Monday, November 16, 2009

Basilica de San Martin de Tours and revisiting the heritage town of Taal

It’s easy to overlook the town of Taal in Batangas since most people associate the name with the volcano. But this small town located three hours away from Manila has its old world charm – with old ancestral stone houses and churches that date back for centuries. The last time I was here was almost five years ago when I didn’t even have a point and shoot camera and we had just like half-a-day to explore which is nowhere near enough to scratch the surface.
Our first stop for the daytrip is the centerpiece of the town – the Basilica de San Martin de Tours. With a height of 96 meters and width of 45, it is virtually impossible to miss this towering stone edifice as its imposing size seems to stand guard over the town. First built in 1575, it was rebuilt at its present site in 1755 after being destroyed by the volcanic eruption of its namesake. An earthquake in 1849 required another round of rebuilding in 1856. What’s even more interesting to note is the resemblance of the fa├žade to St. Peter’s in Rome.
We were in luck as the amiable guard took us up to the belfry where one can have a panoramic view stretching to Balayan Bay to the west and Mount Maculot in Cuenca to the east. Last time I climbed this belfry, it was full of guano so it came as a pleasant surprise how clean and well-tended the church is now.

Inside, the altar beckons with its intricate designs and the silver tabernacle, which wow.batangas.com said makes it unique among churches in the Philippines. The side altars are equally interesting while the floor, well beaten in some places, wear the patina of the passing years.

The church faces the west so we knew we had to come back before sunset to catch the beautiful light. And oh, we were besieged by vendors of panutsa (sweet treat made from peanuts and brown sugar) and other local delicacies but I must say, the panutsa really tastes as good as I remembered it.  We also bought some familia candles (candles shaped like a family and offered for the family among other intentions) from Lola Nora and said our prayers before stepping out of the church to explore the town. 

Info: To go to Taal town from Manila, ride the bus (Jam, Tritran, et al) headed for Lemery at the terminals located along Buendia in Makati. Tell the conductor you’re boarding off at San Nicolas. • Fare: around P180 • Travel time: 3 hours • Last trip going back to Manila is at 6pm
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