Earth Hour

Friday, May 6, 2011

Taal Heritage Town: Villavicencio Ancestral Home

There are other things to see in Taal, Batangas.  These are the old colonial houses that are still standing in the municipality.  Most of these houses, in fact, were witnesses to the many events of our country's history. We were lucky to get inside some of this former enclaves of the elite.

Our first stop was the Villavicencio House.  The house is an imposing bahay na bato built on a slope overlooking Balayan Bay.  It has a lush garden beside it surrounded by an iron-wrought fence.

We were lucky to meet the descendants of the original owner of the house, Gliceria Villavicencio, who personally toured us around the house.  We were informed that the house is still functional and is still being used by the family when they come to Taal.

As most houses built during the Spanish colonial period, the ground floor is a space reserved for the carriage of the owner.  It has now been converted to an office space. 

One thing's for sure, they don't make like this anymore.  The stairs, and the floors and walls of the second floor of the house are all made of wood.  Not just any wood but really hard, solid wood.

Our gracious hosts also explained that the walls of the house were covered by canvass, hand painted in Paris, France.  The tin ceiling, which is unique to the Villavicencio house among the heritage houses in Taal, was also imported from Europe.

Another feature of the house are the hallways or alleys surrounding the rooms. Our hosts explained that these halls have two purposes: one is that when there are many occupants in the house, some male members of the family would sleep there since there were only two rooms which were occupied by the female members; second purpose of these alleys was for members of the family to avoid being seen by guests they don't want to meet.

The main sala of the house is adorned by portraits of the original Villavicencio couple painted by Juan Luna no less.  Of course the ones hanging there are just copies with the original portraits stashed somewhere for security reasons.  From here, one has a great view of Balayan Bay.  Our host explained that Gliceria, who was a merchant, would look out of these windows to check whether any of her goods have arrived.

The Villavicencio home also played an important role in the Philippine revolution against Spain.  It was the meeting place of many clandestine meetings between Andres Bonifacio and members of Katipunan.  In fact, we were shown a trap door located under the wedding portrait of the couple at the far end of the dining hall.  This trap door was used by Bonifacio and his men to escape detection whenever the Spanish guards came to check on the family.  It led the Katipuneros to a tunnel that ends in a river nearby.

I am glad that Gliceria's descendants opted to preserve their ancestral home and open it to the public to give us a glimpse of our country's rich heritage.

1 comment:

  1. nice shots!
    i think the houses we went to reeked of extravagance. at a time when our forefathers were living in pawid and nipa houses, they, were already living in style and affluence pala. :(