Villa of Valor: The Villavicencio Ancestral Home in Taal, Batangas
The Villavicencio ancestral home played an important role in the struggle for Philippine independence and is a colorful addition to Taal’s rich architectural legacy
April 9, 2020
Written by Jennifer Cristobal
Photographed by Ed Simon and John Ocampo
A prominent and successful clan in Taal, the Villavicencio family constructed a spacious bahay na bato around 1850 which still stands today in the small town with a view of its historic neighbors from the sala windows.
At street level, the façade has two imposing Gothic-style wooden doors and a grilled window on the right topped by a second floor volada. The ground floor vestibule houses what might have been an office or storefront for the family business. At the back of the vestibule, a few stone steps lead to the main staircase—a grand affair with wide planks and shallow steps.
The antesala at the top of the stairs is bright and airy in comparison to the darker ground floor vestibule. The ceiling is made of pressed tin panels that were popular in the US and Western Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Local historians say that this is the only original set of tin ceiling panels left intact in a historic Taal home. The Villavicencio ancestral home was a testament to their wealth and position in the local community.
The yellow Art Nouveau wall coverings look appropriately old and seem to work well with the architecture. They are not part of the original construction, but they are historically significant.
In 1910, in anticipation of a visit from the American Governor-General Francis Burton Harrison, the Villavicencio family commissioned an artist to create the Art Nouveau style wall coverings. They are oil paint on canvas and were mounted on the walls after drying.
The Villavicencio ancestral home was restored in the 1990s and seems to have retained its historic integrity. The rooms and spaces have nice proportions with free-flowing light and air. The historic elements like woodwork and the canvas wall coverings look old in some places but seem not to have suffered the injustice of historic reinterpretation or recreation. They were restored and maintained with respect to their original construction methods and materials.
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Although the Villavicencio family was prominent in Taal and their ancestral home has withstood the test of time and remains a part of the physical history of Taal, the home owes its cultural historic significance to one of the Villavicencio sons who grew up in the bahay na bato.
Gliceria Marella married Eulalio Villavicencio in 1871, when she was nineteen years old. Displayed at the home that was built when Eulalio was a young boy, and before Gliceria was even born is a sign marking the life and contributions that Gliceria made to Filipino history:
GLICERIA MARELLA DE VILLAVICENCIO
Born in Taal, Batangas, 13 May 1852. Helped organize the “Batalyon Maluya,” February 1897. She was the owner, she donated to the cause her steamer “Bulusan” which was later converted into a war vessel. A revolutionary flag hoisted when the rebel forces entered Taal was sewed in her house. Contributed material help for the support of the revolution. Supported the Batangas guerillas. Died in San Juan del Monte, Rizal, 28 September 1929. Organized by the Municipality of Taal, Batangas on December 4, 1955.
The Villavicencio ancestral home played an important role in the Philippine revolution against Spain. It was the location of clandestine meetings between Andres Bonifacio and members of the Katipunan. In fact, we were shown a trap door located under the wedding portrait of the couple at the far end of the dining hall. This trap door was used by Bonifacio and his men to escape detection whenever the Spanish guards came to check on the family. It led the Katipuneros to a tunnel that ends in a river nearby.
Eulalio and Gliceria started their lives together at the Villavicencio ancestral home but just beyond the side yard is a house Eulalio built as a wedding gift for his young bride. There, they continued their support for Filipino independence and contributed another colorful addition to Taal’s architectural legacy.