A trip to the heritage town of Taal is a trip to Philippine's colonial past. There, one is treated to the grand vista of an old Spanish era church and a quiet stroll down streets lined with colonial houses.
One of the notable colonial houses there is the ancestral home of the Villavicencios called the "Gift House". It was built by Eulalio Villavicencio as a wedding gift to his bride Gliceria Marella in 1871. The house was built next to the Villavicencio's original home, now called Casa Villavicencio.
We were lucky to be invited inside the "gift house" to take photos. The house was closed as they were entertaining guests at the time we passed by there so we just took photos of the facade. As we were about to leave, one of the guests spotted our group and mentioned that we should be taking photos of the interior. It was a suggestion that we were most happy to follow.
The unassuming facade of the house belies the richly decorated and well preserved interior. From the wooden double door, one passes through a vestibule that leads to the main staircase. The floor of the hallway is decorate with tiles bearing intricate patterns.
The wooden staircase then opens to a antesala bounded by brightly painted walls. There are two balconies there that gives one a view of the courtyard below. The walls are decorated with art nouveau designs by Emilio Alvero, one of the prominent architects and interior designer at that time.
The antesala leads to the dining area, a bedroom, and to the main sala. A double door, with a portrait of Eulalio on one side and Gliceria's on the other (the original portraits were done by Juan Luna), opens to the large main sala furnished with lounging chairs and mariposa sofa with rattan weavings.
The interiors probably looked pretty much like how it used to, except for the addition of modern necessities like electric lamps and air conditioning units installed in the dining area and one of the rooms.
My favorite part of the house was the dining room which looked different from the rest of the house with its green walls and relatively "modern" look.. I couldn't help but imagine the lavish dinners once hosted in this room.
As I went around the house, appreciating each nook, I couldn't help but be thankful that such a colorful heritage is well preserved and so unselfishly shared. The Villavicencio house is truly a gift house - a heritage gift to the current generation.
- The Villavicencio house served as the revolutionaries' headquarters in Taal.