A Taal Tale: Why This Town is More Than its Popular Volcano
Find out why this now-urban spot still boasts a rich, cultural heritage today
From tourists to backpackers and a handful of locals, it's safe to say that everyone has heard of the town of Taal. Perhaps by its one-of-a-kind markets and the active volcano it is known for—but recently, this bucolic town opened its doors to more attention as its tourism office started promoting the well-preserved ancient houses scattered on its streets.
Taal’s bahay-na-bato—some restored to its former glory, others untouched but with the same facades from the last century—are not only architecturally notable, as some of these houses also played an important role in our country’s history. Now, Taal can proudly claim that their entire town is a heritage site where one can experience a bygone era that brings back memories only written in books.
Villavicencio House, 33 Marella Street
For something built in the 19th century, the house of Gliceria Marcella de Villavicencio has no eeriness about it. It has open windows that let fresh air in, while sunlight bathes the house’s rooms and antique furnishings. From this spot, there is also a commanding view of Balayan Bay. Today, the place is maintained by Villavicencio’s descendants, Ernesto Villavicencio and wife Rosario. The polygonal paneling, art nouveau murals on the walls and the original tin ceiling are just a few of the many interesting and well-preserved features in this house.
RL Trivia: Did you know that the matriarch opened her home to the katipuneros and revolutionary leaders like Andres Bonifacio and Miguel Malvar as a secret meeting place? It even has a trapdoor leading to an underground tunnel.
Villavicencio Gift House, Marella Street
Adjacent to the original Villavicencio house is the wedding gift of Eulalio Villavicencio to his bride Gliceria. This house, which is just as stunning as the first one, was built in 1871 and has a more Victorian and feminine style. It is also just as breezy, albeit being more flamboyant in design, as splashes of colors in the form of murals render the house more cheerful. Headed by Ramon Tinio, restoration took place in 2002 and it is now owned by Mr. and Mrs. Quiblat.
Villa Tortuga, M. Agoncillo cor. V. Illustre Streets
Thanks to interior and costume designer Lito Perez, guests of his Villa Tortuga can experience how it is to live like an ilustrado, even for just a day. For about P1,500 per head for a day package, guests can dine on turn-of-the-century dishes and tour around town. The house was meticulously restored and furnished with décor of yesteryear like capiz windows, vintage Italian candelabras, four-post beds and sepia photos hanging in old wooden picture frames.
Marcella Agoncillo Historical Landmark, M.N. Agoncillo Street
One of the more known female historical figures is Marcella Mariño Agoncillo, seamstress of the Philippine flag. Her 17th century ancestral house, believed to be the oldest in town, was built by Marcella’s grandfather Andres Mariño. Now a museum, it features a depiction of the making of our flag by Marcella, her eldest daughter Lorenza and Mrs. Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, the niece of Jose Rizal. The main rooms of the house still have the original wooden floor boards, on which some of our country’s historical icons Aguinaldo once walked.