Epic Ride: Taal

My plan was to have a quiet get-away somewhere near my house in Paranaque so I chose the nearby province of Batangas. I initially planned on spending a couple of days in Club Balai Isabel in Talisay, just to be able to refresh myself. The loop around Taal lake wasn’t really part of the plan but is more of a last minute decision of instead of going back home, why not take a few more hours and explore the roads in the towns surrounding the lake.

The roadtrip started one fine Tuesday morning and I was all packed up and ready to go, with clothes worth 3 days packed nicely in my Givi box. My planned route is via South Luzon Expressway and then STAR Tollway to exit going to Talisay, instead of my usual Tagaytay – Talisay route because I wanted to relax as soon as I could and enjoy the beautiful sights the lake had to offer. On board my trusty Kawasaki ER-6N, the weekday ride was a breeze and the road was clear and I was enjoying the almost no traffic ride until I felt my tummy grumble so I had to make a stop over at a gas station in SLEX so I could have my fastfood breakfast. After having my usual Big Breakfast, I then proceeded to zip through SLEX in a jiffy. I was in a positive mood throughout the trip so far as I was eagerly looking forward to this short vacation, but that was only until I reach the SLEX connector after the Calamba exit. The sky was beginning to darken and I knew that I will be soaking wet in a few minutes because I am very proud to say that I did not bring a raincoat for this trip, and that doesn’t surprise me since it always happens out of laziness, or forgetfulness perhaps? Or I may have done it intentionally at times because I knew I would have a more memorable type of adventure if I battle it out with the rain. That’s not the safest thing to do though, so that type of experience is definitely not for everyone. I waited and waited at the STAR Tollway exit for the rain to go away but it has been 45 minutes already and it doesn’t seem to give any hint of stopping. I have been just trying to wait it out, notwithstanding the terrible stench I have been enduring for the past 45 minutes because nakikisilong lang ako sa CR nila, dahil wala ng ibang pwedeng masilungan dun sa toll gate. The rain was accompanied by strong winds so I also had no choice but to go inside. Anyway, after about an hour of standing there and waiting, I finally proceeded to my destination, slower this time as the roads are now slippery because of the weather. Before lunch, I arrived at my destination and was able to rest and relax. I also had to prepare because I am meeting my friends Marco, Mark and Mac for dinner in the resort’s Terraza Cafe. After eating a ton of food that night – crispy pata, binagoongan, pinakbet and pizza, I knew I would have a good rest, which is well-deserved.

After spending time at the resort, I then proceeded to set my sights in going around the lake going to the small town of Taal. I have been to Taal a couple of times before but never via the roads surrounding the Taal lake. The route I took before was via Lemery from Tagaytay. I had a grand time going through these “backroads” because the view was just spectacular. I stopped several times to take pictures and you could see some of them somewhere in this article. It was also my first time to pass through the towns of Laurel and Agoncillo. I wanted to go back to the Taal Basilica for a couple of reasons. One was because I lost all my pictures from my Nouvo trip 6 years ago (ever since that incident I regularly triple back up my files) and also because I have been to all the massive Spanish-era Baroque style churches in the Philippines but this one had the claim of being the largest church in Asia.

Under the Archdiocese of Lipa in Taal, Batangas, the Basilica de San Martin de Tours is a Minor Basilica and at 88.6 meters long and 48 meters tall, it is considered as the largest church in the country and in the whole of Asia. Well personally, I have my doubts on that claim because the Paoay Church and Santo Tomas de Villanueva church in Miag-Ao looked massive when I visited them but this one’s huge as well.

I only went there as a tourist and not as a devotee or as someone who would pray so I was actually surprised that my first experience there upon arriving were several kids rushing towards me. They are all actually vendors that sell different colored candles for 25 pesos. They say that if I will buy candles from them, they will pray for me and it will help me with my intentions. Some people fall for that kind of marketing strategy, but not me. I still believe in hard work because if that really works, then I can just broadcast my intentions and ask people to pray for whatever it is I want – the more the merrier, and just wait for blessings to fall from the sky. Not for me though. To each his own. As I’ve said, I visited the church as a tourist.

The ambiance of the Taal Basilica is marvellous. It also helped that I visited on a weekday. Upon seeing the church from the outside, its location adds to its size because there is a steep uphill climb that is needed to get to the church proper, making the church appear bigger as you go up. There is also a huge Taal sign for photo ops, which is apt for the church considering that it is probably one of the top 2 attractions of this small town – the other being the famous Taal Volcano, of course. Going inside, there were several huge stations of Catholic Saints, and they also appear very old, probably some would date back to the Spanish time. It wouldn’t surprise me if some of these are because the church has been in the same location since 1755. Just a bit of trivia, while the current church stands in the same location since 1755, the original Saint Martin of Tours Taal church was built in 1575 near Taal Lake and for almost two centuries it stood there until the 1754 explosion of the Taal Volcano when that church was destroyed and left into ruins. Because of that, the church was relocated to its present location.

I also explored the small town a little bit by foot. If you are a history lover, you will be able to appreciate the old-style houses that are still present in the modern day Taal. Think of the old style houses in Bacolod or Vigan, but only nearer. I just hope that the local government do their best in preserving these treasures as these tell us a whole lot about our history.

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