Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Taal Heritage Tour: Taal Basilica and Our Lady of Caysasay

Basilica of St. Martin of Tours, Taal, Batangas
When my dear good friend Mona Dy sent me a text message regarding a heritage tour to Taal, Batangas in early July, I replied in the affirmative. It was my summer off from work and she was looking forward to visiting Taal, Batangas during her off season month. I have not seen her in a while so, a day trip with her would be bonding time. The trip she was planning at the time required three to four people. Our common friends could not make it on the given date so, I broached the idea to a friend from work, Riza E., who gamely said yes.

We decided to take the public transport. I met Riza in Alabang and together, we took the one and a half hour commute to Taal, Batangas. From Lipa, we jumped on a jeep and reached Taal around nine in the morning. We were blessed with good weather. Mona arrived a few minutes later followed by our guide, Art B. He is a native of Taal, Batangas and an engineer by profession.

A peddler selling peanut brittle at the entrance of the Basilica
According to Art B., Taal Basilica is the largest one in Asia. Ogie Alcasid, a Filipino actor and singer who traces his ancestry in Taal married his first wife, Michelle Van Eimeren, a former beauty queen, there. It was a celebrated occasion, so he told us. But simply looking at the common people visiting Taal Basilica satisfied me. A group of young people were gathered at the plaza just in front of the Basilica that morning. They held what looked like a copy of a song as they hummed and sang a local folk song. There were the peddlers at the church steps selling peanut brittle and local sweets. Church devotees walk in and out of the Basilica to pray and offer candles and flowers. Peddlers rest under the shade of the big, old, historic church bell that is displayed in front of the Basilica. There were so many things that reminded me of the simple, provincial life that I longed for a visit to my father's or my mother's home province.

Plaque by the National Historical Institute
The Basilica is indeed dubbed as Asia's biggest and I suppose, it is big not just in size but in history, art and architecture. As told to us by our guide, the Basilica was first built as a small church near Taal lake. It was destroyed when Taal volcano erupted.

I wonder who did the religious art works, the fresco, the painting on its ceiling and walls, the tiled floors. Local artists, I guess, who will forever remain nameless.

We were given a tour of the kumbento as well. We were let in to see the parish office, the monsignor's study, the dinning hall and a bulwagan type area where a group of young people were practicing a dance number. It was like walking back to the  colonial time because much of the architecture, interior design, furniture, furnishings and decorations are Spanish in taste and influence.

One fascinating story told to us by Art was that of  Taal's patron saint, St. Martin of Tours, whose statue disappears on stormy nights. Locals believe that St. Martin rides his horse around town to guard them from natural disasters. The Our Lady of Caysasay, only six inches tall, is likewise miraculous and mystical. The statue is placed in a smaller church very near the spring of water where she was found. This spring of water leads to the Pansipit River where, in the olden days, fish, turtles and other marine life abound. The river is still alive with marine fauna and flora as well as the spring of water. It is now a grotto where devotees flock the site every Semana Santa for prayer and pilgrimage.

Reminders of good behavior when in church. Can you read the old Tagalog?

 In my next post, I'll share pictures and insights on our visit to ancestral houses in Taal, Galeria de Taal and Villa Tortuga.

1 comment:

Dan Moreno said...

Thank you for sharing Taal's legacy!

Check out this website for more about Taal

Be sure to check out fun updates on 2012 December Fiesta!

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