The idea of a writer’s retreat started a year ago. It was supposed to last for a week at least where we would do nothing, but write. That turned out to be an ambitious task because not only will it costs us a lot of money or have the difficulty to find interested aspiring writers, the allocated time would not be enough given that we also had the LitFest and the workshop at CCP.
We knew we had to find a location that feels distant, and yet still easily accessible from Manila. We thought of Tagaytay, but when we were researching, another type of hotel came up, a heritage town not far from the Taal Volcano. It is further south facing Balayan Bay. We googled the place and found out that it is a heritage town – just like the one in Vigan. Taal is perfect!
The day had arrived, and the plan of taking a bus from the chaotic Cubao bus station worked out. It was a four-hours drive, so when we left at 7, we arrived at around 11 am. We were in high spirits as we found ourselves on a tricycle into the heritage town. We were greeted with colorful banderitas which I supposed would be used for a fiesta a week later. There were no troubles finding our hotel as it was known well enough by the tricycle drivers.
We were greeted by the friendly hotel staff with cold, blue-colored drinks. And as my eyes gazed around in the Spanish-American-Colonial bahay-na-bato style, I fell in love right away. With its huge windows letting all the sunlight and April breeze through, and white walls with brown frames embraced with the right amount of beautiful paintings, I was enthralled.
After inhaling the ambiance of our hotel, we started to explore the town. Our stops were as follows:
- Galleria De Taal
- Tampuhan Cafe for lunch
- Marcella Agoncillo Museum
- Leon and Gallicano Apacible Museum
- Taal Basilica
Each museum had their own tour guide who went with us from room to room, explaining the importance of each areas. Stories from the past were told in a professional manner and we certainly learned a lot. I never felt so inspired as I walked along the corridors while sweat tickled my back.
I still remember looking at the window and seeing the Philippine flag dancing along the wind, as if welcoming us.
As the sun was setting, we sat down in the garden of our hotel with papers, pens, and pizza. We wrote stories, and then we gave each other constructive criticisms. I could sense the pressure and excitement at the same time as the clock ticked. At 8 pm, we were hungry and decided to go out in the streets and look for something to eat.
In between the places that we visited, and the stories that we wrote, we all became friends. 8Letters created an environment where we all had fun, but at the same time, a possibility to work onto something in the future. We are actually working on a Taal anthology, which we hope to share with you in the future, so stay tuned. Also, this won’t be the first and the last writer’s retreat. We’ll organize another one this year!