Weekend wanderlust: Taal, a glimpse of history

basilica of st martin de tours

I was taught that Taal is the smallest active volcano when I was learning my geography via Sibika at Kultura.  When I was studying Heograpiya, Kasaysayan at Sibika (HeKaSi), I learned that Taal is a volcano inside a volcano.  According to my teachers, the lake surrounding the existing volcano is the original crater. Now that I am working, I discovered the town called Taal in the province of Batangas.

It was a supposed to be a Saturday trip but the good o’l weather went bad.  It rained so hard that I had to rethink my plan to satisfy my wanderlust. The thinking process alone wore me out.  I woke up the morning after and marveled at the sky. Hints of golden sun rays were beginning to illuminate the horizon.  I took a bath and packed Nikkie, iPpie and Serge.

How to get to Taal, Batangas

The heat of the sun against my brown skin was refreshing after a somehow rainy Saturday.  I took a jeepney ride to LRT Gil Puyat Station along Taft Avenue (Buendia).  A friend from Taal told me to take the Ceres Bus (her fave bus to her hometown) going to Lipa City (bus stop).  At Lipa City, take a jeepney ride going to Lemery, Batangas and have the driver drop you off in front of the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, commonly known as “Simbahan ng Taal“.

Sounds easy, right?  But wait! I was in a bit of a hurry.  I saw a JAM Liner heading to Lemery (with a sub-sign “Taal”) so I figured it would be easier since I won’t have to transfer to a jeepney. On the bus, I was told that the bus route won’t pass by the town proper. Yikes! We were already traversing the length of the Skyway so I have no choice.  Another unfortunate event:  I was told to take the bus passing through the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and Start Toll to make the travel time to Lipa fast and easy.  My bus got off the expressway going to Torbina in Laguna passing through Sto. Tomas, Batangas.  It was a butt-numbing experience!

When we finally passed by Lipa City it was a smooth ride going up the winding highway through the towns of Cuenca, Tawilisan and some other places I could not even remember.  I enjoyed the scenery up the mountain though.  I was let off the bus when the street forked at a Flying V gas station.

The Grand Walk-a-thon

I thought of whether flagging a tricycle to the town proper or to take the jeepney ride.  The weather was not too sunny with a refreshing breeze so I decided to walk.  I can see some rooftops from afar.“It couldn’t be that far” I told myself.  After 15 minutes of walking, the sun began to wear me off as beads of sweat started to form all over my body and I was craving for more cold breeze that miraculously vanished.  My watch told me it was less than an hour before noon and I haven’t got a clue as to where I am!

I passed by an increasing number of butterfly daggers (balisong) stalls so I must be close.  And true enough, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

Welcome to Taal! The Balisong and Barong Tagalog Capital of the Philippines

One of the reasons why I came to Taal was to see old houses and the Basilica.  I am a fan of the old world.  Quite contrasting – old world against my interest and love for technology. Traveling fuses my contrasting interests.

Just like Dorothy (Wizard of Oz), I followed the yellow brick road (the yellow lined road in my case ^_^).  It led me to Taal Public Market.  They were not kidding when they claimed being the  “Barong” capital!  There was a certain street lined with old houses that displays well-made barongs and gowns! Such a pity I wasn’t able to take photos because seriously, I was starving!

For a moment I stopped feeling hungry when I saw the top of an old structure not far away!  As got closer I felt happy! I found the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours.  I’ve read about it in many blogs before actually seeing it in my very own eyes.  It was magnificently OLD! and HUGE!

 

The Basilica of St. Martin of Tours

The church stands magnificently at the top of a hill making it more grand.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of a cross at the top like most of the catholic churches I know.

 

The facade is huge and slightly resembled St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

There is no doubt that it has been a standing witness to the transformation of the society around it.  The walls were tarnished but the design was timeless…classic if you will. When you enter the grand doors you’ll be transported into a different world.

I came in panting and desperately needing air and water.  But since it is a public place I restrained myself and pretended to be cool and “normal”.  The floor is made of terra cotta which gave a warm tone contrary to the usual cold tiles or marble floors.  The corners and ceiling embellishments are ornate and artistic.

The chandeliers are definitely a winner.  It’s not like the grand chandeliers with crystals and gold.  These are wrought irons that has a lot  more character.

I love the rustic look and feel of these chandeliers and the bright colors of the stained glass windows.  It is sad though that the windows weren’t well maintained especially those on the structure’s facade.

The glass window panes from Baclayon Church in Bohol still holds my heart when it comes to stained glass arts.

The Basilica, being an old house of worship still sports the traditional elevated pulpit where the celebrant of the Eucharist usually address his flock of faithfuls during his homily.

 

Being the largest catholic church in the land, each wing seems to be a smaller church or a chapel.

The right wing/chamber ‘s altar
Minor altar of the right chamber.
The left chamber

My timing was a bit disappointing.  I came when there’s a major restoration going on inside the church. You may have noticed the scaffolding from the photo above.  The biggest disappointment was the huge contraption right in the middle reaching the dome ceiling of the church.

The biggest eye sore at the time.
 

From the end of the center aisle the huge contraption obscures the view of the grand altar. You have to go around or under it. The hidden altar is lavished by gold and silver arts.

Notice the masonic symbol at the top of a mini dome.

The all seeing eye looking over the faithfuls.  It made me remember Nicholas Cage and his quest for the National Treasures as well as Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon’s theory that the Illuminati has penetrated the masonic organization as evidenced by the all seeing eye symbol.

With all the religious stuff I’ve seen everywhere around the church, the highlight would have been me sharing something to an old lady asking for help.  It wasn’t much but it felt good because she accepted it wholeheartedly.  She smiled with glee and thanked me profusely as if I gave her a bag of gems.

It rained so hard I couldn’t go out and I was starving.  I did not have breakfast and it was past the lunch hour. Aside from worrying about my rumbling tummy, I felt the call of mother nature! I need to pee and I can’t seem to find the rest room.  My bladder was about to burst and my stomach really needed something to digest. Small to large beads of sweat were dripping from my forehead and all over.  My shirt felt like a wet towel and it was really uncomfortable. After the countless times I’ve circled the entire church while praying to God to show me the path to a rest room, I had a glimpse of a wooden door leading outside a garden.  There was an arrow pointing to the place I needed. God was listening after all. It was really a nice and clean rest room.  I drained my bladder and dried myself using the already wet shirt I was wearing.  I put on a jersey shirt.

After the rain stopped I took these photos:

An imposing facade

The sun came shining again after the rain. The temperature went up pretty high you don’t want to spend a second under the sun. I was hoping to try tapang Taal for lunch.  A lot of bloggers recommended trying the native dish but I was too tired to roam around town looking for it.  I ended up having spicy hotdog sandwich from 7-11 for lunch.

After lunch it was time to see the old houses.  I started at the plaza between the town hall and the church.

Hall of the Municipal Government of Taal, Batangas

This reminded me of home.  Science City of Munoz kept the Rizal monument even after the renovation and modernization of the facility.  Well, anyway, their town hall really looked small and goes along with the theme of the place.

Going around town made me see these houses.

Old stone houses (bahay na bato) are composed of a concrete or stoned ground floor and wooden planks on the second floor.

Casa Punzalan  is one of the heritage houses that was converted into a hotel managed by the government.

If you intend to stay in town for the night, you should consider calling Casa Punzalan first to ensure that you have a place to stay while you’re in town.

Ylagan-De la Rosa Ancestral House

It would have been best if these houses were open.  Unfortunately I came in on a Sunday.

Here are some other places I’ve been in Taal.

Rizal College of Taal sits right beside the Basilica.

Just before you leave the Basilica, you will see Escuela Pia.  It used to be a school during the glory days of the Spanish Empire.  It is now the Taal Cultural Center.

Taal Cultural Center, formerly Escuela Pia

Here’s the historical marker inscription translated in English from WOWBatangas.com.

 Escuela Pia is a school supervised by the church and was named after the congregation established by San Jose of Calansanz, during the 17th century. Agustinian priests constructed this convent that which later became school for underpriveledged Taal youth.

The present edifice was built through the effort of P. Aniceto Aparicio in 1885. This Escuela Pia had become the central school during the American regime.

In addition, the restoration of Escuela Pia building, which is considered to be one of the oldest eductional institutions in the country, was initiated by Taal Arts and Culture Movement Inc. This is also in cooperation with National Historical Institute.

The old neighborhood.

Caring for these living historical sites can be difficult. I guess we needed everyone to learn how to care for these treasures.

It’s sad that some of these functional artifacts did not survive the changes.
One last look before I leave town.

It was one heck of an experience taking my pair of foot to Taal, Batangas.  When my butt finally met the soft yet strong seat of a jeepney heading to Lipa City, I felt my ankles and joints hurt.  It was a long day but it was all worth it.  I was meaning to visit the Shrine of our Lady of Caysasay and the miraculous spring but I ran out of time.  I was told these places are just a tricycle ride away.  I looked at my watch and it was already past the hour of four.  Taking my cue from the time consumed to get to Taal, I wouldn’t want to be on the road in the dark.  The jeepney route passes through zigzag roads up and down the mountain.

I will definitely come back.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for posting a picture of the Ylagan-de la Rosa Ancestral House! Next time you visit Taal, do call in advance so the house can be opened. We are also offering a "taste of Taal" while visiting….merienda of suman Taal with Barakong Kape or Tsokolate and lunch of Taal longganisa or Tapang Taal or Adobong Dilaw but by reservation only. Thank you.

    Anna de la Rosa-Hortaleza / 0917-8555571

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