If you want to have a piece of both the sacred, arts and history of Philippines in one place, the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours is one of the places to be – at the heart of Batangas. This historical monument is named after the former saint of Taal, Saint Martin, the soldier who gave half of his cloak to a poor beggar and the one who’s in everyone’s mind on the celebration of his fiesta every November 11th.
This church is known for being the largest Catholic church in Asia with its baroque architecture – almost impossible for anyone not to notice this religious structure. The environment outside the Basilica gave off a “fiesta vibe” where people were selling balloons, candles, and marienda “snacks”.
Upon entering the church, you notice the antique altar that gives a feeling of old churches and good vibes with a mini museum at one side. “The architecture is similar to San Sebastian Cathedral in Lipa”, I told Sofia as I took a step along its ornately tiled floor. The basilica is rich with astonishing Hispanic art and architecture. The paint works in the the ceilings and walls made the decors look very three-dimensional and enhancing.
To climb the “torre” (highest part) of the church where the largest bell in the country was said to be, an amount of 50 pesos fee should be payed. The climb up the bell tower is long and tiring, especially since the stair passageway is narrow and dark. It could only fit one person a time. I love the struggle, after all, we have to have something to talk about once we reach the top, right? Despite the obstacles and blistered feet, the view once you reach the top is beyond beautiful, though high. The grand view of the town, Taal, could be seen from the very top. Colours of red from the house rooftops and green from the trees and nature were very dominant in the view. The cold breeze that hit was just right and the people who surrounded me were even better, my classmates and teachers. Everywhere you stood, it was picture perfect. I didn’t want to ever leave, but announcements of the bell tower visiting time from 8 to 11 is over.
After that claustrophobic event, we relaxed on a terrace or the right side of the church where a Koi pond was located until it was time to change our destination.
From the Basilica, visitors can explore almost the whole town by foot only. Taal is the site of famous for ancestral houses, known for their parks, their traditional hand-embroideries and ‘pasalubong’.
I hope the Basilica continues to serve people of the community and continue to fill those poor in spirit, coming from far places both here and abroad and I hope people continue to appreciate the Basilica and the art and duty of it – a place of worship.