ANCESTRAL HOUSES. We often find old houses called bahay-na-bato as settings of significant events when reading books about our history. In illustrations, a bahay-na-bato emerges in the background completing a historic scene. Ancestral houses are part of our culture and history.
In the heritage town of Taal, two ancestral houses of the Villavicencios have been preserved and restored as landmarks of our architectural heritage and as veritable shrines of bravery and patriotism.
A LAVISH WEDDING GIFT. Don Eulalio Villavicencio was a ship captain who owned an imposing pre-1850 bahay-na-bato on the northern slope of Taal town. We know this today as Casa Villavicencio. As a lavish wedding present to his wife Gliceria, he built another house on the same street, a few meters away from his ancestral house –This is the 1871 Villavicencio Wedding Gift House.
Although the wedding gift house has the same architectural elements of houses built during that period, we find its look and feel to be more cheerful and feminine than the adjacent ancestral house. On our visit, we passed through the zaguan, where the family carriage was parked in the olden days. A wide staircase led us to the caida where portraits of the couple are lording over the house.
HOME OF A PATRIOT. The prosperous couple owned vast landholdings, rice, sugar and tobacco plantations, and a steamship called the Bulusan. During the Revolution of 1896, the couple provided financial support to the Katipunan and donated the Bulusan. It became the first warship of the Katipunan. Both their houses were opened to revolutionary officers. Eulalio was imprisoned and eventually died in 1898. The widowed Gliceria continued her patriotic activities.
In 1897, Spanish brigade led by General Jamarillo took over the wedding gift house while the Villavicencio family was allowed to stay in the ancestral house. General Jamarillo occupied the upper floor while his army camped below. This set up allowed Gliceria to eavesdrop about the plans of the enemy and report it to the Filipino revolutionaries stationed in Calaca.
On June 2, 1898, the Spaniards surrendered. The wedding house was opened to the victorious Filipinos. The flag sewn by Gliceria’s town mate Marcela Agoncillo was unfurled for the first time in Taal from wedding gift house.
STRICT DECORUM. A formal arrangement of traditional furniture presides over the sala. Although most of the antique style furniture and painted wall decorations were new additions, they recreate the time when Gliceria would insist on the strict etiquette on the house.
There were stories that when American soldiers went to the house, Gliceria ordered them to take of their hats off as a sign of respect to its owner.
DOÑA ERIANG. Like most bahay-na-bato, the wedding gift house has two bedrooms. A four-poster bed was the common furniture. A mesa altar appraised to a million peso serves as a stand to a ornate retablo with an antique image of the Virgin.
It was perhaps in one of this bedrooms when Aling Eriang was roused from her siesta one day. The noise was from the American soldiers who were dancing in the sala with their hats on. Upon seeing the enraged matriach, the 18 American soldiers immediately stormed out of the house.
EPILOGUE. During the American occupation, the wedding house became a hospital for American soldiers. It survived World War II and natural calamities. Its restoration took place in 2002.
Beautifully preserved, the historic Villavicencio wedding gift house is a lifesytle museum and open for bed-and-breakfast.