The town of Taal, Batangas, is one of our go-to places when we feel like doing a heritage tour. It is, after all, just a few hours’ drive from Alabang, and it is reminiscent of Vigan, Ilocos, which known for its cobbled streets and old heritage houses. Taal town has its fair share of heritage houses, and it is, for me, the “Vigan” of the south.
While it does share its name with the smallest volcano in the world, the Taal volcano, found in Tagaytay, the town of Taal is 15 kilometers away.
This is a series of blogs about historical sites that can be found in Taal Town, Batangas.
And the first on the list is the Taal Basilica, also known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, named after the town’s patron saint. They celebrate their patron saint’s feast every 11th of November.
Recognized as the largest church in the Orient, being 95m long and 45m wide, Taal Basilica is a national shrine. It has withstood centuries of natural disasters and had undergone different stages of rebuilding and repair.
The original church was built by Father Diego Espina in San Nicolas in 1575. The church was destroyed in 1754 when the Taal Volcano erupted. Since then, the town relocated to where it sits today, and the church was rebuilt in 1755 by Augustinian priests on a plateau facing the Balayan Bay.
The church was damaged by a strong earthquake in 1849. In 1856, reconstruction work started, headed by architect Luciano Oliver. It was completed in 1878. The basilica has a Baroque architectural style, and is made of adobe held together by lime.
Another strong earthquake damaged the church bell in 1942, and then most recently in 2017, it was damaged by 3 strong earthquakes that struck neighboring towns of Tingloy, Mabini and Taysan. I remember faintly feeling the earthquake in 2017. I woke up D from his siesta and said I felt a slight tremor. 20 minutes after, I saw the trend in Twitter – and the earthquake was 124 kilometers away from where we were!
As we revisited the Taal Basilica this month, I was once again in awe of its grandeur. It still warmed the heart to see different birds flying and hearing them chirping, while we filled our lungs with fresh air. No visit in Taal Town would be complete without spending a few minutes in the Taal Basilica, and offering a prayer of thanks for all life’s blessings.
If you live or visit Metro Manila, and have a day you can allocate for a heritage tour, I recommend a trip to Taal town. For more details about The Heritage Town of Taal, Batangas, click here.