Tuesday, May 29, 2007


The sleepy town of Taal is the Philippines’ second heritage town after Vigan (which is now officially known as the Heritage City of Vigan). But aside from its well-preserved and magnificent colonial era houses, Taal also boasts of what can be called as ecclesiastical heritage sites: the Basilica of San Martin de Tours, the Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, and the ruins of an earlier church.

In 1572, the Dominicans established the mission of Taal and built the first church from light materials three years later in what is now San Nicolas during the administration of Fr. Diego de Espinar (OSA). This was replaced by a stone church in 1642 that was destroyed during the eruptions of the Taal Volcano in 1749 and 1754. The church was moved to its present site in 1575 where, after a year, a new structure was started to be built that was completed in 1782 under the successive supervisions of Fr. Martin Aguirre (OSA), Fr. Gabriel Rodriguez (OSA), and Fr. Jose Vitoria (OSA). This was probably destroyed and another was again built by the Augustinian Recollects in 1787 that was razed during a raid of moro pirates in 1798. Fr. Valeriano de San Pascual probably had the church rebuilt in 1839 that was probably again destroyed during the 1849 earthquake and the 1852 eruption of the volcano. The present church --- reputed to be the biggest colonial church in Southeast Asia --- was started to be constructed in 1856 under the supervisions of Fr. Marcos Anton and Arch. Luciano Oliver. It was finished in 1878 during the administration of Fr. Agapito Aparicio. Fr. Jose Sancho had the bell tower built from 1884 to 1888 that was destroyed in 1942. The church underwent restoration in 1972 and was declared as a national shrine in 1974.

Not as big and regal but perhaps more popular for pilgrims is the nearby Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay. In 1603, a fisherman named Juan de Maningkad found what is now known as the image of the Caysasay Virgin while fishing in the river. The image was said to frequently appear in the place where it was found and, in 1611, a church of light materials was built in the area. This was replaced in 1639 by a stone church that was damaged during the 1754 and 1852 eruptions of the Taal Volcano. The church was rebuilt in 1856 only to be damaged again during the 1867 earthquake. It was later repaired and improved under the supervisions of Fr. Marcos Anton, the Italian painter Cesar Alberoni, and Fr. Agapito Aparicio. It has undergone renovations since then. The image of the Caysasay Virgin is enshrined in the church except on Fridays when it is brought to the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours.

A short walk from the shrine is the ruins of an earlier church that was destroyed by the eruptions of Taal Volcano. The waters of a spring emanating from the ruins is said to be miraculous. But to have the miracle, one must ask permission from an image of the Virgin Mary who is said to be guarding the spring. This is what we did as our little boy guide instructed us.

From Taal and after the town of Lemery is Calaca whose centuries old church is mostly intact and unspoiled by “renovations, improvements, and restorations”. And then a national heritage site.

National Heritage Site: A Filipino House of God

A short ride from Calaca is Balayan (yes, of the famous lechon parade) where Fr. Francisco de Santa Maria (OFM) built the first church built of light materials in 1579. The mission was handed over to the Jesuits in 1591 who had a stone church built in 1749. It was again handed to the secular clergy in 1753 who built the present church, to the Augustinian Recollects in 1876, then finally to the Filipino clergy in 1908. The church --- dedicated to the La Imaculada Concepcion --- is one of the few whose construction was supervised by Filipino priests. It was declared as a national heritage site of the National Commission on Culture and Arts.

Nothing is more welcome after a grueling visita iglesia around the Taal Lake than a refreshing bowl of spaghetti from Sonia’s Garden in Alfonso, Cavite. The noodles are firm and served with a selection of panahog: fried salmon, creamy and chunky chicken sauce, sun dried tomatoes, something-that-looked-like-green-peppers and have seen only in Lifestyle Channel, sautĂ©ed mushrooms, and a generous supply of grated parmesan cheese. There’s even a bowl of langka fruit which I presume is for refreshing the palate. To date, it’s the best spaghetti I’ve ever had and the most expensive too. A fitting finale to the most expensive and French-sounding lunch I’ve had in my whole life at Antonio’s in Tagaytay City a night earlier.

PHOTOS EXPLAINED (top to bottom): (1) Taal municipal hall, (2) Tall Basilica, (3) Shrine of Our Lady of Caysasay, (4) Caysasay church ruins, (5) Calaca church, (6-8) Balayan church, (9) a spaghetti dinner at Sonia’s Garden, and (10) my Frenchy 2k+ dinner at Antonio’s.


c H i Balmaceda Gutierrez said...

It's nice to know that somebody is blogging about Taal now. Back then, it was only the book of the Orlina family.

I once had a "love affair" with nearby town Calaca. In fact, I admired its heritage architecture more than I did for ritzy Taal.

That is because I found Calaca's old houses honestly unaffected. I just don't know how they are now.

The last time I visited Calaca was in the late '80s.

Chi from the cool clouds

ZeroGravity said...

Hulaan ko kung ano yung nasa pinggan mong 2K Frenchy: tuhod ng manok na pinakuluan sa gata at nilagyan ng red bell pepper hano?

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