Sunday, November 26, 2017


Full Photo Credit to Pinoy Adventurista

WHEN THE VILLAVICENCIO ANCESTRAL HOUSE, built in the 1920s on the street behind the Casa Tribunal (now the Municipal Building) became too cramped, being hemmed by other bahay na bato, the parents of Don Eulalio Villavicencio decided to build a larger house that had no adjoining neighbors.  The new house stood on the second of five contiguous lots and was three lots away from its nearest neighbor.  Bordered by three streets, its main entrance was on G. Marella Street.  Del Castillo Street that ended at the granite stairway leading to Caysasay Church, was on the west, while a narrow street bordered the back of the property.

The house went to Don Eulalio upon the death of his parents.  Although he already owned the adjoining house one lot away which was connected to his parent’s abode by a covered bridge, Don Eulalio moved over to the older but larger dwelling to accommodate his large family.
Don Eulalio and his wife Gliceria were one of the richest couples in Taal.  They owned large tracts of agricultural land and steamers that plied the Manila-Batangas-Tayabas coast.  Both of them were staunch nationalists.  In January 1892, upon the visit of Juan and Antonio Luna to raise funds for the   Propaganda Movement, they donated a sum of Php18,000 – equivalent to Php6.5 million today.  In gratitude Juan Luna gifted the couple with their portraits, probably the best he ever painted.
In 1986, Eulalio was arrested for alleged complicity in the Katipunan.  Imprisoned for two years in Fort Santiago, he died shortly after his release due to the privations suffered during his        incarceration.

Because of the death of his husband at the hands of the Spaniards, Doña Gliceria became an even more rabid nationalist to the extent of holding clandestine meetings in the house with revolutionary leaders of Batangas.  She also organized the Batalyon Maluya to fight the Spaniards.  With her considerable resources, Doña Gliceria provided food and arms to the revolutionaries, sometimes even more personally driving the carabao-drawn cariton with rifles hidden under cornstalks supposedly for fodder.

In 1919, Gov.-Gen. Francis B. Harrison slept   in the house as a guest of Senator Vicente Ilustre, son-in-law of Doña Gliceria, to inaugurate the electric plant in Taal.  It was a momentous occasion, as Taal was the first town to have electricity in Batangas province. Incidentally, Vicente Ilustre was Rizal’s model for Isagani in El Filibusterismo.

A typical three-bayed bahay na bato painted in the original mint green and yellow ochre, its ground floor walls of adobe blocks support an upper storey of carved acanthus consoles of molave seemingly support the pasamano or window sills.  This architectural detail, commonly found in Pangasinan, also appears in contemporary houses of Taal and Balayan, probably as a result of coastal trade.  Ventanilla or “little windows” beneath the window sill are faced with the elaborate lace-like wrought-iron grillwork typical of the 1850s.  The ogee arches carved on the doors were inspired those on the facade of Bauan Church, where it first appeared in Batangas.  The neo-Gothic details of that church, built in the early 1800s, antedated the 1870s Sto. Domingo Church in Intramuros.

The two double doors opening to the zaguan are unusual for private houses.  The door on the left bay led to the storage area of the carved and gilded andas or palanquin of the Nuestra Señora del Rosario.  On her feast day in October, the statue was assembled on the andas which was then decorated with realistic-looking feligrana or filigree flowers made of beaten coin silver and illuminated by a score of candles in handblown and etched virina or hurricane lamp shades.  The zaguan door was then opened so that the faithful could venerate the ivory image in its glittering golden splendor.  The doors of the central bay led to a short flight of stairs to the meseta or landing with its door opening to the entresuelo or mezzanine chamber that had sliding capiz windows opening to the zaguan and a window on the street side with a wrought-iron rejas na buntis, so-called because the lower part of the scroll that formed grille protruded out like the belly of a pregnant woman.  From the meseta, a flight of balayong stairs led to the wide caida with its panoramic view of the Balayan Bay.

The hardwood floors of the upper floor, the elaborately carved and gilded foliated transoms over the double  doors carved with ogee panels in the formal rooms and the walls and ceilings stretched with handpainted canvas are typical of 1850s Taal houses.

In 1919, the house was renovated for the overnight visit of Gov.-Gen. Francis B. Harrison.  In anticipation of the visit, black-and-white Machuca tiles were laid in the zaguan.  The original painted canvas ceilings of the formal rooms upstairs, which had probably deteriorated by then, were removed and replaced with stamped tin imported from the U.S.  The walls of the caida and the sala were re-stretched with new canvas and painted with the then currently fashionable Art Nouveau motifs by Emilio Alvero.  In the master’s bedroom, an adjoining porch overlooking the central garden with its ornamental pond was built and floored with Machuca tiles.  The lot along Del Castillo Street was fenced with wrought-iron grilles and landscaped.  A fountain featuring a giant clam shell spouting water graced the center of the garden.  The exceptionally large shell was a gift of the Sultan of Sulu, when Vicente Ilustre made a visit to Jolo as one of the five Filipino  members of the Philippine Commission of 1916 – 1919 representing Mindanao and Sulu.

The house, like most dwellings in Taal, survived the Japanese Occupation relatively unscathed, except for the loss of the floorboards of the large comedor or the dining room that ran the whole width of the house.  The Villavicencio comedor, the largest in Taal in the 1850a, shows the scale of entertaining the family indulge in.  Since the family all live in Manila after World War II, the house was not lived for almost half a century.

Upon partition of the communal property in 1990, the house went to the heirs of Don Sixto Villavicencio, Don Eulalio’s son.  Edgardo Villavicencio, Don Sixto’s only son, inherited the house and began restoring it.  When the monument of Doña Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio was erected by the NHI, the garden was raised to street level and the fountain was buried under the landfill.  The covered bridge, which had become dangerously decrepit due to non-use, was demolished.

The house is now owned by Edgardo’s son, Ernesto, who completely restored the house with the help of his wife, Maris Rosario Benedicto, who has a Master of Architecture degree from Georgetown University.  MARTIN I. TINIO JR.