Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Like any travel blogger, I enjoy discoveries. Taal Heritage Town in Batangas is one such discovery.

Before going on Pio Goco’s food and walking tour this past March, I had no idea this place even existed. Most Manileños who hear the name “Taal” think of the lake or the volcano. No one really associates it with an actual town. Which is a shame because not only is there a Taal Town, but it’s one so rich in culture and history that it’s considered a heritage landmark by the National Historical Institute. In fact, the creator of the first Philippine flag lived in this very town.

I was so enamored by Taal and its collection of well-preserved ancestral houses that I vowed to come back and write several posts about it. Why? Because people need to know that Taal isn’t just a pretty lake or the world’s smallest active volcano. It also happens to be an important part of Philippine history.

Casa Villavicencio (Casa V)

Built in 1850, Casa Villavicencio is the former home of Eulalio and Gliceria Marella Villavicencio. It was inherited by Don Eulalio upon the death of his parents. In my opinion, it’s the grandest and most impressive of all the ancestral houses in Taal, which is unsurprising considering that the Villavicencios, who were wealthy shipping and sugar magnates, were once rumored to own up to a third of Batangas.

A guided tour of Casa V costs PHP 100 per person, inclusive of snacks. It starts with a short video on the life of Doña Gliceria Marella, hailed as the forgotten heroine of the Philippine Revolution.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

An imposing two-story bahay na bato (house of stone), Casa V is typical of affluent homes built during that period. Rooms are upstairs while the ground level was used only for storage and as a garage for kalesas or horse-drawn carriages.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

While the first floor was made primarily of stone, the second floor was constructed from the best Philippine mulawin and narra hardwood.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

The grand living room. Some of the details I found most impressive were these hand-pressed tin ceiling panels and Art Nouveau oil on canvas wallpaper. As it turns out, these were still the originals. Beautiful!
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

L: Called a volada, this passageway by the side of the house was used by servants during parties. If I understood correctly, servants weren’t allowed to be seen so they used these passageways to move to and from the kitchen, like ninjas.

R: One of two bedrooms. Interestingly, no matter how affluent a family may have been, every house from that time period was built with just two rooms. One was for the parents and the other for the children, though only the first-born was allowed to have a bed. The rest slept on the floor like cockroaches.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Paradores del Castillo: Where to Stay in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

L: Cutwork transoms embellished with gold leaf can be found over every entryway.

R: Homes at the time had outhouses so this bathroom wasn’t part of the original structure. If I remember my guide correctly, he said it was added in 1919 when the American Governor General Francis B. Harrison stayed in the house as a guest of Vicente Ilustre, son-in-law of Doña Gliceria.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Remembering olden times. A rabid nationlist after her husband’s death, Doña Gliceria was known to hold clandestine meetings with revolutionary leaders, as well as providing food and arms to the revolutionaries. Her biggest contribution was her donation of the war ship Bulusan, which became the first ship of the Philippine Navy. It’s for her many contributions that she was called the “Godmother of the Revolutionary Forces” by General Emilio Aguinaldo.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

How cool are these? Keeping doors open throughout the house were these vintage flat irons used as door stops. Called plantsang de uling, they were filled with smoldering coals to generate heat. I want one!
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

A clearer view of those cutwork transoms
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Display kitchen made to look like a working kitchen. The actual kitchen is downstairs.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

As previously described, Doña Gliceria was known to hold clandestine meetings with the revolutionary leaders of Batangas. This trapdoor concealing a ladder down to a secret room beneath the dining area was where they held those meetings. Revolutionary leaders like Andres Bonifacio, Miguel Malvar, Vito Belarmino, and Felipe Calderon strategized and made important decisions regarding the revolution in that very room.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

L: Dining area. The trapdoor pictured above is located at the far left corner of this room.

R: A merienda or midday snack of tsokoltae eh (local chocolate), suman (sticky rice cake), and bonete (local bun) served at the end your tour.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Vintage automobile with red KKK flags hanging above. They have nothing to do with the Klu Klux Klan. KKK is an abbreviation for Samahang Kataastaasan, Kagalanggalang Katipunan ng mga Anak ng Bayan (Supreme and Most Honorable Society of the Children of the Nation). It was a Philippine revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish Filipinos in 1892 to gain independence from Spain through revolution.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Casa Villavicencio

32 Calle Gliceria Marella, Taal, Batangas
Tel: +632 913-5780
Mobile: +63 922-803-8862 / +63 917-531-4831
Website: taal.ph
Hours of Operation: Sat-Sun, 8:30AM-5PM / Other days by appointment only
Entrance Fee: PHP 100 inclusive of guided tour and snacks

Villavicencio Wedding Gift House

Just a few steps from Casa V is the Villavicencio Casa Regalo de Boda, built by Don Eulalio as a wedding gift to Gliceria Marella in 1872. Entrance to the Wedding Gift House is PHP 80 per person.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

L: Patterened tiles that are a reproduction of the originals from Spain
R: Tindalo staircase that led to the caida or antesala — a transition space to the living room
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Unlike the darker and more somber-looking Casa V, you’ll notice right away that the Wedding Gift House is much more colorful, its variety of colors and patterns being a reflection of the owner’s wealth. The curlicues and floral patterns of the stenciled walls are impressive.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Back then, mirrors were imported all the way from Vienna, which monoplized the glass industry.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

A closer look at the stenciled patterns which change from room to room. Crazy amount of detail.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

The more birghtly colored comedor or formal dining room. Note the trompe l’oeil paintings that simulate marble cornices. Clearly, Don Eulalio spared no expense building this house, for loooove. ♥
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

I read that Casa V and the Wedding Gift House are connected via a bridgeway. I think that may be it towards the back.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Master bedroom. Again, note the intricate stenciled patterns on the walls and ceiling. I’m amazed by the amount of detail that went into this house.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Loved the detail on these little balconies found on either side of the house. It was a week away from Independence Day so Philippine flags were hanging everywhere.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Villavicencio Wedding Gift House

32 Calle Gliceria Marella, Taal, Batangas
Mobile: +63 917-897-0363
Website: taal.com.ph
Facebook: Taal-Villavicencio-Wedding-Gift-House
Email: jjovenq@yahoo.com
Hours of Operation: Tue-Sun, 9AM-5PM
Entrance Fee: PHP 80

Agoncillo Mansion (White House)

Painted in white, this stately colonial American house was the former home of Don Gregorio Agoncillo. It’s one of the first mansions you’ll see when you drive into Taal. Don Gregorio was married to Mariquita Villavicencio, the daughter of Doña Gliceria Marella.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

A collection of well-preserved Edwardian and Spanish-inspired furniture from the late 1800s and early 1900s can be found inside. Entrance to the White House is PHP 70 per person.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Unlike the cheery Wedding Gift House, the Agoncillo Mansion was dark and a little scary to be honest. Just look at this bedroom. Would you want to sleep here all by yourself at night? I wouldn’t. 😆
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

This is more like it. 🙂
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Not sure what this room was for. It had a spiral staircase that led down to what I assumed to be the kitchen. Nice tiles.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

History and trivia buffs will be pleased to know that Don Gregorio’s sister, Maria Agoncillo, became the second wife of General Emilio Aguinaldo.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Gregorio Agoncillo Mansion

Batangas Provincila Road, Taal, Batangas
Entrance Fee: PHP 70

Villa Tortuga

Restored by fashion designer Lito Perez of Camp Suki fame, Villa Tortuga may not be as grand as the other ancestral houses, but it offers one thing they don’t — the chance to look like an actual haciendero from the late 1800s. You’ll see what I mean below.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Trajez tipicos means “traditional clothing”. 😉
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

The second floor. Entrance to Villa Tortuga is PHP 50 per person.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Dining area. You can arrange for turn-of-the-century-inspired meals here at Villa Tortuga. If I remember correctly, it’s PHP 1,500 per person. Sounds interesting and something Ren and I will definitely be doing on our next visit.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

If I’m not mistaken, you can arrange for accomodations here as well. Not sure what the rates are but you can contact them via the information listed at the bottom of this post.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

As previosuly described, Villa Tortuga is known for their period costumes which was precisely why we were here today. You can rent them for PHP 250 per costume.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

We had zero idea what costumers to wear so we asked the caretaker / photographer to choose for us.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

This is what he chose.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Meet Don Juan and Doña Renee Willflyforfood. In many of the photos, we made sure not to smile to keep in spirit with all those vintage family photographs. Notice how everyone always looks so pissed off in them?!

Be sure to bring your own camera because that’s what they’ll use. He used Ren’s phone to take all the pictures, even setting us up with all the appropriate props like that suitcase and cane. Love it!
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

He must have taken over a hundred shots but this one was our clear favorite. We like to call it “Blue Steel, circa 1890”. 😆

Seriously, can you think of a better souvenir to commemorate your Taal experience than this? I can’t. If you ever decide to visit Taal Heritage Town, then I strongly recommend you do this. The memories you’ll take with you are priceless. And fierce.
Be a Don and Doña for a Day at an Ancestral House in Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

Villa Tortuga

Calle Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, Taal, Batangas
Mobile: +63 927-975-1683
Facebook: Villa-Tortuga
Email: lito_pperez@yahoo.com
Entrance Fee: PHP 50
Costume Rental Pictorial: PHP 250 per costume

It’s important to note that there are several other notable ancestral homes in Taal. There’s the Goco ancestral house and Galleria Taal, a vintage camera museum that was once the Ylagan-Barrion home. Both are part of Pio’s tour, pictures of which you can view HERE.

There’s also the Don Leon Apacible Museum and the Marcela Agoncillo Museum. As described at the top of this post, the latter was the former home of Marcela Mariño Agoncillo, creator of the first Philippine flag. With the help of her eldest daughter Lorenza and Delfina Herbosa de Natividad, a niece of Jose Rizal, she sewed it in 5 days in Hong Kong at the request of an exiled General Emilio Aguinaldo. How’s that for history?

Unfortunately, both museums were closed for renovations while we were there, but we intend to visit them once they reopen. I’ll add them to this list once they do.

For more Taal travel tips, check out our First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

The First-Timer’s Travel Guide to Taal Heritage Town, Batangas, Philippines

JB Macatulad

JB Macatulad

JB is one half of Will Fly for Food and its chief itinerary maker.  He's the one to blame for all the crappy photos and verbal diarrhea on this blog.  Don't listen to him.
JB Macatulad


There are 8 comments for this article
  1. Jem at 12:21 pm

    This blog post made me cry a bit. It’s just so helpful! Bloggers like you deserve my respect. I will be using this as a guide on my trip this coming long weekend! :))

  2. JB Macatulad at 5:02 pm

    You’re very welcome Jem! That’s very kind of you to say. Enjoy your trip to Taal Heritage Town! 🙂

  3. Pingback: Traditional Filipino Bedrooms with a Modern Touch | the official blog
  4. ML Rubio at 10:28 pm

    I am using your blog for my trip to Taal this December. Thank you everything you wrote and your pictures are beautiful!

  5. Mao at 9:29 pm

    Dear Sir,

    I was browsing the net to check for photos I can use for our upcoming community play here in Qatar. I am part of a nonprofit organization of theater enthusiasts. We are presenting an excerpt from Alikabok: A musical play and we need to a backdrop while singing some of the songs in the play. This maybe weird and out of the blue, I would like to ask permission to use your photos and if possible to send a high-resolution photo specifically the bulwagan shots. It would be a great honor for us and we appreciate your help in this endeavor. If I could drop an email to you so we can talk and for you to know our organization.

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