The House on Marella Street

The House on Marella Street

A revolutionary icon continues to tell her story through a beautifully restored home showcasing period pieces against a backdrop of contemporary artistry.

The original tin ceiling from Europe was retained, as well as the decorative crystal chandelier ventilation
The original tin ceiling from Europe was retained, as well as the decorative crystal chandelier ventilation

To push open the metal-crafted gates of Casa Villavicencio in the town of Taal, Batangas, is to raise the curtains on a period of romance, revolution, and patriotic impulse. The brief walk across the red clay of the zaguan (porch)where horse carriages and church carosas used to park draws out one awestruck thought: history was made here. We pause on the descanso (landing area), as the heavily clothed guests of yesteryear must have done, our breathing affected not by the steep stairway but by the dignity of the structure.


Today, the casa is the most prominent domain on a street that is named after its mistress, Gliceria Marella de Villavicencio. The main house, a geometric bahay-na-bato (traditional Spanish colonial house), was built some time before 1850, and the adjacent house was built two decades later as a wedding present to 19-year-old Gliceria from her husband Eulalio. At the time, the gift house stood on top of a hill and commanded a glorious view of Balayan Bay. It was made from narra and mulawin, the period’s most sought-after hardwood. Six children—Jose, Mariquita, Vicenta, Rita, Sixto, and Anton—were raised there.

The antesala (anteroom) has huge windows for better air
The antesala (anteroom) has huge windows for better air

Our guide, Juliet Villar, directs our attention towards the main double doors, the original reddish narra perfectly preserved, having frames tall enough to let carriages in. To our right, the doors are made of galvanised-iron sheets that were installed as a precaution in the 1990s. These doors were commissioned to a carver from Quezon by Ernesto Fajardo Villavicencio (a descendant of Sixto) and his wife, Ria Benedicto-Villavicencio. “They [the doors] cost eighty-thousand pesos,” Villar divulges, before pointing to a land title that announces the original cost of the 6,375-square-metre property: 930 Philippine pesos.


Villavicencio adds that the exterior of the existing house used to be painted a mustard yellow, commonly used in government buildings. “When we chipped off the layers of paint on the ventanilla (window) panel, we found the original pigment to be a lighter lemon yellow with green accents.” Thus, they painted the acanthus leaves adorning the windowsills a cheerful mint green.


A little farther upward, we come upon the entrasuelo, which used to be a mezzanine storage area for rice bins, jars, and chests. It is a new bedroom with an en suite bathroom. The split-bamboo flooring has been preserved. Villar leads us up the stairway, which in the old days was held together by wooden pegs. After the 1997 restoration, it is a much safer climb. Still we hold on to the pumpkin-shaped barandillas (wooden balusters) and upon Juliet’s suggestion, test the staircase against the oro, plata, mata (gold, silver, death) superstition. “The topmost rung had to coincide with oro or plata to attract good luck,” says Villar.

The barandillas (wood blusters) with a typical kinalabasa (pumpkin or squash-shape) were common in Taal
The barandillas (wood blusters) with a typical kinalabasa (pumpkin or squash-shape) were common in Taal

Fortune or no, one thing was certain: the local revolution flourished on Villavicencio’s watch. Gliceria’s efforts were instrumental in putting up the Maluya Batalan, a battalion that played a pivotal role in the surrender of Spanish forces in Batangas, Tayabas, Capiz, Panay, and Iloilo. Her husband later joined the propaganda movement, travelled to Hong Kong, and contributed 18,000 pesos to the publication of novels like the Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, the newspaper La Solidaridad, and the by-laws of La Liga Filipina.


Five years later, in 1896, the Spanish generals in charge of military operations in Batangas and Cavite converted the gift house into a personal residence and military office, forcing Gliceria and Eulalio to move back into the ancestral house. We step into its sala (living room), which features the original calado, cut out in the shapes of plants for ventilation. The crystal chandeliers remain decorative. Gliceria and Eulalio gaze upon us through their portraits, which are reproductions of the original art by Juan Luna.


In her lifetime, Gliceria stayed in this room to keep an eye on her ships, which would sail out on rice and commodity trading trips and dock at Balayan Bay. By the huge, capiz-filled windows, she and her daughters Mariquita and Vicenta sewed the first Filipino flag to be raised in the province of Batangas. Some of the original furniture remains: a spindle-type cane chair for three, a side table with French rococo lines, and a Victorian-aged piano. Villar says the Villavicencios preferred to use lightweight pieces in the living room so they could be moved to the side on special occasions. “This room was often used for dances and tertulias (get togethers). Friends would gather here to discuss art, music, politics, religion, and current events.”


Next, we squeeze into the galleria volada, a covered narrow passageway that runs behind the bedrooms and faces the street. We imagine the Villavicencio children spending their afternoons here, doing embroidery work or watching people and fiesta processions. From the galleria, we are able to manoeuvre our way into the master bedroom, which has a mirrored aparador (cabinet) and dresser. The 1930s cast-iron tub has been re-glazed, and a kamagong four-poster bed has been added to the room. “The four-poster is made in the design of Ah-Thay, a Chinese craftsman who became popular during the Spanish period,” says Villavicencio.


In the dining room, the old narra flooring has been replaced by recycled mulawin from the 1970s. In its heyday, this area was kept cool by the presence of a well underneath the adjoining azotea. The long dining table was made in Bohol and acquired from an antique dealer in Quezon, while the long benches are the same ones farmers used to sit on when bringing their harvests through the main entrance. We admire the vajillera (glass cabinet), mesa platera (silverware cabinet), and trinchante (serving shelf), which are all original to the house. Finally, there is a beautiful painting of the Taal Basilica from the early 1900s.

Villavicencio's fully-restored black 1949 Plymouth sedan
Villavicencio’s fully-restored black 1949 Plymouth sedan

Villar saves the best for last. She walks to the end of the room and lifts the floor boards to reveal the bodega (dungeon) of the ancestral house, rattling off the names of the men who held council there: Andres Bonifacio, Feliciano Jocson, Vito Bellarmino, Felipe Calderon, Miguel Malvar, Eleuterio Marasigan. “They would talk inside a huge bamboo bin with dimmed lights, away from the prying eyes of the Spanish authorities in the next house,” Villar narrates, thrilling us to the bone.


Though the story did not end well for Eulalio, who was imprisoned in Old Bilibid for a year before his death, Gliceria and her children continued to safeguard the cause of Philippine freedom, sheltering Filipino soldiers and making generous contributions to local industries. It is only fitting for the house to have in its address the name of the woman Emilio Aguinaldo called the “Madrina-General de las Fuerzas Revolucionarios” (the godmother of the revolutionary forces), and it is a privilege to have been invited into her home. “We restored the house for the simple purpose of using it and preserving it for the next generation, but every day brought new discoveries about Gliceria and Eulalio, and it became a fulfilling experience for everyone involved,” Villavicencio says. “We are happy to share their story with anyone who knocks on our doors.”


Photography by Albert Labrador | Printed in Philippine Tatler Homes Volume 6

Taal photo contest set


(The Philippine Star) | Updated October 27, 2013 – 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – A photo contest will be held during the fiesta of San Martin de Tours on Nov. 10-11 in the heritage town of Taal in Batangas.

This is a must-visit for lovers of Philippine history, heritage architecture, fans of Philippine Revolution culture, burdang Taal, Taal’s local delicacies, balisong, and the historic Taal Basilica and Our Lady of Caysasay Church.

The photo contest is organized by a non-profit group, the Taal Active Alliance Legion (T.A.A.L.), composed of heritage advocates for the promotion of tourism in Taal.

For more information, visit the Facebook page “Taal Heritage Town Photo Walk” or call/send an SMS to Benj at 0917-8764372.

Taal Heritage Town Photo Walk 2013, A Photo Contest

Taal Heritage Town Photo Walk 2013, A Photo Contest



A photo contest sponsored by the Taal Active Alliance Legion (T.A.A.L.) for lovers of Philippine history, heritage architecture, fans of Philippine Revolution culture, burdang taal and balisongs.

No registration fee.


Q: Is there a theme?
A: The photo contest theme is Taal and its Heritage

Q:What’s to see in Taal?
A:Well there’s the architecture, including the biggest Catholic church in Asia, the Basilica of Saint Martin de Tours, as well as preserved and restored homes of great families which helped the Philippine revolution.

There are also native products such as coffee (which was responsible for the wealth of Batangas province in the 18th century), folding knives in Brgy. Balisong, and the burdang Taal which features intricate patterns on pinya (pineapple leaves) fabric.

There is also the well of the Our Lady of Caysasay, a pilgrimage site for Marian devotees. On November 11, there will be a horse parade in the morning and a race in the afternoon.

Q:What kinds of photos should I take?
A: See above.

Q:Who can join?
A: Everyone can, but disqualified for the prizes are relatives up to the fourth degree (first cousins) as well as members of the household (i.e. employees, relatives, acquaintances actually residing in the homes ) of the Photo Committee judges .

Q:Can I use a film camera?
A: To simplify matters, all entries will be in raw digital format.

Q:What exactly do you mean by digital format?
A: The entry must be unaltered, unenhanced and/or unedited by any photo processing software/ application. Entries must be transferred to the organizers’ computer directly from the contestant’s camera or camera memory module (MMC,SD,CF).

Q:Can I use filters
A:Sure, as long as its the kind which are attached to the camera lens. Since no processing outside the camera is allowed, entries must not have been altered by filter effect mimic apps.

Q:Can I use a cellphone camera?
A: Sure.

Q:Can I submit photos I took in Taal on days other than the contest days?
A: All photos must have been taken in Taal on November 10 or 11, 2013. So, no.

Q:When is the deadline?
A: All entries must be personally submitted by the photographer by 6 pm of the shooting day. (i.e. 6pm of November 10 for photos taken on November10 and 6 p.m. of November11 for photos taken on November 11)

Q:Where do I submit an entry?
A: The photographer must submit his entry in digital format and fill up a contest form on or before the deadline (see above) at Casita (its across Funeraria Gracia and Villa Tortuga), along Agoncillo St., Brgy. Poblacion, Taal.

Q:Can I just, you know, e-mail an entry?
A: No.

Q:What happens to the entries after the contest?
A: Contestants waive in favor of the Taal Active Alliance Legion, a non-profit private group of advocates for the preservation of Taal heritage, the rights to publish subsequently all entries. The alliance shall endeavor to credit subsequent use of any photograph with the name of the photographer.

Q:How will the judging be conducted?
A: The contest judges will consider the following : a. the theme of the contest , b. the technical skill (exposure,composition) apparent from the photograph, and c. the overall aesthetic appeal of the entry.

Q:Will there be prizes for winning photographers?
A: Bragging rights mostly. (“,) Although there will be nominal prizes from businesses based in Taal.

First peek behind the scenes of GMA-7’s new docudrama ‘Katipunan’

First peek behind the scenes of GMA-7’s new docudrama ‘Katipunan’



Philippine history is the stuff of drama. Television viewers will see it unfold starting October 19 when GMA-7 begins airing its first historical mini-series “Katipunan.”

The eight-part docudrama will follow the arc of the revolutionary movement, from its founding by Andres Bonifacio to its initial battlefield successes to the capture of Emilio Aguinaldo by the Americans. But nestled in the sweep of history are the personal dramas of the protagonists, like the love story of Bonifacio and his devoted wife Gregoria de Jesus.

Sid Lucero leads the cast as Bonifacio, while Glaiza de Castro plays the hero’s wife Gregoria. Also part of the ensemble are Benjamin Alves, Dominic Roco, and Mercedes Cabral, and veteran actors Roi Vinzon and Soliman Cruz.

Many of the scenes were recreated and shot in the historic town of Taal in Batangas, which serves as set for Tondo in the 1890s.



















“Katipunan” recreates late 19th century Manila in the streets of Taal. This stretch of Calle Jose Diokno was transformed into a busy side street where the indios, ilustrados and the guardia civil gather. The ancestral houses in Taal, preserved and protected to this day, provided an ideal backdrop for the show.


Portrayal of the Spanish guards was made as close to real as possible, from the acting as demonstrated by Asst. Director Maita Lupac down to the Mauser rifle replicas and detailed costumes.

In this sequence, a group of guardia civil passes through the busy side street where people sell and exchange goods, including poultry and live animals.


Wardrobe designer Rex D was commissioned to create 500 costumes for “Katipunan.” He said history books gave him inspiration for creating the overall look for the show.


Actors portraying indios — a term used by the Spanish to describe Filipino natives. Wardrobe designer Rex D says the color palette they chose was earth colors to represent the historical tone and treatment of the show.


The ornate women’s costumes as viewed from the back. These actors were wearing at least three layers of clothing in the sweltering heat.


Part of “Katipunan’s” wardrobe are these panuelos, used in the colonial times as a scarf to go along with women’s camisa. The panuelo is also used with the baro’t saya, the national costume for women in the Philippines.


Sid Lucero plays Andres Bonifacio, founder of the Katipunan. In this scene, Bonifacio enjoys an afternoon meal in the karihan when he is smitten by the beautiful Gregoria de Jesus as she passes by.


Gregoria de Jesus, or Oriang, is portrayed by Glaiza de Castro (left), here with Jill Palencia (right) who plays Juanita, Oriang’s companion. Katipunan will tell the story of the Andres-Oriang romance, and how the revolution affected their relationship.


A member of the crew measures the camera angle from actor Benjamin Alves as Glaiza de Castro and Jill Palencia take their spots. A special set of HD cameras was used in the shoot.


Women of Taal become the women of “Katipunan.” Taal locals were cast to play extras in the docudrama.


Spanish-born actor Kuya Manzano rehearses his lines with director King Marc Baco and other members of the crew. Manzano, who plays a teniente, suggests that some of his lines be spoken in his native tongue Spanish — even doing the translation himself!


Katipunan’s executive director Jayson Bernard Santos (left) and program manager Nowell Cuanang (right) supervise the shoot. Santos and Cuanang are both also producers at “Reel Time,” GMA News TV’s Peabody Award-winning documentary program. — Irvin Cortez, with Pia Faustino/CM/HS, GMA News

“Katipunan” premiers on October 19, 2013, 10:15 PM on GMA-7. Visit the official Facebook page at

The First Miss Philippines (1926)

The First Miss Philippines (1926)

anitaTHE FIRST MISS PHILIPPINES, 20 year-old Anita Agoncillo Noble of Lemery, Batangas, chosen at the 1st National Beauty Contest of 1926. Anita comes from a distinguished family of patriots and revolutionists.

The 1st National Beauty Contest search for the first Miss Philippines was launched with much fanfare and was met with resounding approval by provincial authorities. Quickly, municipalities conducted their own “Miss”, from among whom a provincial bet to the national contest was chosen. Batangas Governor Modesto Castillo however, already had a perfect candidate in mind, so he scrapped the local tilt and named his beauty of choice. No one criticized this arbitrary move, as his decision was met with unanimous approval. Anita Noble y Agoncillo of Lemery was named as “Miss Batangas” and was sent off immediately to the national contest.

Anita was the middle child and only daughter of Leoncio Noble and Maria Agoncillo, who, in turn come from distinguished families of Lemery. Leoncio managed the family estate in the Lemery-Taal area, while Maria was directly related to patriots Felipe Agoncillo, diplomat of the 1st Philippine Republic, Maria, 2nd wife of Emilio Aguinaldo, and Marcela, maker of the 1st Philippine flag.

Anita had two other siblings: Froilan and Vicente. When it was time for their higher education, the boys were sent to San Juan de Letran, while Anita was accepted as an interna at the nearby Santa Rosa College. It was indeed a surprise, that given her strict upbringing, her parents allowed her to participate in the contest. But inasmuch as she was always in the company of other girls and their chaperones, she was allowed to participate in the contest activities.

During the contest proper, she stayed in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Alfredo Roa Sr., together with Remedios Santos (Miss Rizal) and Amparo Neri (Miss Misamis). Mrs. Conchita Zamora Roa was their official chaperone. One of the most memorable event was a tea dance party given by the Bachelors’ Club to the candidates at the Hotel de Francia along Avenida Rizal. The candidates were paraded in the evening in decorated automobiles that wended its way around Rizal, Escolta, Taft Avenue and ending at the Manila Grand Carnival auditorium at the Luneta. Alighting from the cars, the candidates boarded individual wheeled chariots bearing the name of their respective provinces. Before an adoring crowd and a panel of judges, the candidates were thus presented and voted on.

anita2The selection of the regional winners—Misses Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao—proved to be easy. But the choice for the plum Miss Philippines title ended in a tie between Miss Zamboanga (Carmen Fargas) and Miss Batangas (Anita Noble). Not even a second voting could break the tie. As it was already past midnight, Madame Levy, one of the judges, suggested the postponement of the deliberation for another day. It was then that President Manuel L. Quezon made his appearance. Apprised of the situation, the President invited the contestants the next day at the Manila Hotel. He stipulated that they be dressed in simple baro’t saya and wear no make-up, and that another judge be added to break the deadlock. The judging continued the next day—the girls were judged how they ate lunch!

NOBLE NOBILITY. Miss Philippines-elect Anita Noble, as she appeared in a large 1926 Carnival souvenir photo.

The stringent process finally yielded results with the breaking of the tie. Anita Noble, 20 year old Miss Batangas was chosen as the winner of the First National Beauty Contest. But so tight was the competition, that the Carnival officials decided to create another title for Zamboanga’s Carmen Fargas. She was named as “Miss Pearl of the Orient Seas”. Named as Miss Luzon was won by Rosario Genato (Manila), Miss Visayas was Aurora Reyes (Samar) and Miss Mindanao was Bala Amai Miring (Lanao).

Our first Miss Philippines was proclaimed with much hoopla in the jampacked Carnival Auditorium. Batangas Assemblyman Antonio de las Alas escorted Anita, the pride of Batangas, to the throne. Leopoldo Kahn stood by as her King Consort. With the dancing ending at 5 a.m., everyone agreed that 1926 was “the liveliest and most successful night in the history of the Carnival”.

Accolades continued to pour in for Anita. Her school presented a musical program in her honor and when she went home to Batangas, her proud province mates gave her a rapturous welcome. She was besieged by admirers but it was not until 9 January 1927 that she met Paris-educated Architect Juan Nakpil, son of revolutionist Don Julio Nakpil and Gregoria de Jesus, the young widow of Andres Bonifacio.

As a graduate student of Harvard where he continued his studies after France, Juan had previously heard of Anita via Carnival news clippings sent to him. Upon his return to the Philippines, Juan met Anita on the feast of the Black Nazarene, in the Quiapo house of his uncle, Dr. Ariston Bautista Lin.

Smitten, Juan pursued Anita, often traveling to Lemery every Sunday to woo and visit her. He finally won her on 10 December 1927, and they were wed in the evening highlighted by a reception held at the house of the Batangas Governor. The union bore 5 accomplished children: Ariston, Francisco, Eulogio, Annie (who became Miss Batangas) and Edith (who, too, became Miss Philippines 1955 of the Boys’ Town Carnival).

In 1973, Arch. Juan Nakpil was conferred the National Artist Award for his valuable contribution to Philippine architecture. Our first Miss Philippines, the accomplished and beautiful Anita Noble, passed away on 14 August 1979, after a bout with cancer.