The rich heritage of Taal’s old houses

More than a year after Taal Volcano erupted and the pandemic disrupted our lives, the town of Taal has started to beckon tourists to its colonial ancestral houses.

While under prolonged home quarantine, we began to appreciate our houses more than just an abode, but also as a sanctuary to be safe in the middle of a pandemic.  

Then why not look into homes of people in the past by visiting the charming old houses of Taal while travel restrictions have eased up.

Casa Villavicencio

This pre-1850’s ancestral house is situated at the corner of Calle Gliceria Marella with a beautiful corner front yard adorned with Bermuda grass and shrubs. At the front corner of the two-story bahay na bato stands the monument of Doña Gliceria Legaspi Marella de Villavicencio, who was considered the Godmother of the Philippine Revolutionary Forces during the Spanish era. She was regarded a heroine for supporting the Filipino revolutionaries using her wealth. The street was named after her.

Today, this ancestral house is still home to the current generation of the Villavicencio family. They also own several old houses in Taal, which they maintained and renovated. Casa Villavicencio accommodates guided tours on special arrangements.

Casa Recuerdos

Just a few meters away from Casa Villavicencio stands Casa Recuerdos, an old colonial house built in the 1900s and originally owned by Dr. Herminilgildo Del Castillo and now by the Villavicencio family.

The house has a rustic look but has been meticulously renovated, while remaining a delight for heritage house lovers. It has a typical entrance stairway leading to the second floor, a museum featuring antiques, a photo studio and storage for costumes which visitors can use for selfies and groupies, providing that authentic historic feeling.

Paradores Del Castillo

This house was built in Spanish-American colonial style and one of the highly recommended places to stay in Taal. It was renovated and converted into a boutique heritage hotel.

Paradores Del Castillo and Casa Villavicencio have the same owners. The boutique hotel is named after its former owner Dr. Del Castillo. Paradores means “luxury hotel in a historic building” in Spanish.

The hotel exudes a warm welcome feeling, especially with a friendly and accommodating staff. The homey interior and pieces of furniture on the ground floor serve as a lounge. The old wooden stairs is typical in old houses. Guests are welcomed by a display of an old family dining table, which serves as a mini-museum surrounded by the guest rooms and big Capiz windows.

The hotel offers amenities for relaxation like a balcony overlooking Taal town, a pool where you can dip and swim, and a bar overlooking the beautiful green garden filled with trees and flowers.

When entering this house-turned-museum, you are welcomed by a small restaurant. As you climb the stairs, you will be amazed by the shiny wood floors and cabinets filled with old camera manufactured as far back as the 1800s. You can also find in the middle of the house a small courtyard where you can dine and enjoy food coming from the restaurant. You will be surrounded by trees and the old walls and windows of the house.

Ilagan- Martinez Ancestral House

Another must-visit old ancestral house in Taal is the Ilagan-Martinez Old House, better known as Galleria Taal or Camera Museum. This house was built in the 1800s and located at Calle Marcella Agoncillo. Today, this old house is a camera museum featuring the camera collection of the grandchild of Domingo Ilagan and Maria Martinez.

Other must-visit old houses in Taal are Casa Noble also owned by the Villavicencio; Marcella Agoncillo House owned by one of the women who made the Philippine flag; Villa Tortuga, owned and restored by fashion designer Lito Perez; Leon Apacible House, the ancestral house of the legal adviser of Jose Rizal; and the Goco House, which was built in 1976 and owned by Philippine revolutionary figures.

Exploring the town of Taal is like walking inside a big museum of old beautiful ancestral houses. There is always a picture-worthy scene from the streets that are dotted by houses with old gates, big windows, grand verandas and lush gardens. Taal exudes a relaxing ambiance and it is a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era.

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