Taal Heritage Town – Bonding with Time *** *** *** A few hours ride south of Manila,just west of the southern tip of Taal Lake, lies a small classic town that is brim full of visual and historical interest. On the hill top looking over the town itself is the impressive Catholic Church of San Martin de Tours. Built in 1856 and reputedly designed after St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, and it has the modern reputation of being the largest Catholic church ever built anywhere in the whole of Asia. A walk up the ancient stone steps within the belfry brings one to a stone balcony with a magnificent view over the town and beyond, as far as Mindoro Island on a clear day. A host of paintings and artefacts adorn the church premises and it is a worthwhile spirited and soulful visit. Nearby in the town there are several museums, all within old Spanish houses, one a camera museum with photos from the Philippines dating back as far as the 1880s. Even an ancestral home of one Filipina heroine from the revolution against the Spanish, Gliceria Villavicencio known as the Godmother of the Revolution, can be visited with prior arrangements. The seamstress of the first official Philippine flag was also born here, Marcela Agoncillo, and her house is still heralded as a national shrine, and is a worthy visit and full of memorabilia and rooms preserved in their original styles. The streets are awash with classic Spanish town houses of many shapes and sizes, and a walk down a long flight of ancient stone steps takes one to Caysaysay church and a well which both have mysterious stories surrounding the miracles performed by the Virgin of Caysaysay who lived here in the late 15th Century. Needless to say the water from the well is thought to contain curative powers.
It is said that a man in his life should accomplish three things,“ he should produce a son, plant a tree and write a book.” I produced a son called Bali 18 years ago, planted a cherry blossom tree as a celebration of marriage 20 years ago, and hope to publish a book within the next couple of months on the Philippines. I believe there is one other thing a person should do passionately, and that is travel. The best education you can have is to travel far and wide. After all education is not about filling a bucket, but about lighting a fire. I yearn to travel more, for as far as we know, we only have one life in which to see what there is in this world. I admire and envy Buddhists, for they are smart enough to believe in reincarnation, and can get other chances to explore the realms of the earth on other occasions. I admire the Balinese, for they are Hindus, and believe that heaven is like Bali. This allows them to live in heaven each day o f their earthly life. I admire the Tibetans, for they inhabit the roof of the world and in their presence you feel you are amongst a proud and knowledgeable people They are a people who are atone with nature and their harsh environment. I admire the Zulus in South Africa, and felt honoured to be in their presence, for they too emit an aura of hereditary power and powerful pride. Their warrior history is a remarkable tale. In South America I felt the shame of the destruction of the Inca nation, but was lucky enough to walk on their ingeniously built roads through the Andes mountains. In Singapore and Hong Kong I saw what can be achieved through foundations laid by a powerful colonial presence.