More than three years after the destructive quake that hit Batangas province, the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) formally turned over the newly restored Basilica of St. Martin de Tours to the Archdiocese of Lipa on Wednesday.
NHCP Chair Dr. Rene Escalante led the turn over ceremony to the Archdiocese of Lipa represented by Archbishop Gilbert A. Garcera, D.D.
“One of NHCP’s mandates is to preserve our built heritage,” the NHCP said.
The full restoration came three years after the 5.5-magnitude quake that hit Batangas damaged the historical site, among which is the portion of the church’s facade that was chipped off.
Popularly known as Taal Basilica, the 164-year-old structure is dubbed as the biggest Roman Catholic Church in Asia. It was erected in 1575, famous for its Baroque architecture and Trompe-l’oeil painted ceilings.
For generations, it has served as the center of the propagation of the faith, not just in Taal but also to the nearby regions.
It was declared a National Historical Landmark as a form of recognition of its contribution to Philippine history. The National Historical Institute marked this structure twice, in 1972 and in 1986.
“We owe it to the next generation of Taaleños, the Batangueños and the Filipino people to marvel at this built heritage which we can all truly be proud of,” the NHCP added.
In an interview with the Manila Bulletin, Rev. Fr. Manny Guazon, the parish priest, said all parts of the church were looked into.
“The roof was changed, the walls especially. The facade was reinforced and the original look of the adobe walls were brought out,” he said.
The architect and engineers also fixed the cracks created by the 2017 strong earthquake. Guazon said it was a “construction and restoration” project all at the same time considering the age of the basilica.
“Wear and tear na rin in time. We have to admit it’s an old church constructed using the technology of long ago,” he added.
During the eruption of Taal Volcano in January, the structure was also among those that were blanketed by ashfall.
Guazon said it was only closed for a few days after the natural calamity.
“We cleaned it up then opened it as soon as it was safe and ready for the faithful,” he said.
Taal in Batangas is also called “Taal Heritage Town” as it embodies the province’s rich cultural history.