I was a warrior in the middle of a battle. With reliable weapons in my bag — meds, vitamins, paper napkins, and a bottle of water — I decided to go on an important journey back home. Not even the bad fever and runny nose, however, stopped a smile from slicing across my lower face when we finally passed under the arc that proudly screamed ”Maligayang Pagdating sa Lalawigan ng mga Magigiting,” or, in English, Welcome to the Land of the Valiant.
Batangas — my hometown. Even when I have a bad case of cold, I still peek out the window and try to catch a glimpse of that “statement arc.” This trip was a product of an important personal crisis. The Poor Traveler, born and raised in Batangas, was a fool for not having explored much of his province. I had been to as far as Ilocos in the north and General Santos City in the south, and had gone abroad a number of times but it was such a shame that I had not taken enough time to appreciate my home. Although a proud Batangueno, I was guilty of ignoring the familiar. I was so used to Batangas that I forgot that many of the places I pass through, the things I experience, and even the food I eat contributed so much in making me who I am.
Even though I was supposed to be at home and getting some rest, I pushed through with probably the most important trip of my life. Combating a cold and all the nasty things that came with it, I declared that it was time to return to, well, the Land of the Valiant.
How to Get There
Batangas is easily accessible from Manila. Just 2 to 3 hours away (depending on which part of Batangas you’re going to), it can be reached by a single bus ride. Plenty of ordinary and air-conditioned buses are available. Here are the usual destinations and their routes:
- Batangas City
Here are some of the bus companies that travel to, from, and around Batangas, and where you will find their terminals here in Metro Manila:
- ALPS Bus – Araneta Center, Cubao
- Batangas Starexpress - LRT-Buendia
- CROW Bus – EDSA, Pasay City; Espana, Sampaloc, Manila
- JAM Transit – LRT-Buendia; EDSA, Quezon City; Cubao, Quezon City
- KL CNG Transport - Cubao, Quezon City
- RRCG Bus – Pasay City
- TRITRAN Transit – EDSA-Kamias, Quezon City; Taft, Pasay City
Vans are also available but I am familiar with only three terminals and they are all Lemery-bound — Starmall-EDSA, Mandaluyong; Starmall-Alabang, Muntinlupa; and LRT-Buendia, Makati. There is also another shuttle terminal at the basement of Metropoint in Pasay City, which is used by passengers going to Calatagan and Lian.
Batangas also has an international seaport, one of the busiest in the country. This is a common takeoff point for tourists going to Puerto Galera. But if you’re coming from other islands in the country, you may enter Batangas through this. The pier is in Batangas City, the provincial capital.
Finding a Place to Stay in Batangas (Hotels, Hostels, Resorts)
Batangas is a big, big place and the problem is that the most appealing and interesting attractions are located miles apart, so far from one another. Hence, you need to pick a hotel strategically. Not all municipalities have resorts or hotels.
Depending on your preference, here are the towns and cities that I suggest you consider in picking a place to stay.
- Urban Batangas and nightlife – Lipa City, Batangas City
- Beachfront hotels and resorts – San Juan, Calatagan. Nasugbu, Lian, Lobo
- Diving and snorkeling hotspots – Anilao, Mabini and Calatagan
- Foodie havens – Taal, Lipa City, Batangas City
- Historic towns – Taal Heritage Town, Balayan
- Camping – Mt. Gulugod Baboy in Mabini, Mt. Maculot in Cuenca, and Calatagan
- Mountain treks – Lipa City, Cuenca, Nasugbu, Mabini (Anilao)
Your choices will dictate how your itinerary will flow.
Preparing a 3-Day / 2-Night Batangas Itinerary
Creating an itinerary for a Batangas weekend getaway was tough for me. I wanted to include everything that I could think of when I was planning this trip. The problem lies in the fact that there’s just so much to see (the churches of Lipa, the ancestral houses of Taal), so much to do (trekking at Taal Volcano, climbing Mt. Gulugod Baboy, swimming in Laiya, diving in Anilao) and so much to try (master balisong tricks, eat bulalo and panutsa, drink kapeng barako). I kept on throwing activities and destinations to the itinerary until three days became insufficient.
After a lot of painful editing, however, I was able to make my itinerary more realistic and doable. Here’s our initial to-do list!
Day 1: STO. TOMAS, TANAUAN, TALISAY, LIPA CITY
05:30 am – ETD (Wait for bus along EDSA)
07:30 am – Malvar Museum and Library, Sto Tomas
09:35 am – Mabini Shrine, Tanauan City
11:00 am – Taal Volcano, Talisay
06:00 pm – Lipa Cathedral, Cafe de Lipa
08:30 pm – Check in at Hotel
Day 2: LIPA CITY, ANILAO
07:00 am – Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Chuch and Casa de Segunda
09:00 am – Breakfast at Casa Rap, San Jose
11:00 am – Anilao, Mabini (Check in at Resort, Lunch, Sombrero Island)
09:00 pm – Sleep
Day 3: TAAL TOWN, CALATAGAN
08:00 am – Taal Heritage Tour (Ancestral Houses, Taal Basilica, Caysasay Chapel, Balisong)
11:00 pm – Lunch at Don Juan BBQ, Taal
02:00 pm – Cape Santiago Lighthouse, Calatagan Beaches
04:00 pm – ETD — Travel back to Manila
Note that we I have dropped the idea of climbing Mt. Gulugod Baboy or staying long at the beach in the itinerary (with the exception of Calatagan beaches, which we can easily stop at on the way to the lighthouse).
I wanted to focus on the more historical and cultural sites in Batangas for this trip. I also initially wanted to visit the other Batangan lighthouse located in Lobo, the Malabrigo Lighthouse, but I really could not squeeze it into the three-day itinerary.
This is our initial itinerary. But as I always say, what actually happened is a different story. We were commuting and rain made it a lot more difficult for us to go around. As if that wasn’t enough, I was ill throughout the trip. I was not feeling well at all when we started the tour and it did not get any better as we went on. From the get go, we already knew trekking the Taal Volcano and climbing Mt. Gulugod Baboy were not gonna happen. It would have been too much for my buzzkill body to handle.
Day 1 – Historical Sites, Churches and Cafes in Sto. Tomas, Tanauan, Lipa, and Batangas City
Our first stop should have been the Malvar Shrine in Sto. Tomas. Along the way, however, we spotted Rose and Grace Restaurant and heard the invisible spirit of Batangas Bulalo calling us. Since we had not had breakfast that time, we gave in to the delicious voice and dug in! Then we walked a couple of blocks to the Miguel Malvar Museum and Library.
- Malvar Shrine in Sto. Tomas and Mabini Shrine in Tanauan
We then rode a jeepney to the city proper of Tanauan and transferred to another jeepney that dropped us off in Barangay Talaga, right in front of Mabini Shrine. We learned a lot, discovered a lot, appreciated a lot. After an hour, we deliberated whether to go straight to Talisay and go visit the mighty Taal Volcano or turn around. Because my runny nose was pretty persuasive, we chose the latter.
We headed for Lipa City and made stops at the San Sebastian Cathedral, the Mt. Carmel Church, and the surprising Casa de Segunda. We also had a quick merienda at Cafe de Lipa. We were supposed to eat at Lomi King but we were not that hungry.
- Naves of the Basilica of the Immaculate Concepcion in Batangas City, the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay in Taal, and the San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa City
Rain was still trying to spoil our trip but we went on. We took a bus to Batangas City and then a bus to the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to admire its interiors and also let the rain pass. It finally stopped and we found ourselves munching on some isaw and other street foods lined up just beside Plaza Mabini. We also tried the dainty, quirky and hilarious Cafe Milflores, lying just across the park.
We spent the night at Mac-Ro Lodge, an inn just a block from the Basilica. I planned on writing a review about this inn but other than that our overnight stay was really affordable, I do not have anything to say about it. It’s just OK, right for the price. It had a “motel” feel, if you know what I mean. I didn’t like it or hate it. I did not care enough for it to write about it.
For more detailed accounts of what our experiences per stop, check out the posts below:
- Batangas Bulalo by Rose and Grace | Sto Tomas, Batangas
- Miguel Malvar Museum and Library | Sto. Tomas, Batangas
- Apolinario Mabini Shrine | Tanauan City, Batangas
- San Sebastian Cathedral | Lipa City, Batangas
- Cafe de Lipa and Kapeng Barako | Lipa City, Batangas
- Mt. Carmel Church | Lipa, Batangas
- Casa de Segunda | Lipa City, Batangas
- Immaculate Conception Basilica | Batangas City
- Cafe Milflores | Batangas City
Day 2 – Taal Heritage Town, Balayan, Calatagan
We started the day early. Rain poured overnight and there was a blanket of cold that covered the Batangas capital. After a quick visit at Plaza Mabini, we took a jeepney to the town of San Jose to try Casa Rap, a hidden culinary paradise in the middle of a lush garden just along the highway. We then headed back to Lipa City to board the bus to Taal Town. Our first stop was the massive Basilica de San Martin de Tours. After allowing ourselves to be blown away by its size and splendor, we walked around town and found the many caravan stores lined up around the plaza. We passed by several ancestral houses going to the Caysasay Chapel and the miraculous well of Sta. Lucia just several blocks from the town center.
- Basilica of St. Martin de Tours
We then took a boat ride to Lemery and took a bus to Balayan. It began to rain again that I wasn’t able to take photos of the town until we reached the Church of the Immaculate Conception. We then rode a jeepney to Calatagan and a tricycle to the Cape Santiago Lighthouse, which was unfortunately closed when we arrived because a local horror film was being shot there. Struggling for Plan B and noticing that it was about to rain again, we chose to spend the night at a nearby resort — Ronco Beach Resort. The view of the sunrise from that resort was spectacular but we did not like our stay at all. There were spider webs hanging from the ceiling of the room they gave us and the drain on the floor of the bathroom was not working. I took pictures planning to write about it but decided against it eventually as I want to keep this series of blog posts generally positive.
Read these posts for a more detailed narration of what happened on our second day:
- Plaza Mabini | Batangas City
- Breakfast at Casa Rap | San Jose, Batangas
- Basilica de San Martin de Tours | Taal, Batangas
- Taal Heritage Town | Taal, Batangas
- San Lorenzo Ruiz Steps and the Well of St. Lucia | Taal, Batangas
- Our Lady of Caysasay Shrine | Taal, Batangas
- The Historic Town of Balayan, Batangas
Day 3 – Calatagan, Nasugbu and a Side Trip to Tagaytay City
The next morning, we took another chance and dropped by the lighthouse, hoping it was open. We were lucky this time. The caretaker was on his way out when we arrived and he was kind enough to stay a little bit more to let us explore the place. The downside was that we weren’t able to get inside the tower.
- Cape Santiago Lighthouse in Calatagan
- Sunrise at Ronco Beach Resort
We then took a jeepney to Nasugbu and stopped over at Kainan sa Dalampasigan for brunch. It was a pleasant surprise. The place was awesome and they offer good food. We then took a bus to Tagaytay, our side trip. But that’s for another blog post.
Here are the blow-by-blow account of what happened on the last day of this tour:
Budget and Expenses
The biggest fraction of my trip expenses is usually the airfare. But because Batangas is accessible by bus from Manila, we didn’t have to spend on air travel. That’s the good news. But here are the things we spent money on while doing this Batangas Heritage Tour.
Please note that we were a group of only two friends. I’m pretty sure the expenses could have been much lower had there been more people in the group.
P91 - Buendia to Sto. Tomas (Bus)
P187 - Bulalo (P375 per bowl)
FREE - Malvar Museum and Library
P8 - Sto Tomas to Tanauan (Jeep)
P13 - Tanauan City to Brgy. Talaga (Jeep)
FREE - Mabini Shrine Entrance
P13 - Mabini Shrine to Tanauan City Proper (Jeep)
P25 - Tanauan to Lipa Cathedral
P45 - Tricycle Ride (P30 per trip)
P190 - Cafe de Lipa
P20 - Casa de Segunda Entrance Fee
P50 - Casa de Segunda Camera fee
P35 - Lipa to Batangas City (Bus)
P70 - Diversion to Basilica (Tricycle)
P50 - Isaw dinner at Plaza Mabini
P205 - Cafe Milflores
P325 - Mac-ro Lodge (P650/room)
P1,327 – SUB-TOTAL
P11 - Batangas City to Balagtas (Jeep)
P17 - Balagtas to Casa Rap (Brgy. Banay-Banay, San Jose) (Jeep)
P130 - Tapang Casa Rap meal
P80 - Halo-halo (Casa Rap)
P17 - Casa Rap to Lipa City (Jeep)
P49 - Lipa to Taal Town (Jeep)
P2 - Caysasay Shrine to Lemery (boat)
P30 - Lemery to Balayan (Bus)
P10 - Trike to Balayan Town Proper from Highway
P125 - Trike to Ronco Beach Resort (P250/trip)
P1000 - Ronco Beach Resort overnight stay (P2000/room)
P1,471 – SUB-TOTAL
P125 - Ronco to Calatagan Bayan (with stop at Calatagan Lighthouse)
P38 - Calatagan to Lian (Jeep)
P25 - Lian to Palico (Jeep)
P30 - Trike to Kainan sa Dalampasigan
P305 - Kainan sa Dalampasigan
P15 - Kainan to Nasugbu Terminal (Trike, P30/trip)
P78 - Nasugbu to Tagaytay (Bus)
P616 – SUB-TOTAL
TOTAL – P3,414
To most people, Batangas is all about beaches and diving sites. But this tour is all about breaking that impression. There is more to Batangas than the wonders of its shores. Personally, I hoped that this trip would come with enlightenment as I finally take time and see — really see and not just pass by — some of my hometown’s greatest historical and cultural gems.