Every year, when Taal celebrates its annual fiesta, members of some of the town’s illustrious families throw the gates to their ancestral homes wide open to re-acquaint town mate and stranger alike with their hometown’s elegant and rich past.
The Villavicencio’s twin mansions are among the most popular destinations during the season of the “open house” and the reason is understandable. The original owners of the handsome ancestral house—Don Eulalio Villavicencio and Dona Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio are recognized as two of the staunchest supporters of the Philippine Revolution in the country’s struggle for independence against Spain.
|Don Eulalio Villavicencio|
|Dona Gliceria Villavicencio|
Don Eulalio was a ship captain who owned a large and airy manor built before the 1850s. Standing on the northern slope of Taal, the mint and blonde house was hemmed by manicured gardens and protected from the outside by ornate wrought iron gates. From the expansive sala visitors are gifted with an alluring view of Balayan Bay and the cool breezes fanning in from the sea.
|In the old mansion, wide windows allow the breeze from Balayan Bay to cool the interiors.|
|Graceful furniture and intricate detail add old world charm to the colonial house.|
Wide floor planks polished to a gleaming shine and the thick mulawin posts provide the first indications that this is a house of affluence and prominence. In the olden days, when the gentlemen came a-courting, the azoteas functioned as a safe gallery where young ladies discreetly observed the harana.
|Graceful bentwood seats from Vienna form a charming seating area.|
|The breakfast nook in the large dining area features intricate furniture made from Philippine hardwood.|
|Azoteas line the wall of the newer mansion Don Eulalio built for his lovely wife.|
|An antique silver carroza is being stored inside the zaguan.|
|The receiving room downstairs in the foyer has a gallinera and a mirror table with hooks for coats and umbrellas.|
Inside the Villavicencio’s zaguan (the hall before the main patio) a century-old carroza made of hammered silver is kept—dressed and used only during the Lenten Season prusisyon. The twin houses, built largely in the dainty style of the Victorian era, also boasts of a whimsical tin ceiling from America and graceful bentwood furniture especially made in Vienna.
|The escalera, or the main staircase, leads to the sala on the second floor.|
|Victorian details--such as the stylized iris paintings on the wall and dainty carvings above the doorway--add exquisite charm to the capacious mansion.|
Despite the trappings of wealth and a charmed life, the Villavicencios were passionate in their nationalism. They actively supported the Revolutionary movement and donated their own money to help fund the subversive campaign of Dr. Jose Rizal during his exile in Hong Kong.
For their anti-Spanish actions, Don Eulalio was arrested and incarcerated in the Old Bilibid Prison in Manila. According to historian Paz Mendes, the colonial authorities tried to entice Doña Gliceria by asking her divulge the Katipunan’s activity in Batangas in exchange for her husband’s immediate freedom. Staunchly and with no mean courage, the headstrong woman answered, “I love my husband very much as few wives do but I would consider it insanity to carry his surname if I should obtain his liberty by betraying him and his cause.” Released in 1898 due to grave illness, Don Eulalio died three months later.
Not one to give up the nationalistic cause in the face of her husband’s tragic demise, Doña Gliceria continued her work for freedom. She donated the family ship, the “SS Bulusan” which became the first warship of the Revolutionary Government. She held secret meetings for the revolutionary leaders right under her dining room which saw the attendance of such political luminaries as Andres Bonifacio, General Miguel Malvar and General Marasigan.
On June 12, 1898, when the Philippines raised its flag for the first time as a free nation, General Emilio Aguinaldo paid tribute to the woman who fought bravely and defied great dangers to help free the country. He named her Madrina-General de las Fuerzas Revolucionarios—the Matriarch-General of the Revolutionary Forces.
Today, the twin houses still stand as mute testimonies to the heroism of two people in love in the time of war.
Text and photos by Vix Sev