Thursday, June 30, 2016


BUILT IN 1870 BY DON EULALIO VILLAVICENCIO y Marella, the house was presented to Dona Gliceria Marella y Legaspi on the occasion of their marriage in 1871.  Hence, it came to be called “The Wedding Gift house.”
The couple lived in the house until the death of Don Eulalio’s parents who left him the adjoining house. Since it was bigger, the couple moved over to the older house to accommodate their growing family.
The Wedding Gift House then served as a guest house.  The Luna brothers stayed there in January 1892 while soliciting contributions throughout Batangas for the Propaganda Movement.  The Villavicencio couple donated Php18,000 to the cause, a sum equivalent to Php6.5 million today.  In gratitude, Juan Luna gifted the couple with their portraits which were subsequently framed in beautifully carved and gilded frames by Isabelo Tampinco.
Don Jose Villavicencio, Don Eulalio’s son, lived in the house with his wife Micaela Atienza until his death in the 1980s.  Since they were childless, the house was occupied after his death by one of his wards who converted it into apartments, with an entire family occupying each room.  For a while, the house even became a toy factory.
In the communal partition the house went to the heirs of Dona Vicenta Villavicencio de Villavicencio, Gliceria’s eldest daughter.  Monserrat Villavicencio Joven, Vicenta’s eldest child, inherited the house.  Her daughter Jocelyn Villavicencio Joven and her husband, Advinculo Cuay Quiblat, are the present caretakers of the house.
Since the Wedding Gift House was separated from the main house by a garden, Don Eulalio built a GI-roofed wooden bridge to connect the azateas of rear terrace of both houses to facilitate interaction between the two Villavicencio houses.  His family could visit thus his parents without having to go out into the street.  Unique in the country because of its corrugated roof, the bridge stood there until the 1990’s, when its dangerously derelict condition called for its demolition.
A real three-bayed bahay na bato painted in the original indigo blue and yellow ochre, the walls of the entire house, including that of the second floor except for the front, are built of adobe blocks.  A wooden volada or “flying balcony” on the second floor fronting the street is walled with carved molave panels and   wall-to wall sliding capiz windows topped by multi-lobed exterior transoms, also of capiz.  Above the upper window sill are decorative slats, where Japanese lanterns were hung during processions.  Ventanillas or “little windows” beneath the pasamano or window sill are faced with iron grillwork wrought in the palmette motif with cast-led ornamentation typical of the 1870s.  The neo-Gothic ogee arches carved on the main double doors replicated those in the older Villavicencio House.
The house is unusual because the two main double doors to the zaguan are built on either side of a central bay sporting a large decorative wrought-iron grille with a palmette motif decorated   with cast-lead ornaments.  The left door led to that part of the zaguan where the carruaje or carriage was kept when not in use.  A door on the left opened   to the central garden with a stone stairway at the end leading up to the azotea.  The caballeriza or stable was located under the azotea.  The left zaguan door also served as a tradesman’s entrance to the large and spacious concerns of the Villavicencios.  French doors on the street side let light in, while sliding the capiz windows on either side of the entresuelo ensured good cross-ventilation.  The main door or puerta mayor on the right was for the exclusive use of the family and their friends.  It opened an airy zaguan tiled with azulejos, handpainted decorative tiles imported from Spain that also paved the stairs leading to the meseta.  A door to the right of the meseta led to the garden that separated the house from its neighbor.
The Villavicencio-Marella House has many features.  Aside from being the only one in Taal where the zaguan is floored with azulejos, it is one of a handful in Batangas, where the formal rooms have French doors opening to the balconies also floored with azulejo tiles.  The turned and carved kalabasa or squash-shaped balusters so typical of Taal were repainted in the original primary colors. This is the only house in the country where the rejas na buntis is overlooking the garden.  The unusual louvered doors with delicately carved transoms of the bedrooms made for better ventilation and air circulation.  They were probably inspired by those in the newly reconstructed Ayuntamiento building in Intramuros.

Although the house was lived in by Don Jose Villavicencio, Dona Gliceria’s son until his death in the 1980s, no major repairs were done on the house during his occupancy, except for the time of his death, the original hand painted canvas walls and ceilings had fade by then, with only traces of the original paintings discernable.
When the rooms of the house were converted to apartments after his death, the house became derelict.  Leaks in the roof had rotten some of the floorboards and many posts had sunk due to wood rot.  The dining-room floor sagged dangerously at one end so that the room could not be used.  By 1990, the house had fallen into disrepair and only half of it was habitable.
It was the only when the house was inherited by Monserrat Villavicencio de Joven that her daughter Jocelyn Villavicencio Joven and her husband Advinculo Cuay Quiblat decided to restore the house to its former glory.  The sagging and leaking roof was repainted, the posts were jacked up and reinforced, and the rotten floorboards replaced.  With the help of Martin I. Tinio Jr., a very close friend, the walls of the upper floor were painted in the style of the 1870s, using colors typical of that period.  The garden was landscaped with plants mentioned in the third edition of F. Blanco’s book Flora de Filipinas that was published in 1883.  A gazebo in the 1890s-style was built in the garden.  The process took six years, but the house is now a delight to the beholder.  MARTIN I. TINIO

Full text credit to Martin I. Tinio
Credits to original photo owners