Peaceful for Now: Taal Volcano

Majority of the time when looking to dine near a nature destination not too far from the urban jungle of Metro Manila, we head out to Tagaytay City in Cavite province. Along Tagaytay Ridge are numerous cafes and restaurants that offer panoramic views of Taal Lake and Volcano in the adjacent province of Batangas.

different views of Taal Volcano from Tagaytay Ridge
Several views of the Taal Volcano complex as viewed from the Cliffside at Tagaytay Ridge.

Taal is an active volcano in Taal Lake, the latter a caldera lake formed by huge eruptions during pre-historic times. The volcano itself is an island (Volcano Island) in the northwestern part of the lake. There is a crater lake within Volcano Island that may be reached by hiking from the shores of the island. Because of its location, the Main Crater Lake on Volcano Island is often referred to as a “lake within a lake.” The Main Crater Lake is the largest lake on an island in a lake on an island in the world (sorry for the confusion).

Main Crater Lake, Taal Volcano
The Main Crater Lake on Volcano Island. Photo by krystianwin from Pixabay.
Taal Lake and Volcano with Binintiang Malaki viewed from Buon Giorno, Cliffside complex, Tagaytay
The small coned volcano is often thought to be Taal Volcano but it’s actually a smaller volcano called Binintiang Malaki (Big Leg), still a part of the volcano complex. The actual Taal Volcano – or Taal Volcano Island to be specific – is the whitish mass right behind Binintiang Malaki. The dormant Binintiang Malaki cone was the center of the 1707 and 1715 eruptions. The whitish color of Volcano Island was the result of the recent (2020) eruption. The Main Crater Lake is not visible from this viewpoint.

How active is Taal? Between 1572 and 1977 there were 42 recorded eruptions. The long eruption of 1754 – one source mentioned it lasted 200 days – led to the relocation of the lakeshore towns of Tanauan, Taal, Lipa and Sala. The new location of Taal town – from where the lake and volcano got its name – took it away from the shores of the lake. The 1911 eruption was particularly violent, resulting in more than a thousand lives lost and wiping out the villages on Volcano Island. Although it is obviously too risky to inhabit Volcano Island, locals have returned to repopulate it in the recent decades that the volcano had been relatively quiet.

Taal Lake and Volcano Island
Taal Volcano Complex viewed from the shores of Taal Lake in the town of Talisay, Batangas in 2019.

The last major eruption happened in January 2020 and led to the hurried evacuation of Volcano Island. The ash fall reached several provinces, including our home in Taguig City, Metro Manila. That, along with the pandemic, put an end to our plans to hike to the crater lake on Volcano Island that year. (Nina had previously trekked to the crater lake twice, during her single years.)

deep fried tawilis or freshwater sardinella
Deep fried tawilis fish from Taal Lake. In 2019, the International Union for Conservation of Nature declared the tawilis an endangered species. It had already been included in the catalogue of endangered heritage foods of Philippine cuisine by the Slow Food Movement.

There’s an interesting sidenote to this history of Taal Volcano and Lake. The lake is famous for its tawilis fish, a small silvery fish that is usually fried to a delicious crisp. The tawilis is a freshwater sardine and the only known member of the genus Sardinella to exist entirely in fresh water. Taal Lake was formerly connected to Balayan Bay by a narrow channel but during the 1754 eruption the volcano dumped huge amounts of material effectively sealing off Taal Lake from Balayan Bay and transforming it into the freshwater lake we know today. Several saltwater fish species were trapped within Taal Lake in the aftermath. The tawilis sardines alone were able to adapt to their new desalinated environment. Another fish, the maliputo which is practically similar to the saltwater bigeye jack or trevally (locally known as talakitok) spawns in Balayan Bay then migrates upstream along the Pansipit River to eventually end up at Taal Lake. (The trevally can thrive in both salt and freshwater.)

flowers at the Cliffside complex, Tagaytay
greens at the Cliffside in Tagaytay Ridge
Flowers and greens at the Cliffside in Tagaytay Ridge.

Taal Volcano had some short-lived eruptions in March this year that warranted evacuation of affected communities along the lake but it has been peaceful since. A few days ago, we drove to Tagaytay to meet a friend for early lunch and coffee at the Cliffside complex overlooking Taal Lake and Volcano. We chose to dine at Buon Giorno Café and Bistro that (obviously) serves Italian dishes. The complex’s green surroundings and roofed al fresco dining facilities were a welcome refuge during this particularly warm day.

Buon Giorno’s interior dining area
part of Buon Giorno’s al fresco dining area
Buon Giorno’s interior (top) and al fresco (bottom) dining areas.

Buon Giorno has several vegetarian dishes which gave us more choices than the usual local Italian-inspired restaurant. For starters we had their Buon Giorno’s special salad. Afterwards we feasted on their eggplant parmigiana and fettucini primavera with pomodoro sauce. Our friend chose their penne all’arrabiata that had bacon bits simmered in a spicy tomato sauce. Leo says their eggplant parmigiana was the best he’s ever had even if he didn’t consume all of its mozzarella cheese. Finally we had chocolate cake from a nearby café to go with coffee. The ambiance here was such that we had wanted to stay some more but with many diners coming in and waiting to be seated we had to leave to clear more space for them.

dishes at Buon Giorno Cafe and Bistro, Tagaytay

It would probably take a while before we can check off the hike to Taal’s crater lake from our bucket list. A cursory Google search for such a hiking tour did not yield any good result. The tours we saw weren’t updated so we can’t really say for sure if they are active at this time. Right after the 2020 eruption the crater lake disappeared but it had since mounted a comeback and, as far as we know, is alive and well today. But until we could definitely be sure that trekking tours have resumed, we could just enjoy the beauty of Taal Volcano from a distance provided it remains quiet. And have a nice meal at the same time.

7 thoughts on “Peaceful for Now: Taal Volcano

Add yours

  1. That last eruption was quite recent, hopefully that’s it for a long time now. Stunning views and a lovely lunch, thanks for sharing💫

  2. You’re right, it’s a potentially deadly but silent beauty – for now. I went on a trip to the crater (posted in my blog somewhere), but it was several years ago. Boat rides were from Talisay to the island. It requires about an hour on a leisurely horseback to the top on the island. Hope you’ll be able to tick it off your bucket list soon.
    Nice food you enjoyed there at Cliffside.

    1. Apparently hiking to the crater is not yet allowed for now. The volcano had some activity just a few months back. So it might take a while to do that hike. Maybe we should try Mt. Pinatubo first although that’s a longer trek.

  3. I love Tagaytay so much that I made it my second home when I am in the Philippines. I like the infos you gave me, especially the type of fish in English terms then to Tagalog. Well done!

      1. Perhaps you would like to check my other site the unit is a brand new 1 bedroom for rent in Tagaytay

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