Monday, August 05, 2013

Post card from the Philippines: The Taal Basilica

Taal church

Almost every town and municipality in the Philippines is marked by a large Baroque church often made of adobe. It is not surprising, though, as the Philippines was under the Spanish colonial rule for over 300 years, thus the largest population of Catholic faithfuls in Asia.
What is surprising though is the beauty that each one demonstrates, not to mention unique stories of miracles that each patron supposedly possesses.

For this, let me dwell on what is said to be the biggest in the Philippines, and a must-stop if you are to travel in the southern portion of Luzon island particularly in Batangas province -- the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours, or simply the Taal church.

Taal Basilica may not be a UNESCO World Heritage Site lister as with the churches of San Agustin in Intramuros, Manila, Paoay in Ilocos Norte, Santa Maria in Ilocos Sur and Miag-Ao in Iloilo. But by just looking at the façade of this massive stone structure, I should say the Taal church is one of the most beautiful that I have seen in the Philippines, alongside the church in Paoay, Ilocos Norte (I have yet to see the Miag-Ao Church, which is equally stunning in pictures!).

Here are some of the basics about the Taal church:

- like most Agustinian churches in the Philippines, the Taal church is made of adobe and coral. Since portions of the edifice is crumbling, you can actually see the corals used to build this church!
- the façade of the church looks like a fortress.
- the original parish of Taal, where the original structure was erected, is situated in what is now known as San Nicolas town, which is much nearer to Taal Volcano -- one of the, if not already the smallest in the world. Agustinian friars were forced to move the parish to its present site due to a tragic eruption sometime in the 1570s.
- the bell at the campanile is said to be the largest in the Philippines!
- if you want to catch the festivities, go to Taal town on November 11 at the celebration of the fiesta.

Side trips and other tips:
- if you want to take a picture of the façade of the church, better do it during the afternoon or towards the sunset as the Taal church faces southwest.
- while there, might as well visit the Our Lady of Caysasay chapel, which is accessible close by via tricycle (fare is about P30 one way, or less than $1). Also nearby the Caysasay chapel are the remnants of the façade of an old Spanish church, which is always being flocked by believers who want to be healed.
- Taal town is not only known for the church. Go about town for food tripping and sample freshly caught sea foods from Taal Lake. Taal is also known for very fine embroidery, especially on barong Tagalog, the national costume for men, and other related products.
- Going there: there are buses from the Buendia station of the LRT Line 1 that will take you to Lemery, Batangas. Fare is about P150 (less than $4). From Lemery, there are jeepneys going to Taal. Or, also from Buendia station of LRT Line 1, there are buses going to Lipa, Batangas. From Lipa, there are also jeepneys going to Lemery, which will pass by Taal.

*Photo above is taken using Nikon FG. Yes, it's film. :-)