Taal, Batangas : Of Heirloom Houses and Patriots

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September 17th 2011
Published: September 28th 2011
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The Taal Basilica and ParkThe Taal Basilica and ParkThe Taal Basilica and Park

The largest Catholic Church in the whole of Asia lies on top of a hill looking out to Balayan Bay in Taal, Batangas.
There is the heritage town of Vigan in Ilocos Sur. And there's the heirloom houses in Silay City in Negros Occidental. Both are an hour's away from Manila. By plane. Yet just 2 hours drive south from Manila lies this heritage town of Taal, Batangas. A colonial town "frozen in time", an open museum providing a glimpse not just of how it was back in the 19th century, but of how many of our patriots lived during the Spanish occupation and through the Revolution. Declared a heritage village by the National Historical Institute, a walking tour of Taal, Batangas is certainly worth a day trip.

A Pilgrimage?

Having started with visits of the Taal Basilica (St. Martin de Tours Basilica), the Caysasay Shrine and the Sacred Well of Santa Lucia, this trip may well be a pilgrimage. The Taal Basilica is the largest Catholic Church in the whole of Asia, and Caysasay Shrine has a wonderful story about how its revered image was found, lost, and rediscovered. The sacred well of Santa Lucia is simply the remains of what used to be a chapel --- a coral stone arch with a bas relief of the Virgin --- with
The White HouseThe White HouseThe White House

This is one of the Agoncillo houses. There are a few prominent families in Taal: the Agoncillos, Villavicencios, Gocos, Apacibles. Their affluence during the 19th century shows in their lovely ancestral houses.
spring waters claiming miraculous healing powers. Do check out this link for details.

The White House

There are rows and rows of century-old houses of the bahay na bato(stone houses) architecture. A walking tour transports you to the bygone days when Spaniards were all referred to as Castilla or Kastila. Never mind that the Castilian region or Castile in Spain referred only to its northern and central region. In fact, to this day, most Spaniards are still called Kastila by Filipinos in much the same way Caucasians are commonly, and erroneously, called Americano.

The White House is actually the ancestral house of Felipe Agoncillo, a Filipino patriot and the country's very first diplomat. Inasmuch as his role in representing the Philippine Revolutionary Government entailed many foreign travels, this diplomat actually funded his own trips with his own savings to the extent that he had to sell his wife's jewelries to augment his travel fund. Really, this makes this patriot a true gem, don't you think? The same can be said of his wife, Marcela Agoncillo, remembered in Philippine history as the woman who sewed the very first and official flag of the Philippines. In photos displayed
Villavicencio HouseVillavicencio HouseVillavicencio House

Don Eulalio married Gliceria and gifted her with the "wedding house" , more fondly called "Goldilocks" house in Taal, Batangas. Wide windows opening up to vistas of Balayan Bay, and several antique pieces make for this very charming house.
inside the house, one sees how lovely Dona Marcela was when she was younger. No wonder Don Felipe jilted his former fiancee to marry Marcela! At the time, Felipe and Marcela were nearing 30 , both orphans, when they wed.

Casa Villavicencio

Not one but 2 Villavicencio Heritage Houses. The lovely Gliceria Marella married Don Eulalio Villavicencio who owned this stone house whose wide windows overlook the Balayan Bay. Don Eulalio gifted Gliceria another house on their wedding, which locals fondly call the "Wedding Gift House" or "Goldilocks" house. Why Goldilocks? Here in the Philippines, there is a chain of bakeshops by that name with the signature yellow and sky blue motif, the same colors painting both Villavicencio houses.

Both houses are filled with the family memorabilia and photos of their ancestors. Thanks to the Villavicencio descendants for preserving these lovely heirloom houses! Just imagine how many revolutionary heroes climbed the same stairs and how many Katipuneros met and plotted the revolution in these very houses. And may I add.....both houses are so tastefully done. Unlike the ancestral houses of Europe where you find ropes guiding the tourists where to walk (and where not to), one can
A Sitting Room in the 1800'sA Sitting Room in the 1800'sA Sitting Room in the 1800's

Just love these wide windows framed by capiz shells. The Villavicencios truly preserved this heritage house, and with it, the legacy of their ancestors. All patriots.
freely wander around the house, even touch many of the heirloom pieces including those which can easily fetch a fortune in an auction of antique pieces.

The Leon Apacible Museum

Welcoming us inside this ancestral house turned into a Museum is this 18th century caruaje and a row of old photographs. The photos remind us of our history though I found some a bit disturbing. Ever heard of having your lips lopped up? Torture. Sheer torture. Reminds us all of what our Filipino patriots had to suffer to give us the independence we now enjoy.

Carefully preserved and lovingly restored, the Apacible House have on display an antique piano which has seen better days, right below a painting of the lady of the house. What caught my attention then was the pink terno (Filipino costume) --- an unusual color for a traditional Filipiniana attire.

Don Leon was our very first Secretary of Finance during the revolutionary government headed by then President Emilio Aguinaldo. The house was last occupied by a descendant who later became Mayor of the town.

Marcela Agoncillo Museum

Whether or not the first and official Philippine flag was sewn
The Secret ExitThe Secret ExitThe Secret Exit

Who knows how many secret meetings were held in this house? Who knows how many Katipuneros (revolutionaries) met and exited through here to hide?
in this house or in Hongkong does not bother me. What I know is that the lovely lady who had hand-sewn our first flag is Dona Marcella, with some help from her daughter and a niece of Jose Rizal. A statue of the 3 of them greets one as you enter the Museum. The flag was unfurled in that famous balcony of the Aguinaldo House, now a Shrine, in Kawit, Cavite. There are differing stories on the exact location within the Aguinaldo House where the flag was first unfurled, and also on the exact date, but I am not going into that.

Reputably the prettiest in Taal during her time, she married late at the age of 30 to Don Felipe, our first diplomat who represented the Philippines in contesting the Treaty of Paris in 1898 where Spain ceded the Philippines to America for $20 million. Dona Marcela is an icon of selflessness and patriotism when she disposed of her jewelries just to finance the foreign trips of her husband-diplomat and to sustain the family's day-to-day expenses during the Revolution.

I Need To Get Back

What a day well-spent here in Taal, Batangas. Like Vigan, I
Door Stopper?Door Stopper?Door Stopper?

In the olden days, this is used to press clothes. These days, they make for great door stoppers. Nice touch. Old World charm at its best!
wish Taal will likewise be declared a UNESCO Heritage Site. Just like Vigan, this is another rustic town reminding us of a life in the 1800s. Of a people then struggling, rich and poor, for Philippine independence.

The rows of heritage houses make for a very interesting stroll. For sure, we missed quite a number. Well, that gives us a good excuse to head back. Anyone coming along?

I actually headed back. Sooner than planned. Had a wonderful time trying out the traditional costumes in this place called Villa Tortuga.

Additional photos below
Photos: 20, Displayed: 20


Antiquities Inside the Villavicencio HouseAntiquities Inside the Villavicencio House
Antiquities Inside the Villavicencio House

Could this be a reading glass? I wouldn't want to be caught wearing one, for sure. [:)]
Antiques On DisplayAntiques On Display
Antiques On Display

Could easily fetch millions. Yet every tourist is welcome to visit this house and view this heirloom piece, perhaps even touch it.
Leon Apacible HouseLeon Apacible House
Leon Apacible House

This house turned Museum is one of the oldest structures in Taal. Owned by Don Leon Apacible, originally from Balayan, Batangas, this house was last occupied by a descendant who became Mayor of the town. Dr. Jose Rizal, our national hero, used to frequent this place in the 1800's.
A Pink Terno?A Pink Terno?
A Pink Terno?

Must be her favorite color. The painting is the younger and older version of the same lady.
Torture. Circa 1800sTorture. Circa 1800s
Torture. Circa 1800s

Not much to say. It's one disturbing photo.
My Kind of GraffitiMy Kind of Graffiti
My Kind of Graffiti

I love how they painted these walls. Completes our walking tour of Taal, Batangas.
Marcela Agoncillo MuseumMarcela Agoncillo Museum
Marcela Agoncillo Museum

This 17th century house is claimed to be the oldest in Taal. Owned by Andres Marino, grandfather of Marcela Agoncillo, best remembered as the lady patriot who hand sew the first Philippine flag.
Marcela AgoncilloMarcela Agoncillo
Marcela Agoncillo

She sew the first Philippine flag by hand, with some help from her daughter and a niece of the national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Some claim the flag was sewn in Hongkong, others say right here in this house in Taal.
Capiz ShellsCapiz Shells
Capiz Shells

It is not uncommon to find old houses in the Philippines with wide windows. Then there are the sliding windows made of capiz shells framed in a wooden panel. Capiz or "kulintipay" (in ilocos) are clams which happens to be quite a delicious delicacy.
Rows and Rows of Heritage HousesRows and Rows of Heritage Houses
Rows and Rows of Heritage Houses

need more time to cover all. so much to see.
More Houses to DiscoverMore Houses to Discover
More Houses to Discover

As you stroll along this road, you somehow wish it is pedestrian only, and cobble-stoned, just like in Vigan.
Pansipit RiverPansipit River
Pansipit River

The river meandering around town, where the miraculous image of the Lady of Caysasay was fished out.

12th October 2011

Was this a do-it-yourself tour? How did you get around? I'm planning to bring my friends from abroad to Taal soon.
12th October 2011

The 1st time I visited Taal, I joined a tour group organized by Museum Foundation of which I\'m a member. The 2nd time, it was do-it-yourself tour but we called and arranged through Villa Tortuga which can arrange lunch and other visits of heritage houses for your group. If you google it, I believe you can get their numbers. I wrote a separate blog on it in http://marilil.wordpress.com
12th October 2011

Villa Tortuga
if u didn't find the link on this blog, check this out http://marilil.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/back-in-taal-batangas-so-soon/#entry You will find the numbers to call to make arrangements.
19th December 2012

Taal, Batangas
Thanks for sharing a great write up of Taal! Check out the official tourism website of Taal: www.taal.ph
19th December 2012

Tour Taal, Batangas
For everything Taal, Batangas check out: www.taal.ph Also be sure to check out the fun December Fiesta Week 2012 in Taal!
6th June 2013

6th June 2013

Thanks, Floro
Thanks for dropping by and for your kind words. It's very encouraging to hear from readers like you.

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