Travel Magazine

Villa Tortuga: Back to the Time of Elegance

By Ian_delapena
Step back into the 19th century and relive the era where elegance was part of everyone's daily living in the Philippines.
I was invited to Taal, Batangas' first ever El Pasubat Festival and I was so excited to see the town, as I have heard that they have beautiful heritage houses.
I took the Jam bus in Buendia, Makati and arrived at the bus terminal in Lemery, Batangas at about 7PM. The bus usually passes by the Taal town proper but due to the festival, the local government closed the main road. I then negotiated with a tricycle driver for a special trip (50 pesos) to where we will be staying for the night in taal.
The driver thought that I was a local and I on the other hand thought that he knew where I was going. I told him to take me to Marcela Agoncillo's house as the place we will be staying is just three houses from the said landmark.
As we were driving around, it was sad to learn that most of the people that we asked for directions didn't knew where the house actually is.
We drove around a little more and finally we found it. Welcome to Villa Tortuga!
Villa Tortuga is an old Andalusian type house situated beside the Pansipit River. The name of the house came from the Spanish word "Tortuga" which means Turtle in English. This is because it is said that turtles lives on the river beside it, and true enough some of the staff of the house caught a turtle in the river earlier during the day, they then set the turtle back to the river the following day.
I knocked at the door of this completely unassuming house. I started thinking that no one could hear me from where i was, so I decided to go inside the property since the gate was open. I started to call attention again and fortunately Mr. Rogie Reyes was able to hear me. He then told me to go upstairs.
As I enter the main door a grand staircase welcomed me. Filled with big shells on the side this grand stair case leads up to the main floor of the house.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
Most, if not all Andalusian houses in the Philippines have their main floors on the second level while the lower floors are used to house the garage and may also house grains from the farm.
Once upstairs I was overwhelmed with the interiors of the house. It felt like I was transported back in time where people really takes time to make their houses beautiful.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
As I set my feet on the upper level I was greeted by a beautiful round table in the receiving area. The walls of the hall was adorned with old photographs inside elaborately designed frames which are part of the owner's collection.
The house has antique furnishings and decorations including old statues of saints that adds up that old world charm to the house
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
The house was lit by beautiful chandeliers and wall lighting fixtures. The lighting of the house really made me feel that I was as if transported back to the time of the Spaniards.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
I waited for a while for my friends to come back from the town plaza where they walked around. After a while they arrived. Our gracious host, fashion designer Lito Perez showed us or room. At this point I still can't take the smile out of my face, I was still overwhelmed.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
Our host took us to a couple of heritage houses known as "Bahay sa Kanluran" of the Orosa's and "Casa Conchita" of the Alcasid's. After our short tour of the houses we went back and retire for the night.
The following morning was the day of the Festival Parade. We got up early to catch the morning parade on the street. The parade was good since it was the first time that they ever held such event in Taal, but I'm sure that the next one would be great.
Right after the parade we went back to the villa to eat breakfast for energy that we very much need for the Visita de las Casas activity.
They highlight of the day was our colonial lunch. We ate at the main dining room of the villa complete with native and Spanish dishes.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
I specially love the cooked tawilis on tomato. The table was so elegant that all of us took pictures of it before we sit on the tables.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance
The house was also part of the Visita de las Casas activity of the festival. So we dressed up on 19th Century colonial clothing to portray a tableau of a 19th Century gathering and it was a lot of fun playing our roles.

Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

The author seated second from the left (in white)

The villa has a souvenir shop and photo studio which houses dozens of costumes that you can wear while eating to emulate that old world feel or maybe just take a family photo.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

As a photographer my self, I couldn't pass the opportunity to shoot a couple of frames, I could not resist, the setting was perfect!
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

I wandered around the house to admire the classic pieces in the villa. There are pieces that dates back to our ancestors of which I am grateful that they have been preserved.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

After the houses' owner's presentation for the Visita de las Casas, we went back to our regular clothes to tour  other heritage houses. As I step outside the house I observed that there are still a number of heritage houses lining the street.
Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

Villa Tortuga: Back to the time of elegance

Our day ended after touring the old heritage houses and visiting the old tall town just beside the lake.
I had a feeling that the house was too familiar for me so I asked the owner of the villa if the house has been featured in a Sunday night and as expected I was right, the house was indeed featured.
If you want to enjoy and relive a mestizo or maybe an illustrado's life even just for a day, stay at Villa Tortuga.
You may contact Joel Aldor

Unit 3, #8225 Vicmar Bldg., Constancia St.,Brgy., Olympia, Makati City 1207Mobile +639174797015

But for now, enjoy this episode of UrbanZone where the house was show

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