Monday, July 19, 2004

Taal tripping

With B2 feeling sick last Friday and work threatening to take over the weekend, the good Lord allowed a respite and the CentralCircle group went to Taal town and missed out on Taal volcano, on purpose. We were up 2 people more than our Tagaytay group, this time with Rachel and Vince in tow. Got to Taal town by 10.30 or 11. And the sun was up and smiling.

FIRST STOP: THE BASILICA OF SAN MARTIN DE TOURS (hope I got the name right), the oldest basilica in Asia. There's a serene, calming presence in old churches you'd experience here. walking past the worn- looking facade, one heads to the huge, massive, giant doors and take a huge step back in time. Weren't it for the fluorescent lamps, electric fans and a rather modern sound system in place, you can feel like you were trapped in the olden times, perhaps, the Spanish era.

saw a lapida in one wall with the death dated 1922 and thought it was rather old. that is, until i saw another marked 1863, right smack in the middle of the floor of the room used for baptisms. it's mind-boggling to even think how long ago that was. the church dates back to 1572 and if the walls can speak, it would whisper hordes of stories -- of wars, christenings, deaths, even the ups and downs of the town itself. the painting on the dome up high is intricate and interesting. makes one wonder how the builders can construct something as tall and massive as this basilica with the limited tools they had then.

heading out into the streets to our next church destination is another visual adventure as we pass old houses along the way. makes us collectively regret why we pinoys can't take more care of the links to our cultural past. vince even broached the idea of putting up a website on old houses (maybe old churches as well) so that the future generation of pilipinos would be able to appreciate their heritage even if these historied structures would be (sigh) gone by that time.

SECOND STOP - THE CHURCH OF CAYSASAY. Over 400 years old and according to a caretaker, badly needing restoration, it still stands tall as a symbol of our people's enduring faith. The church is significantly smaller, its width can occupy just two pews. The painting on the dome is less polished than the basilica's but not any less significant. Even the wooden floor in the balcony at the rear of the church looks aged. Was about to venture up the belfries but having no camera, didn't pushed it. But the view of the altar from the balcony is beautiful. The altar is spartan and not at all opulent but there's something about old churches that awes you.

The church feels solemn and being smaller, feels a bit more personal and cozy. Exiting the side door, past the area where one offers candles, you go deeper into a moss-covered path headed for the remnants of the old church where two wells can be found. The kids say the water is miraculous -- Dindin swears she put some of the water on her back and her back pain was gone.

Then, there's the challenge of the 125-step stair leading up to a side street. Counting the steps one-by-one with the kids was like child's play. and oh boy, everywhere we went, there were kids following us prompting D2 to say, one of the town's favorite past-time may be babymaking.

LA AZOTEA - After visiting two churches, our next stop: very late lunch. But the great food at La Azotea, a newly-opened hotel along the highway, bowled us over. From the seafood platter with a huge, tender, tilapia to the bulalo steak, and then barako coffee matched with banana split, lunch was well worth the wait. With a recollection going on downstairs, it was a blessing to have been accommodated at the upstairs function room, giving us a nice view of the well-planted garden downstairs and the Taal Lake far beyond. And it is also a blessing to find such a nice, cozy place along the stretch of the Nasugbu highway where the B2, D2 and V2 can upload their images from digicams to Powerbooks, and for me, to stretch out and take a nap.

COFFEE & LAUGHS @ THE BILLANO'S - 'twas my second visit to the Billanos' Tagaytay ridge home. The cloudy conditions made stargazing difficult but the nippy air and great company made our visit so much fun. (Bambi's parents are such warm and gracious hosts, very funny too.) I wouldn't mind having a house on the ridge in such a location.Fireflies alit in the nearby trees, a solitary fishing boat with its light blinking not too far from shore, monitor lizards and other nocturnal animals sounding off mating calls, and a green expanse as far as my nearsighted eyes can take me.

Ahhh, it was nice to really stop and smell the fresh air for a change. My only regret is I don't have a decent camera to bring along. Maybe next time... BTW, thanks B2 for driving us all the way and back even with the sniffles. Thanks D2 for letting us make another journey of discovery.

It's good to find friends who share the same passion for being modern and yet keeping our consciousness open to our historied past. Face it, we'll always be Pinoys at heart, no matter where life will take us.

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