Marcela Agoncillo Historical Landmark

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The house of Marcela Agoncillo is probably the oldest of the Taal heritage gouse, built in the 17oos by her grandfather. It is in this house where Marcela sewed the first Philippine flag, but not to be mistaken with the flag of the first philippine Republic which she sewed while in exile in Hongkong with her husband Felipe, the first Filipino diplomat and patriot.

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As one enters the house, tidbits on history can be read. At the bottom of the stairs is a diorama that shows Marcela sewing the flag. The Agoncillo family has kept their furniture and other memorabilia in this house, including laminated certificates of commendation for the illustrious members of the family, mostly in the library at the entresuleo.

The entresuleo. During those days, the farmhands and commoners were limited to the entresuelo.

The entresuleo. During those days, the farmhands and commoners were limited to the entresuelo.

the living room

the living room

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The house is being maintained by the Department of Tourism – – no entrance fee is stipulated but donations are welcome.

Villa Tortuga Taal, Batangas

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Villa Tortuga is a very special destination in Taal. I must admit I skipped it on my very first trip. But when I learned of their studio and the period clothes available for hire, I have kept coming back. I have brought my family twice, and three sets of friends on many different occasions. Each time, we were there for a single purpose: photography while wearing those clothes that made us look like we lived in those days. Especially when we finish the photos in sepia, even as we took them in full color using dslr camera. That is going ahead of the story, so I will post some of those sepia photos last.

Stairs to the living and dining, bedrooms. Downstairs is the studio

Stairs to the living and dining, bedrooms. Downstairs is the studio

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The house is right at the corner when coming from Caysasay Shrine as visitors head to the Heritage Village. Parking is available on an empty lot at the back, on the right side if you are facing Villa Tortuga. Entrance fee is P50, but another P200 will allow you to live in the past wearing clothes you can pick from a wide selection.

The Studio downstairs

The Studio downstairs

we took photographs in color

we took photographs in color

But our most loved photos were those we finished in sepia, like this one. The colored photo above was also rendered in sepia, making the subjets happier with the output.

But our most loved photos were those we finished in sepia, like this one. The colored photo above was also rendered in sepia, making the subjets happier with the output.

after setting up the camera on a tripod, I also took a "selfie", making sure I wasn't smiling - - - to be in character with the setting and the shirt I was wearing.

after setting up the camera on a tripod, I also took a “selfie”, making sure I wasn’t smiling – – – to be in character with the setting and the shirt I was wearing.

Like the other heritage homes, the house is furnished with old furniture. Guests can pre-book and arrange lunch within the villa. Enjoy the past while living in the present.

Agoncillo Mansion, Taal, Batangas

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Not as grand as Casa Villavicencio, but nevertheless as interesting. Some will argue it is probably more interesting. That is because the mansion has a lot of antique items, including a huge mirror that the caretaker, Mang Domeng, said has been the object of desire of a wealthy female politician from the north, making offers to buy this antiquity.

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everything old, including the chandeliers

everything old, including the chandeliers

the coveted huge mirror is NOT for sale

the coveted huge mirror is NOT for sale

This is the house of Gregorio Agoncillo, the same house where Felipe Agoncillo was born. Felipe’s bust  is prominent on the garden in front of the house. Gregorio Agoncillo married a daughter of Gliceria Villavicencio, the recipient of the “wedding gift house” now known as Casa Villavicencio. Gregorio’s sister is the second wife of General Emilio Aguinaldo. Thus, more than the old furniture, a trip to the Agoncillo White House (and the casa Villavicencio) is actually a lesson in Philippine history.

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the bedroom - - I hope to stay here one time

the bedroom – – I hope to stay here one time

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The caretaker Mang Domeng has become a personal friend. After my first visit when my friends and I donated P70 each for the tour, he has given me free access and exempt from the donation/fee – – – thinking I was probably a tourist guide since I take friends to Taal a lot, and to the Agoncillo mansion in particular. But even after I told him I just love Taal and so I bring friends, he still exempts me from the visit fee. And asks me to park my car inside the property. Thus, I am developing affinity for this house. One day, I could take him up on his offer for me to actually stay overnight for a longer experience of traveling back in time.

I love to sit in this rocking chair and just watch people go by.

I love to sit in this rocking chair and just watch people go by. My wife probably felt she was a modern day Maria Clara

It is easy to find the White House. You can walk to this mansion from the Taal Basilica.

Casa Villavicencio in Taal, Batangas

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This is the grandest of all Taal mansions, built as a wedding gift of a wealthy man to his wife from an equally prominent family. A tour of this heritage home customarily starts with a video showing the life and times of the lady of the house, Gliceria (Aling Eriang) Marella de Villavicencio, hailed belatedly as The Forgotten Heroine of the Philippine Revolution.

watching a video on the life of the Lord and Lady of the house

watching a video on the life of the Lord and Lady of the house

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It is a two storey house made mostly of the best Philippine hardwood mulawin and narra.  Like most houses in those times, the ground level is only used for storage of supplies, for their transport, and also where the workers wait to meet with their masters. Today, there is a long dining table and benches where visitors may be served a merienda of  anative chocolate drink, suman (rice cake), and bonete (a famous local bun). Entrance fee is P70 per head, P100 if inclusive of the snacks. Snacks are also sometimes served at the garden.

At P100 per head entrance fee, we had a hot native chocolate drink , suman (rice cake), and bonete (local bun). No snacks at P70 entrance fee

At P100 per head entrance fee, we had a hot native chocolate drink , suman (rice cake), and bonete (local bun). No snacks at P70 entrance fee

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the spacious and airy main lounge

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grand staircase

grand staircase

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the garden can be seen from below the stairs – – also a venue for the hot chocolate and rice cake snacks

 

A visitor will be awed by the beauty of this house and its restoration and maintenance, considering that this was built as a gift by Eulalio Villavicencio to Glicera on their wedding in 1871. Portraits of Gliceria and Eulalio done by the master Juan Luna still hang on the walls.

Casa Villavicencio is at 32 Calle Gliceria Marella, Taal, Batangas. Reservations for group tours can be made at 09178970263. Otherwise, visit the heritage town of Taal and knock on Casa Villavicencio’s doors.

Tampuhan Cafe and Bed& Breakfast

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Tampuhan Cafe was named after a painting of the great Juan Luna, a reproduction of which hangs on its walls. Owned by spouses Benj and Marj, this charming place offers meals as basic as tapsilog and pastas like carbonara and pesto tinapa. Lunch for three, with drinks, was less than P500.( I always pay full price for my meals and hotels so I can objectively review a place).

 

my pesto tinapa was great and sufficient for lunch

my pesto tinapa was great and sufficient for lunch

 

 

This is a cafe you would expect to find in a heritage town. There are the customary “batibot” chairs but what I found more interesting were the tables topped with glass using capiz windows painted white. Ingenious and very creative.

interesting cafe furniture

interesting cafe furniture

 

Upstairs are two rooms, with a third being furnished to receive guests. There is a common area for dining. All furniture from the rooms to the common areas make guests feel like they are traveling back in time. I did not stay for the night, but I learned that the rooms, airconditioned,  go for P850, breakfast included.  The toilet and baths are common for the guests, found at ground level.  One can say this is part of the heritage village experience – – – in my tours of the grand mansions, they did not have en suite bathrooms in those times.

Pretend like you are living in the past when you stay here

Pretend like you are living in the past when you stay here

the second room, each at P850, with breakfast. No aircon, with bathroom downstairs

The second room. Rooms cost P850, with breakfast, airconditioned. Bathroom are found downstairs

the common area for the B&B guets  - -  dine here or laze around

the common area for the B&B guets – – dine here or laze around

 

 

Tampuhan Cafe is between Villa Tortuga and the Basilica. Parking can be arranged by the owners at the vacant lot at the rear. The cafe/B&B is easy to find along the main street of this heritage town.

Easy to find Tampuhan Cafe on the main road, with those paintings of people in period costumes on the wall. Right beside Villa Tortuga.

Easy to find Tampuhan Cafe on the main road, with those paintings of people in period costumes on the wall. Right beside Villa Tortuga.

Caleruega

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Caleruega is probably known as the most popular wedding chapel around Tagaytay. It is much photographed, and the image of the chapel of Transfiguration is most likely etched on the visitor’s, or prospective visitor’s minds.

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But what exactly is Caleruega? Caleruaga is a town in Spain, the birthplace of St. Dominic de Guzman, father of the Order of Preachers. The Filipino Dominicans wanted to honot the legacy of their founder by naming this retreat destination in his honor.

Many people think of Caleruaga as a Tagaytay destination. It may very well be, because it is but two kilometers or so away, near Evercrest, in the town of Nasugbu, Batangas. Its topography and climate will indeed make the visitor think he is still in Tagaytay.

THE CENACULUM

The Cenaculum is the very first structure that one will see upon arrival at Caleruega. This is also the gateway to the Chapel of Transfiguration, and to the retreat center accommodations. I would advise visitors though to save the visit to the Chapel of Transfiguration for last. Toilet facilities are available inside the cenaculum.

The Cenaculum

The Cenaculum

It is advised that visitors park their cars around the fountain in front of the cenaculum from where they can start the short walk to the koi pond, the hanging bridge, and the tent chapel.  For tired legs, park benches are available on a shaded area near the parking slots. Toilet facilities are available inside the cenaculum.

Park here so you can make a quick exit when you are done with your visit.

Park here so you can make a quick exit when you are done with your visit.

Benches near the parking slots

Benches near the parking slots

WALKING AROUND CALERUEGA

From the car park, walk to the road on the right if you are facing the cenaculum. It is a beautiful walk, with interesting hand carvings representing the Stations of the Cross on what they call the Manaoag Drive. You will arrive at the beautiful koi pond surrounded by ferns and walkways, leading to the camping area and amphitheater.

Manaoag Drive Via Crusis

Manaoag Drive Via Crusis

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CROSS THE HANGING BRIDGE AND WALK UP TO THE TENT CHAPEL

The hanging bridge is lovely. The walk uphill to the tent chapel is easy, and I counted 100 steps. There are benches around for those who may get tired easily.

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walk up the hill from the bridge to the tent chapel

walk up the hill from the bridge to the tent chapel

the tent chapel of Transfiguration (not to be mistaken for the main chapel accessed from the cenaculum, which one should save for last)

the tent chapel of Transfiguration (not to be mistaken for the main chapel accessed from the cenaculum, which one should save for last)

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THE GARDEN CAFE
Walk back from the tent chapel via the same route taken going there. Relax and have a drink, or buy mementos at the Garden Cafe. Or visit  the lettuce greenhouse, and the plant nursery where you can buy seedlings.

 

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REMEMBER THAT IT IS A RETREAT CENTER

The pamphlet handed out to visitors define Caleruaga as a sanctuary amidst the beauty of nature where pilgrims are open to prayer, to creative transformation, and to Gospel values. While there are camping grounds, visitors must not, and can not use the grounds like they were camping near the beach. The whole complex is a No Smoking zone. Silence near the retreat centers is observed.

Silence Here please

Silence Here please

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gazekubo

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accommodations and facilities for retreatants

accommodations and facilities for retreatants

WHAT YOU CAME FOR: THE CHAPEL OF TRANSFIGURATION
From the cenaculum, take the door on the right and find the signages leading to the chapel. You will pass thru the retreatants accommodations (section just above). In front of the chapel is another famous icon: the sculpture named “Thy Will be Done”. Say a prayer or two inside the chapel. Or attend mass is one is scheduled.

The Chapel of Transfiguration.

The Chapel of Transfiguration.

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right in front of the chapel : Thy Will Be Done

right in front of the chapel : Thy Will Be Done

HOW TO GET TO CALERUAGA.

Visitors pay an entrance fee of P30 per head. Their phone numbers are +63 921 270 9890 and +63 921 830 4226.  To get there, I have searched online for a map and here is what I deem to be the best:

There is now a sign from the main highway on the right side, at the corner of Evercrest, that says CALERUEGA. Follow the road from there.

There is now a sign from the main highway on the right side, at the corner of Evercrest, that says CALERUEGA. Follow the road from there.

DRIVING DIRECTIONS.

Go to Tagaytay:

From Makati via SLEX (South Super Highway) take the Eton exit. Follow the TO TAGAYTAY signs and turn right after the Tagaytay Public Market towards the Tagaytay rotunda. Upon reaching the rotunda. Take the road going to Batangas and follow this map..

Alternatively, from Manila take the Coastal Road and take the Aguinaldo Hiw-Way passing thru Imus, Dasmarinas, and Silang and on to Tagaytay. Follow map.

From Tagaytay: take the road to Batangas until you reach the next town of Alfonso (where Tagaytay Royale and  Sonya’s Garden are). Immediately after Alfonso is the town of Nasugbu. Go past the “Welcome to batangas” sign. Drive on until you get to Evercrest where you will see, on your right, a CALERUEGA sign pointing to the left. Take that road on the left. You will see the entrance to Everecrest Hotel on your right. Drive past Evercrest, past the Don Bosco Chapel on a Hill, until you get to a crossroads. Take the right turn (there is also a Caleruega sign) and drive until the end of the road (before you reach the end of the road which is Caleruega, you will see hillside accommodations on  your left). The road stops at the entrance to Caleruega.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT: Take any bus that passes thru Tagaytay. These are buses destined for  Nasugbu, Balayan, Lian, Tuy or Calatagan. Get off at Evercrest in Batulao, Nasugbu, Batangas (the conductor can drop you there).Tricycle service is available at Evercrest entrance. Or hike 2 kilometers to Calerueaga..

you will drive past these hillside accommodations

you will drive past these hillside accommodations

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Explore Misamis Occidental

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BoyP Lakwatsa:

My good friend Zoom and I were talking about Ozamis and Oroquieta. His blog shows much more of the province – – spots that provide reason to explore these rarely visited destinations. His photos should convince travelers to skip the more popular sites and be rewarded with the experience of discovery. Wonderful !

Originally posted on Zoom Morales:

Sights and spots I found around Misamis Occidental.

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