The town of Taal in Batangas owes its fame for having the largest basilica in the orient and ancestral houses with history boasting of revolutionary passion. After learning from graphic artist Adam Bejar the direction of getting there, Traveler on Foot decided to give the ancestral town of Taal a visit.
Taal town is located by the slope of an elevated hill overlooking Balayan Bay and Taal Lake. It is bounded by the towns of Lemery, San Nicholas and Sta. Teresita.
We entered the Taal town via crossing a small bridge from Lemery (which marks Lemery’s boundary with Taal) towards town center or poblacion. The town center is a typical Spanish colonial town where the plaza is surrounded by the church, the town hall, important colonial buildings and houses of illustrious residents.
Basilica de San Martin de Tours
Overlooking the town plaza is the towering Basilica de San Martin de Tours.
Once reputed to be the largest in Southeast Asia, the first church was built on a half-hectare site by Father Martin Aguirre in 1755. The famous Spanish architect Luciano Oliver was commissioned to design and manage the construction of the present church after the first one was destroyed by the 1849 earthquake. The church was completed in 1878 by Father Agapito Aparicio.
The façade is Baroque with two levels of twelve columns. The lower columns standing on a pedestal is Doric while the upper and shorter columns, which supports the cornice is Corinthian.
Contributing to the impressive interior are the grand transepts and the three naves, with a wide central nave bounded by huge columns on each side. At the epistle side (right) of the altar is the image of the Our Lady of Caysasay while on the gospel side (left)of the altar is the image of the church’s patron saint, San Martin de Tours.
Seen from the church’s patio, to the right is the old convent which was built together with the church. It now houses a school run by Benedictine nuns. To left side of the basilica is the old Escuela Pia which is converted into Taal’s Cultural Center. In front of the church was the old Casa Real which was built from 1846 to 1850 by Augustinian Celestino Mayordomo. Today, it houses the town’s municipal office.
Indicated on the municipal hall’s façade is the year when the town was officially founded by the Agustinians in 1572 on the Taal Lake’s southern shore. The town transferred three times before it finally settled on its present location.
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