Saturday, December 29, 2012
Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas
The Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours, which is considered the largest Catholic Church in the Philippines and in Asia, is one of the most popular tourist and religious attractions of the town of Taal in Batangas province. The original church structure was built in 1575 in a coastal barrio near the shore of Taal Lake. In 1754, the most powerful eruption of Taal Volcano ever recorded destroyed the whole town of Taal including the church. In 1755, the church was then moved to its present location on an elevated hill.
The church is situated right across the Municipal Hall of Taal. Parking spaces are available at the church grounds. As you approach the steps leading to the church entrance, you will be welcomed by children selling candles. Most of them are school children who spend their weekend selling candles to earn extra money for their families. They are really nice, not intrusive at all and would not insist on selling their candles to you.
Entering the basilica, you will be astonished how massive the church structure is. We felt really small walking under the high ceiling of the church. The interior was newly repainted with ornate patterns painted on the walls, pillars and the ceiling.
The basilica’s dome is supported by four massive pillars, on top of which are portraits of the Four Evangelists. The dome ceiling features a painting of the Ascension of Christ. There was an ongoing wedding ceremony during the time of our visit. The voice of the priest resonated inside the vast interior of the basilica, further intensifying the grandiosity of the structure.
We also went up to the basilica's tower accessible through a dark, narrow and winding stairwell. The tower gave us access to the basilica's rooftop from where we enjoyed a panoramic view of the whole town of Taal. At the background is Balayan Bay. Climbing on top of the largest Catholic church in the Philippines and Asia was indeed an experience you should not miss.
The Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours is also popular during Holy Week, especially during Maundy Thursday when Catholics would participate in the Lenten tradition of Visita Iglesia (Seven Churches Visitation), so if you are planning to have your Visita Iglesia in Batangas, you should definitely include the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours in your itinerary.
How to get to the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours in Taal, Batangas
If you are driving a car from Manila, take the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and continue on to Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway. Exit at Lipa City, Batangas. From Lipa Exit, turn left onto President Jose P Laurel Hiway and continue driving until you reach the first junction (look for a the Phoenix Gas Station). Turn right towards the direction of the town of Cuenca. Drive through the towns of Cuenca, Alitagtag and Santa Teresita. From Santa Teresita, you will reach another junction (look for FlyingV Gas Station). Turn left towards the Poblacion of Taal that will lead you to the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours.
If you are taking public transport, you can ride a JAM Liner bus bound for Lemery, Batangas. Buses depart from their Buendia Terminal (Buendia corner Taft Avenue) and Cubao Terminal (EDSA-Kamuning). First trip is at 3:00am with an interval of 1 hour between trips. Tell the driver to drop you off at Flying-V at Taal Poblacion Junction. From Flying-V, you can take the jeepney going to Poblacion. You can also take a tricycle. Going back to Manila, take a jeepney or tricycle bound for Lemery. Tell the driver to drop you off at the Lemery bus station. At the Lemery bus station, there are buses bound for Buendia and Cubao.