Taal Travels: The Marino-Agoncillo Home

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A day tour in the town of Taal, Batangas, always feel like traveling back in time. Gazing up the vintage houses, I realize these are ancestral homes of families whose roots date back to the Spanish colonization era.

Batangas is one of the eight provinces condemned and oppressed by the Spanish government. The other provinces were Manila, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Laguna, Bulacan, Cavite and Pampanga. Together, these eight provinces would take the lead in fighting for the Philippine independence. As I walk along the streets lined with vintage homes, I cannot help but feel a sense of Filipino patriotism and pride.

Last week I wrote about Galleria Taal, a vintage camera and photograph museum located along Taal’s main road. A few meters away from Galleria Taal is another beautifully preserved heritage house: The Marino-Agoncillo Home.

Dona Marcela Marino-Agoncillo is known as the Mother of the Philippine Flag. She and her husband Felipe Agoncillo, were both born in Taal and studied in Manila. When they returned to Taal, Felipe became known for his legal services to the poor. In 1896, Felipe escaped to Hong Kong after he was accused of being a filibusteroan opponent to the Spanish regime. His family followed suit and lived with him in exile in Hong Kong. To help earn a bit of income, Marcela made sweets and delicacies that they sold in Hong Kong. When General Emilio Aguinaldo was also exiled to Hong Kong, he asked the help of Marcela to make the Philippine flag. Marcela, together with her daughter, Lorenza, and Delfina Herbosa Natividad, carefully sewed the first Philippine flag on silk, and completed it within five days. This flag was shown in Cavite City on 28 May 1898 during the celebration of the revolutionary army’s victory over the Spanish forces.

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As we entered the house, we ascended its wooden staircase which led to the receiving area, living room and dining hall. The walls and the furniture were mostly made of wood. Rooms were interconnected, and it was amazing to see old trinkets like the sungka (today’s version of a gameboard). There was also an old sewing machine that caught my eye – as I remember we had something similar back home when I was a little girl.

Sungka
Sungka

What I like about old houses in the Philippines is the airy feeling from the spacious rooms whose ceilings were also high. They had little to no electricity back then but the houses were well ventilated because the wind could freely blow through the windows, and the trees in their gardens provide shade. A walk in heritage houses also brings me to imagine how it must have felt like living in the olden days. I imagine several decades from now, when the future generations walk through our homes now, they would likewise bring themselves to imagine how simple our lives now must have been.

What comes to your mind when you see or enter vintage houses?

 

Taal Town: Galleria Taal

Galleria Taal

Welcome to the second part of my Taal Travel series.

Taal town, sometimes referred to as The Vigan of the South, is just a few hours’ drive away from Manila. It is one of the towns D and I go to for a quick escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. There’s a lot to see in Taal, from the historical and grand Taal Basilica, to the beautifully preserved vintage houses.

One of the vintage houses that we recently explored was the ancestral home of the Ilangan-Barrion family, the Galleria Taal.

It was built around 1870 by Domingo Ilagan and Maria Martinez. They had six children, and later on their daughter, Candida I. Barrion would pay off her siblings to gain sole ownership of the house.

Candida’s husband, Antonino Barrion, was a lawyer and delegate to the 1953 Constitutional Convention representing the 3rd district of Batangas. The family moved to this ancestral house in 1944, after their original home in Batangas City burned down during the Japanese occupation. It was Candida who lived the longest in this house, however, several years after she died in 1975, the house was neglected. In 2004, her grandsons Manny and Bobby Inumerable restored the house, and in December of 2009 it became a museum for vintage cameras and photographs and was since then called Galleria Taal.

The photographs displayed in the museum were taken in the late 1800s to 1900s. There were some photos that struck me and made me gaze at them longer – wondering how very different life many decades ago was. The guide explained that some of the oldest photos took an hour to complete, that was why the subjects did not smile as it would be quite tiring. I imagined I would not be bothered to pose for photos if I was in that era. It would have been such a painful task!

Vintage photographs
Vintage photographs

The vintage and rare cameras also caught my attention. I admire the passion of the camera collectors. I used to have a camera when I was in high school – back when rolls of films were still being used, and one had to be careful so as not to ‘expose’ the films otherwise the whole batch of pictures would be ruined. Back then, I would not know how the photos would turn out until I had them developed – and if they were good, I had to line up in the photo studio once again to have them ‘recopied’. Having a camera and taking pictures back in the 80s to the 90s cost a fortune – what more if one lived back decades ago! These were my thoughts as I admired the vast collection of cameras in the Galleria Taal.

Vintage and rare camera collection
Vintage and rare camera collection

After the tour, we checked out the Candida Cafe at the ground floor. The restaurant serves the specialty food in Taal, like lomi, adobo sa dilaw, tapang taal, sinaing na tulingan, suman and empanada. We had the restaurant all to ourselves, and it was quite amazing to look at pictures of Taal from long time ago. It felt as if we stepped back in time.

Candida Cafe
Candida Cafe

If you have the chance to drive to Taal Town, I recommend checking out the Galleria Taal. It is located on the main road, at 60 Agoncillo Street, 4208 Taal, Batangas.

Taal Town: Taal Basilica

Taal Basilica at sunset

The town of Taal, Batangas, is one of our go-to places when we feel like doing a heritage tour. It is, after all, just a few hours’ drive from Alabang, and it is reminiscent of Vigan, Ilocos, which known for its cobbled streets and old heritage houses. Taal town has its fair share of heritage houses, and it is, for me, the “Vigan” of the south.

While it does share its name with the smallest volcano in the world, the Taal volcano, found in Tagaytay, the town of Taal is 15 kilometers away.

This is a series of blogs about historical sites that can be found in Taal Town, Batangas.

And the first on the list is the Taal Basilica, also known as the Minor Basilica of Saint Martin of Tours, named after the town’s patron saint. They celebrate their patron saint’s feast every 11th of November.Taal

Recognized as the largest church in the Orient, being 95m long and 45m wide, Taal Basilica is a national shrine. It has withstood centuries of natural disasters and had undergone different stages of rebuilding and repair.

The original church was built by Father Diego Espina in San Nicolas in 1575. The church was destroyed in 1754 when the Taal Volcano erupted. Since then, the town relocated to where it sits today, and the church was rebuilt in 1755 by Augustinian priests on a plateau facing the Balayan Bay.

The church was damaged by a strong earthquake in 1849. In 1856, reconstruction work started, headed by architect Luciano Oliver. It was completed in 1878. The basilica has a Baroque architectural style, and is made of adobe held together by lime.

Another strong earthquake damaged the church bell in 1942, and then most recently in 2017, it was damaged by 3 strong earthquakes that struck neighboring towns of Tingloy, Mabini and Taysan. I remember faintly feeling the earthquake in 2017. I woke up D from his siesta and said I felt a slight tremor. 20 minutes after, I saw the trend in Twitter – and the earthquake was 124 kilometers away from where we were!Taal Basilica interiors

As we revisited the Taal Basilica this month, I was once again in awe of its grandeur. It still warmed the heart to see different birds flying and hearing them chirping, while we filled our lungs with fresh air. No visit in Taal Town would be complete without spending a few minutes in the Taal Basilica, and offering a prayer of thanks for all life’s blessings.

If you live or visit Metro Manila, and have a day you can allocate for a heritage tour, I recommend a trip to Taal town. For more details about The Heritage Town of Taal, Batangas, click here.