A year after the eruption of the Taal Volcano and the global health pandemic, the beautiful heritage town of Taal, which is known for several colonial ancestral houses, is slowly but surely welcoming tourists.
One of the good things this pandemic has done for us while we stayed at home is that we appreciated our houses more than ever. Our houses are not only a place to live, it became a sanctuary for us to relax and be safe in the middle of a pandemic.
So if you are into homes, you might want to remember to visit the charming old houses of Taal someday or as soon as travel restrictions ease up.
This beautiful pre-1850’s ancestral house grandly stands at the corner of Calle Gliceria Marella. It has 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, the owner of this house who was considered the Godmother of the Philippine Revolutionary Forces during the Spanish era. She was a heroine of her time for giving her wealth and support to the Filipino revolutionaries, hence, the street was even named after her.
Today, this well-cared ancestral house is still the home of the new generation of the Villavicencio family. They also own several old houses in Taal, which they kept for renovation and accommodation. The Casa Villavicencio house still welcomes guests on a special arrangement tour.
Just a few meters away from Casa Villavicencio stands another interesting old colonial ancestral house, the Casa Recuerdos house built in the 1900s and formerly owned by Dr. Herminilgildo Del Castillo and now owned by the Villavicencio family.
The house has a rustic look but was lovingly renovated. It is a sight to delight for heritage house lovers as it has a typical entrance stairway leading to the second floor. Today, this house is a museum featuring antique stuff, a photo studio and costume place where you can rent out attires and have your pictures taken (this is similar to Hanbok traditional rent-and-wear in Korea and Kimono rent-and-wear in Japan) giving you that authentic feeling of being back in the past while wearing traditional Filipino costumes. This house will bring back fond memories as the word recuerdo means “memory” in Spanish.
Paradores Del Castillo
This old house built in Spanish-American colonial style is probably one of the highly recommended places to stay in Taal. This house was beautifully renovated and converted into what can be considered a boutique heritage hotel. The Paradores Del Castillo is also owned by the same owners of Casa Villavicencio, which named the hotel after its former owner Dr. Del Castillo. The word paradores, meanwhile, means “luxury hotel in a historic building” in Spanish.
As you enter the hotel, you will feel the warm welcome of the friendly and accommodating staff. The homey interior and pieces of furniture on the ground floor serve as a lounge for guests. And as you climb the old wooden stairs typical in old houses, you will be 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.
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 is located at Calle Marcella Agoncillo. Today, this old house is now a camera museum showcasing the camera collection of the grandchild of Domingo Ilagan and Maria Martinez.
As you enter this house-turned-museum, you will be 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 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.
Some of the 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. Anywhere you look, there is a picture-worthy scene from the streets featuring houses with their old gates, big windows, grand verandas, and lush gardens. Taal exudes a relaxing ambiance and it is a nostalgic reminder of a bygone era. There are plenty of things to do in Taal. In our next article, we are going to list down the activities you can do while in this historic town of Batangas.