Basilica de San Martin de Tours and Taal Lake

I can finally cross out one item in my places to visit in the Philippines list: the Basilica de San Martin de Tours.
View from across the street
I have been wanting to visit this minor basilica, dedicated to St. Martin, the patron saint of Taal, after I learned a few years ago go that it is considered as the biggest Catholic church not just in our country, but in all of Asia. Well, it took me years and lots of nagging to get hubby to drive to Taal (no, Taal is not in Tagaytay, Cavite – it’s actually a town in Batangas, near Lemery). 
The original church was built in San Nicolas sometime in 1575 under the Augustinian missionaries, but after it was destroyed along with the town during Taal volcano’s most destructive eruption (so far) back in the 16th century, the church was moved to its present location on an elevated hill. I didn’t get to see the ruins of the old church in San Nicolas, though. Construction of the present church was started in the mid-19th century and completed around 1878. As with many churches and buildings in the country, this chuch too fell prey to natural and man-made calamities, and an earthquake in 1942 severely damaged its belfry and the “king of the bell,” considered the largest in the country with a circumference of 19 feet.  


I must say, the church is huge! Capacity wise, I would guess it can seat twice as much as Manila Cathedral but it’s really the high ceiling that makes it even more grand than the churches in Intramuros. A trompe l’oleil ceiling also adorns this structure, similar to the San Agustin, although less intricate (and less 3D effect, I might add). Surprisingly for a provincial church, this one is well-maintained. The paintings on the ceiling all look new, the entire place is clean, and doesn’t smell moldy or look abandoned (like the old churches in Bohol).  Then again, it is quite new, at only a few hundred years old so time will tell if it will age as gracefully as the others.

Love how there are painted walls and ceilings everywhere! And they all look quite new and vibrant.

The concave ceiling before the altar

The choir loft

Practically every wall has a painting of a saint or prophet
The baptistry
The small museum near the entrance to the church
One of the rooms in the second level of the massive church

The town of Taal is also being promoted as a historical village, similar to Vigan. It doesn’t have the old-world charm of Vigan though, as several brightly painted and obviously modern houses stand side by side with old Spanish-style houses. And it doesn’t have cobblestone paths. We didn’t get to roam around since it was high noon when we reached the town and our kiddo was burning with fever, so I guess we’ll reserve the museum hopping for a second visit.

The old-style municipal hall

Oh, and I must say, we were treated to a fantastic view of Taal Lake from where we stayed at the night before:
View from the pool – Mount Makulot to the side

Mt. Makulot
I wouldn’t exactly call Endaya Cove a breathtaking resort or would gladly recommend it (alas, they only have one pool and the rooms and entire place kinda needs a little upkeep; plus, it’s about half a mile of rough, one-way road to get there) but for this view, I would say the trip was quite worth the effort.
Plus, the kid loved it there!
Playing with his cousin

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