourist’s fee of P100 per person and a guide fee of P500 per group are also collected upon registration.
What to see, what to do
Trekking Taal Volcano is possibly one of the most popular activities on the island. Visitors usually climb the 311-meter trail to get a good view of crater lake and Vulcan Point. The boat ride from Talisay takes only about 30 minutes. At the landing point at the northwest side of the island, one must register before starting the trek to the view deck.
The trail going to the view deck is easy to follow. It is possible to scale this on foot in less than an hour. However, for those who wish to do it leisurely, a horse can be rented for P450. It usually gets hot on the trail during mid-day so it is best to climb very early in the morning.
Upon arrival at the ridge, climb up to the view deck to get a panoramic view of the crater lake and Vulcan Point. One can also drink fresh buko juice for P50 each while enjoying the view of the surroundings.
For a unique way of playing golf, there this “hit the golf ball” into the crater that the locals offer. For P100 per ball, visitors can try hitting the ball with a putty.
It is also possible to swim in the crater like but one must land on the other side of the island and take the trail going directly to inside the crater.
Those who wish to complete the Taal experience should also visit the ruins of old Taal church in San Nicolas and the new Taal Basilica in Taal town.
Where to stay, what to eat
Those who wish to stay overnight by the lake can find accommodations in Talisay. Alternately, they can also go up to Tagaytay and look for accommodations there.
Lake Taal is the only place in the world where one can get tawilis and maliputo, so be sure to get them freshly-cooked from the many resort restaurants near the lake. For Batangueno favorite, there’s this pansit lomi available in most restaurants in Talisay, Laurel and Taal.
But for those stopping by Taal town to visit its heritage houses, the visit is not complete without taking home its famous peanut brittle, tapang Taal and balisong.