Why You Should Visit Taal Batangas

I am very much familiar with Taal because I grew up in San Nicolas, a small town next to Taal. Taal is the oldest town in Batangas. And although it is a third class municipality, your eyes and your palate could feast on the obvious traces of its rich cultural heritage and native dishes. If you have plans of visiting Batangas, I recommend that you drop by this town and enjoy not just the preserved Spanish colonial structures, but also the food, the intricate hand embroidery and the hand-crafted fan knife. Below are the reasons why you should visit Taal.

Taal is a heritage town

Take a trip down memory lane and visit the well-preserved 19th century Filipino-Spanish mansions. Although most of the mansions were massively restored, some original parts such as large capiz windows and ceilings were retained to replicate the original designs as close as possible. The owners of these mansions or the mansions themselves, played important roles in the Spanish revolution. Most of the mansions were used refuge of the soldiers and/or secret meeting places of the revolutionary leaders.

Heal your spirits in Taal

Hear a mass on St. Martin de Tours, the largest Catholic Cathedral in the Philipines and in Far East. This stone church has a grand transept and an elegant facade. It underwent 3 renovations though. The last one was in 2011 to repaint the interior to its original trompe l’oeil ceilings and to imitate the old bell tower that was destroyed by the 1942 earthquake.

Have a pilgrimage in Our Lady of Caysasay Church which was situated on the same spot where its patron saint, Our Lady of Caysasay was found in 1603 by a fisherman. Our Lady of Caysasay is known to be miraculous. It had its first apparition in 1611. An arch was constructed over the well in 1611 to mark its apparition. Today this well is known as Banal na Pook and the adjoining stream as Banal na Tubig, that are both believed to possesses miraculous attributes of healing up to this day.

Savour the Batangueño’s delights

Believe me, tapang Taal is the best tapa I’ve had. Tapang taal is a pork loin marinated in soy sauce, garlic and other secret ingredients that make it really tasty. If you love the garlicky taste, then you should try as well Taal’s longganisa. Both tapang Taal and longganisa are best paired with fried rice and kapeng barako or tsokolate made from pure cacao.

The kapeng barako will surely open up your senses. Its aroma is as good as its tastes. While the thick and rich chocolate drink from tablea (chocolate balls made from pure cacao seeds) has a distinct taste that you can never find in chocolate drinks from other provinces.

What I miss also is the tawilis, a small fish that is found only in Taal lake and Zamboanga City. I love it best when grilled then squeezed with lime juice (I’m drooling now!). And oh, don’t forget to look for bonete and tiping in local bakeries. Tiping is a very thin biscuit that tastes better when dipped in kapeng barako. You might want to taste as well the sumang malagkit, sinaing na tulingan, adobo sa dilaw and maliputo.

Taal is known for its hand embroidery

Ever heard of burdang Taal? Taal is also known for its most intricate embossed hand embroidery. It is found in the craft stores on the street just accross the St. Martin de Tours . You can see the burdang Taal designs not just on barong and saya but also on tablecloths, table napkins, pillow cases and bed covers. Would you believe that I know how to do this? My grandmother taught me. I helped her embroider tablecloths in exchange for my baon in school.

Taal produces the best Balisong

As they say, “Ala eh, wag kang loloko-loko sa Batangueño kung ayaw mong mabalisong” (don’t mess around a Batangueño if you don’t want to be stabbed with a fan knife). This doesn’t hold true though because Batangueños are very friendly and peace-loving people. But because Taal, specifically Barangay Blisong, produces the best Balisong or fan knife, it was associated with Batangueños.

Image courtesy of Ona’s Batangas Blades

Balisong is Taal’s pride. It is one of the best souvenirs you can get before leaving Taal. The blades are usually made from old ball bearings, hammered and sharpened. The handles on the other hand, can be made of wood, bone, or deer and carabao horns which are hand-crafted to perfection. The shapes and sizes of Balisong varies. It can be as small as a key chain or as big as the one below, hehe. But the most popular locally is the veinte-nueve which is 29 centimeters long.

Visit Taal. Travel through time. Savour the Taal’s culinary delights. Then take home balisong and burdang Taal as pasalubongs.

When in Rome… With Kids Under 10

A city break might not be your first consideration for a family holiday, but with cheap flights and a short journey time, Rome is the ideal destination for a long weekend or a full-blown family getaway.

Italians are by nature, friendly and family-oriented, so unlike some cities, you and your little ones will be warmly welcomed here.

There are thousands of things to see and do but here’s just ten things that you and your under 10’s will love:

  1. Campo de’ Fiori

The bustling Campo de’ Fiori market makes a great introduction to the Italian way of life and is the perfect place to pick up some provisions for your days out in Rome.

  1. Bocca della Verità, or ‘The Mouth of Truth’

Getting the kids excited about historic buildings is easy in Rome. Beside one of the city’s “most beautiful medieval churches”, rests the legendary ‘Mouth of Truth’; a marble face which, should you put your hand into its mouth and tell a lie, will be bitten off.

It’s like a Roman lie detector. What would you like your kids to confess?!

  1. Renting bikes at Borghese Gardens

The Borghese Gardens are vast and contain among other things, fountains, secret gardens, an aviary, a museum and even a zoo! Pack a picnic, rent a family sized bike and head off exploring together.

  1. The Colosseum

No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit to the infamous Colosseum. For kids who love Horrible Histories, it’s the perfect place to pass an afternoon.

  1. Pizza School

Why buy dinner when you can get the kids to make it?

This cookery workshop is perfect for 5-10 year olds. While they learn to make pizza and be entertained, you get to relax over nibbles and fizz. Everyone’s a winner!

  1. The Museo di Bambini

At most museums, kids aren’t allowed to touch stuff but at the Museo di Bambini it’s positively encouraged. Little ones can go wild and touch, lift, move, play and interact with just about everything.

  1. The Piazza Navona

Rome is not short of places to take a breather and people watch, but the Piazza Navona is one of the best.

You’ll find loads of cafés to grab a snack and while you eat, the whole family will be entertained by the colourful musicians, artists and craft sellers on show here.

  1. Bartolucci’s Toy Store

Every child should go home from their holiday with a souvenir and when in Rome, that souvenir should come from Bartolucci’s. Everything here is hand-crafted from wood, including a certain, very special little boy called Pinocchio.

  1. Do as the Roman’s do!

There are so many cool and interesting places to visit in Rome that you could spend your entire holiday literally going straight from one place to another. But when in Rome, do as the Roman’s do and just go for a walk.

You’ll discover hidden gems of your own when you just ditch the itinerary and go on a family adventure on foot.

10. The Trevi Fountain

This should be the last thing you do before you leave the city. It’s said that if you want to return to Rome, you should toss a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder into the Trevi, one of the most famous fountains in the world, and make a wish.

But – prepare to hear a wish for ice-cream. Delicious gelati shops are very nearby.

To find more family-friendly holiday advice and cheap flight deals to Rome or anywhere else in Europe, check out the latest offerings from low-cost flight operator, Blue Air.

Planning a Fun-Filled Holiday with the Family – Six Helpful Travel Tips

Chances are your family’s really looking forward to your next holiday, perhaps somewhere domestically that entails a short drive to the nearest beach, or perhaps an overseas destination, maybe one to which you’ve been BC – Before Children – and would love to share with your family now that the kids are old enough to enjoy overseas travel.

Family holidays should be fun-filled holidays on which the whole family has a blast and returns home with happy memories that serve them well for many years to come. However, the best family holidays are those that are planned and executed to a tee, which often entails quite a bit of homework for mum and dad, though if the kids are old enough there’s no reason why they can’t also contribute.

Here are a few tips to consider when planning your next holiday.

1. Research destinations with regard to child-friendliness

How ‘child-friendly’ a destination is really depends on your kids, their travelling experiences, their ages and their temperament, and is often the case with online reviews of destinations with regard to how child-friendly they are, what one family finds heavenly another finds just the opposite.

Seaside resorts are notably child-friendly destinations, though what if you wanted to experience a particular city or region? There are a number of considerations to take into account here, notably the ease in which you can catch public transportation, food options for the kids, and of course places of interest that actually interest children.

2. Involve the whole family … within reason

It’s a wonderful thing to get the whole family involved and have everyone pick an activity that the whole family will participate in, but are your kids actually old enough to do so?

In the process of trying to be ‘democratic’ and let everyone have their say, involving the children in the decision process often turns out to be a disaster, so sometimes mum and dad have to research and choose activities themselves; after all, mum and dad know best – don’t they?

3. Consider travelling times and your children’s ability to travel

Some kids take to travelling like angels whilst others can’t handle an hour in the car or on the bus without voicing their complaints in a manner that no one can ignore.

This issue is of particular note if you’re flying to your destination or planning a road trip, so consider travelling times and your children’s ability to travel when planning your next family holiday.

4. Source child-friendly accommodation

For most families, child-friendly accommodation equates to there being a pool at the hotel, that’s it!

If that’s all it takes to keep your kids happy it’s certainly worth paying a little extra, plus you’ll probably really enjoy the opportunity to cool off or relax on a sunbather yourself – parents often need ‘child-friendly accommodation’ just as much as the kids!

5. Make arrangements with plenty of time to spare

If you’ve ever had your heart set on a destination, but left things too late and missed out, you’re not alone.

Making arrangements for Norfolk Island holidays well in advance is essential if you and your family are planning on travelling to the South Pacific island paradise in peak season, though even if you’re planning to travel at another time of the year, making arrangements in advance is still advisable because it increases the accommodation and flight options available to you.

6. Don’t try to fit too much in

It’s tempting to pack as much as one possibly can into their holidays, though as many have realised quite quickly, this is a big mistake, especially with young children.

Creating an itinerary that allows adequate ‘downtime’, i.e. time that doesn’t entail travelling or doing anything ‘exciting’, is advisable and this is where child-friendly accommodation, i.e. a hotel with a pool, really proves advantageous.

When travelling with kids under the age of ten, in a two week trip it’s probably a good idea to plan 2-3 days’ downtime so everyone can relax and recuperate.

Great family holidays are made in the planning and your children’s age and ability to travel comfortably should be at the forefront of your considerations when planning your next fun-filled family holiday domestically or abroad.

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The Perfect Accommodation and Itinerary for Your Holiday

Image credit: susivinh, license Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-ND 2.0)
Image source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/susivinh/8526503079

Finding one great villa or apartment in a beautiful and convenient location is hard enough but when you are planning a 2, 3 or even 4-centre holiday, the task of coming up with an enjoyable itinerary and several comfortable properties in which to stay can seem almost impossible. However, with the right tools and frame of mind, it is relatively easy to plan such a break, as I hope to demonstrate in this article. Each piece of advice below is based on situations I have encountered over the years and the ways I found to solve various problems.

1. Consider the size of each property that you rent – many people make the mistake of only looking at one detail when booking self-catering holiday accommodation: how many people it sleeps. Whilst this is of course a crucial factor, it does not tell the whole story about the size of the place in question. If you are likely to spend a fair amount of time in your vacation home during the day, you will want something with generously proportioned reception rooms not just enough bedrooms for your party. Cramped accommodation can turn what would have been a pleasant break into an absolute nightmare, even when travelling with the best of friends. Make sure you remain friends after your holiday by choosing a rental property that is big enough to provide each member of your party with the privacy they require.

2. Don’t try to do too much – it can be tempting to try to cram in as much sightseeing as possible when visiting foreign countries, especially those that are on the other side of the world, as you never know when you will have the opportunity to return. However, if your itinerary leaves no margin for error and requires you to stick to a very tight schedule, your holiday may start to feel more like a military exercise than a relaxing break.

3. Make full use of online booking facilities – flights can be booked over the Internet and almost every holiday property owner advertises online these days, whether directly or through a travel agent, making it possible to arrange your entire holiday from the comfort of your home. The days of having to tramp round local shopping centres looking for the best deals in the windows of local travel agents’ offices are long gone, although it could be worth using an Internet agent if you need help organising Australian tours or trips across Egypt.

4. Utilise free applications that are designed to help travellers – there are many such applications available for mobile devices these days and they can make life much easier when you are travelling overseas. Apps that collect and organise all your booking details into one place are particularly useful in my opinion and save one from having to hunt through bags at busy airports to find booking reference numbers for flights, check-in times and other important information. Read online reviews of the latest apps and try some of the more popular ones when organising your next adventure.

5. Research each destination thoroughly – there is so much information available online about resorts and cities across the globe that no matter where you wish to visit, you are sure to find everything you need to know about each place online. By doing your homework before you book your holiday accommodation and flights, you can avoid wasting time and money visiting destinations that have little to offer and focus on those that are truly interesting instead. The most popular tourist attractions in the world must have something going for them so it is a good idea to start with these when you are looking for inspiration.

Air travel has made it possible to reach almost anywhere on earth in less than a day, giving modern holidaymakers a much larger choice of destinations than their counterparts in previous generations. Make the most of the holiday opportunities that are available to you by taking the time to pick the right accommodation for your needs and organising itineraries that have plenty to keep you occupied but are not too ambitious to be practical.

Superhero Movies That Aren’t Just For Kids to Enjoy

We live in a world inverted from the one that existed only ten years ago – genuine enjoyment and the very things that used to get a kid picked on mercilessly in high school is now common place. But maybe you’re still not convinced. Spandex-clad superhero movies are for kids, right? Read on to find out why that’s just not true and what you’ve been missing out.

Man of Steel

Man of Steel

Superman has had a bit of a rough trot on the big screen since Richard Donner’s seminal 1978 film starring Christopher Reeve. Donner-less sequels paled in comparison and Bryan Singer’s 2006 Superman Returns was another misfire. Warner Bros then turned to Zack Snyder to direct a grim, grown-up take on the Man of Tomorrow, putting a new spin on his origin, ratcheting up the violence and setting up DC’s own expanded cinematic universe. If you’re missing this movie from your collection, head over to the Warner Bros. website and put it in its rightful place – your DVD player.

Guardians of the Galaxy

One of the most obscure superhero teams in comic books history just became everyone’s new favourites. Director James Gunn’s take on Peter Quill and his merry band of space misfits going head to head with Kree zealot Ronan the Accuser is lighthearted, action-packed, full of heart and is very, very funny. Many of the sly jokes zoom right over the heads of any kids in the audience.


Director Matthew Vaughn’s take on the comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. about slightly-demented-but-otherwise-everyday people becoming self-styled, costumed vigilantes is fast-paced, ultra-violent (seriously, you will not actually believe how violent it is) and darkly funny. This is a very adult film and, as such, should be kept far away from the younger crowd. It’s sequel, Kick-Ass 2 was released in 2013.

The Incredibles

One of the best superhero movies ever made. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it’s a Pixar production – this is one of the most grown-up films either studio has ever produced. There are so many things going on here: a mid-life crisis story, a political witch-hunt that sees costumed heroes driven into hiding, super-powered teens trying to figure out the world and their place in it and, to top it all off, a maniacal plot by a disgruntled former fan turned super-villain. As close to perfect as it gets.

The Dark Knight

This is The Godfather Part II of superhero films. Christopher Nolan’s 2008 sequel to Batman Begins took everything that made its predecessor a success and ratcheted up the stakes. The Joker, a mysterious criminal mastermind who hides behind a mask of smeared clown paint, begins a sustained campaign of terror against Gotham City; it’s up to Batman and Jim Gordon to find a way to stop him. Riveting, complex film-making.

These are just a few of the many films that are changing public perception of superheroes being just for kids. It’s a fantastic time to be a comic-book fan but it’s an even better time if you’ve ever wanted to find out more about superheroes but were too afraid to ask. Who’s you’re favourite hero? Which superhero would you like to see get their own movie (Come on, Wonder Woman)? Leave your thoughts in the comments below, True Believer!

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