I Am Falling In Love With You, Taal.

They call it mysterium tremendum et fascinans – in the face of great mystery, we are both terrified and fascinated. It is like coming face to face with celebrities of great talent: you are tremendously intimidated that you shy away from them and at the same time, you are intensely magnetized that you want to be close to them.

My experience of Taal is a mysterium tremendum et fascinans. Exploring the towns around the shores of Taal Lake is reminiscent of the places in my home province of Albay. Like Albay, the towns surround Taal volcano. Each town enjoys a vantage point. But my experience is wanting: I still have to hike up the volcano to see the volcano island within the lake that’s right at its mouth.

Taal Volcano is a cinder cone volcano, located in the middle of Lake Taal. History has it that it has had thirty-three recorded eruptions since 1572. Although its eruptions are usually within the inner crater, it is still dangerous to hike into its center — but that does not prevent adventure-seekers from taking it. Taal is irrisistable because of its apparent beauty and its imminent danger.

I have had the chance to visit the towns of Taal with its old houses and their enormous St. Martin of Tours Cathedral during one Ateneo High School staff and faculty outing, and then, another chance to come closer to Balay Isabel, Talisay, Batangas at a recent community-building activity of the entire Junior and Senior High School faculty.

Here are photos of the present town of Taal, Batangas.

St. Martin de Tours, Taal, Batangas. Photo: Bok Pioquid

St. Martin de Tours, Taal, Batangas. Photo: Bok Pioquid

The Cathedral of St. Martin of Tours, Taal, Batangas. Photo: Bok Pioquid

The interior of the Cathedral of St. Martin of Tours, Taal, Batangas. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Old houses of Poblacion Taal, Batangas. It felt like being transported back in time. Photo: Bok Pioquid.

Old houses of Poblacion Taal, Batangas. It felt like being transported back in time. Photo: Bok Pioquid.

Ateneo High School faculty members walk past old houses in the town of Taal, Batangas. Photo: Bok Pioquid

Ateneo High School faculty members walk past old houses in the town of Taal, Batangas. Photo: Bok Pioquid

On 1 July 2015, the faculty of the Ateneo High School went to Balai Isabel in Talisay, Batangas for a community-building activity. Since we were anticipating great changes and challenges in SY 2015-16, we decided to keep our relationships stronger. We had games, but we could not resist absorbing the positive vibes from this view.

A lone fisherman on his banca. Taal Lake, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

A lone fisherman on his banca. Taal Lake, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Taal Lake with the view of Bubuin and Napayung Island, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Taal Lake with the view of Bubuin and Napayung Islands, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

After lunch, Mr. Bok Pioquid, my photography mentor and a faculty member of the Christian Service and Involvement Program (CSIP) offered to take me on a motorcycle ride around the towns of Talisay and Laurel. He said that he took these routes before.

In a borrowed helmet, my enjoyable roadtrip around the towns of Taal. Photo by, and thanks to him, Mr. Bok Pioquid, CSIP, Ateneo HS.

In a borrowed helmet, my enjoyable roadtrip around the towns of Taal. Photo by, and thanks to him, Mr. Bok Pioquid, CSIP, Ateneo HS.

We first looked for the church of Talisay. We asked the locals who immediately gave us the direction to this church of San Geronimo, Talisay, Batangas. Old churches are usually within a few meters from the government buildings and the town plaza. We were correct in assuming this traditional layout of towns. When we got to the church, we spent a few moments in prayer.

San Geronimo Church, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

San Geronimo Church, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

The interior of San Geronimo Church, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

The interior of San Geronimo Church, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

And then we headed towards the Talisay Public Market to this boulevard with a view of Taal lake. We parked the motorcycle and a woman offered us a boat ride to the volcano. But we declined the offer because we were set on visiting the towns instead. We had only 2 hours left. We wanted to be in Balai Isabel by 3 PM, so we can have an hour swim before departure.

The lady said that the trek would take us a total of a minimum of three hours, but if you want to savor the experience, you’ve got to spend four hours. The woman said that the best time to leave for a hike is at six in the morning, or else, you should bring a sunscreen. This is a good review of the trek.

The boulevard at the Talisay Public Market. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

The boulevard at the Talisay Public Market. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Taking the Talisay-Tanauan Road, we went up Ligaya Drive towards Laeuna de Laguna. Bok said that motorists would take this short but steep road to Tagaytay City. Here are photos of what we saw, notably this overview of Batangas and Taal Lake taken at midpoint between Talisay and Tagaytay City.

An overview of Taal Lake from Ligaya Drive. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

An overview of Taal Lake from Ligaya Drive. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

On our way down, we stopped at a little makeshift fruit stand. We bought young coconuts for refreshment from a young mother. She was also selling wild mangoes. She told us that they were living just below the cliff. She had three children. In fact, she was nursing her baby when we came for the coconuts.

A fruit vendor's family along Ligaya Drive. Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

A fruit vendor’s family along Ligaya Drive. Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

A fruit vendor's boy. Ligaya Drive, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

A fruit vendor’s boy. Ligaya Drive, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Fruit Vendor's daughter

A fruit vendor’s daughter, Ligaya Drive, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Bok Pioquid, my photography mentor and friend (and motorcycle driver here), refreshes himself with coco water. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Bok Pioquid, my photography mentor and friend (and motorcycle driver here), refreshes himself with coco water. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

From Ligaya Drive, we took the Talisay-Tanauan Road which snakes along the coast of Taal Lake. We stopped by Barangay Buco in Caloocan. This is the view of Taal Volcano from this cliff.

Taal Volcano from Caloocan, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Taal Volcano from Barangay Buco, Caloocan, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

The coast of Caloocan, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

The coast of Caloocan, Talisay, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

And then we headed towards the town of Laurel. Unfortunately, the church there was under construction. We spent a few moments praying outside of it. It was good to have the feeling of ‘insecurity’ – when we depend on God and the generosity of the people in constructing – or renovating – a church. To me, it means that the people wanted a better place for worship. It also indicates that the people of the faith is growing. I imagined myself in the shoes of the priest in charge of the community. And I prayed for him (Unfortunately, I did not know who he was. But God knew.)

On construction: Immaculate Concepcion Parish, Laurel, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

On construction: Immaculate Concepcion Parish, Laurel, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

We took a few shots of these fishing boats with a unique angle of Taal. We were fascinated by the fishermen who made a living from the lake. We even asked them where they sold tawilis (Sardinella tawilis) a type of sardine exclusively found here. It is the only known member of the genus Sardinella existing in freshwater, and it is found only in this lake. They answered that we can find them being sold at the Talisay Public Market.

When I took this shot off Tanauan Bay, I dread the time that the tawilis would soon be extinct. I hoped that the government had programs to curtail overfishing.

Taal Volcano, Laurel, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Taal Volcano, Laurel, Batangas. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

A fishing boat docked in Laurel, Batangas. Photo: JBoy Gonzales SJ

A fishing boat docked in Laurel, Batangas. Photo: JBoy Gonzales SJ

A heavy downpour caught us on our return to Balai Isabel. But it did not deter us from taking photos.

A sitio along the Laurel-Tanauan Road during a heavy downpour. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

A sitio along the Laurel-Tanauan Road during a heavy downpour. Photo: Jboy Gonzales SJ

Together before departure: the faculty of the Ateneo Junior and Senior High School SY 2015-16.

Our final photo session together as one unit: The AJHS and AHS community. Photo: JBoy Gonzales SJ

Our final photo session together as one unit: The AJHS and AHS community. Photo: JBoy Gonzales SJ

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