Tag Archive: Heritage Houses

One of the oldest towns in Batangas province, and around the Philippines, is BALAYAN. Coined from the Visayan word “Balay”, meaning house, it is one of the first settlements in the country with trade dating back to the mid-14th century. It was already known as Balayan since 1394 till it was “inherited” by a certain Datu Kumintang, after whom the town was called until 1578. The Augustinian missionaries arrived in this town in 1575 , then followed by Franciscan missionaries who built a small stone church in 1579.

We began our tour of Balayan with a visit to this national cultural treasure. Balayan Church was under the administration of “Indio Clergy” since the 19th century. This sets it apart from the other heritage churches found around the country. Considered as the first church in Batangas, and likely in the whole Tagalog Region, its claim to fame ironically involves a furor not so long ago over a proposed construction of a McDonald’s outlet in the historic church grounds.

From inside the Church, we exited behind the altar out into a back courtyard. In one corner of this courtyard is a small chapel at the end of a passageway where we found some interesting art works.

Courtyard At The Back of the Church

I did not find any inscription and didn’t have the chance to ask how old this piece of art is. The intricate woodcarving is lovely, just as the image of Our Lady holding an Infant Jesus.

From the Church, we visited the ancestral house of Leo Martinez. I knew the name sounds familiar. He is now a local politician here, but I remember him as an actor from a now defunct TV comedy show of long ago.

Ancestral House of Leo Martinez

How about this for a door knob?

It is unfortunate that there was no tour guide to tell us more about the ancestral houses in this area. The house of Leo Martinez has a marker that says 1935, which renders it “new” compared to the ancestral house of Don Sixto Lopez just right across the street. You can view this older house from one of the wide windows of the Martinez house.

Ancestral House of Sixto Lopez in Balayan, Batangas

The oldest house in Balayan is that of Don Sixto Lopez, the Grand Old Man of Balayan. His house has wide windows framed by capiz shells, like many of the other ancestral houses to be found in the area. Lopes belongs to a rich illustrious family who owned vast tracts of sugarcane fields in Batangas. The house sits right across the ancestral house of Leo Martinez.

Not too many Filipinos are familiar with Sixto Lopez who belonged to the same generation as the great national hero, Jose Rizal. But some would be familiar with his high society granddaughter Diana Jean Lopez, and the equally famous if not more famous great grandchildren such as Claudia Bermudez (daughter of Diana Jean) and Nikki Prieto Teodoro(wife of Presidential candidate Gibo Teodoro, who is from another rich haciendero family, the Cojuangcos of Tarlac). Oh yes, you can say all these socialites certainly come with a lot of class, unquestionable pedigree and beauty genes!

House Across Leo Martinez' Ancestral House in Balayan

We could have visited this house too across the street lining the Martinez and Lopez ancestral houses. But it was closed as someone allegedly committed suicide just a few days before our visit. Yay! 😦

Shot of Sixto Lopez House, Taken From Leo Martinez' Ancestral House.

Just like Vigan and Taal, Batangas , Balayan is yet another colonial town reminiscent of our Spanish heritage. Many heroes hail from this town too, and as the oldest town in Batangas if not of the Tagalog Region, it has a lot of history begging to be told and retold. My fingers and toes are crossed that the the local authorities do their job to promote this town as another tourist destination.

I have just been to Taal, Batangas. Visited the Basilica of St. Martin de Tours, the Caysasay Shrine, the Sacred Well of Sta. Lucia, the Villavicencio Houses, Leon Apacible Museum, the Agoncillo Heritage Houses and Museums. You may have already read my blogs about the heirloom houses and the churches. Gorged on Tapang Taal and Panucha. But the prospect of eating home-cooked Tulingan and Adobong Dilaw beckons. And a visit to earlier-missed Villa Tortuga makes this next visit sooner than expected.

We almost dined here!

Inside Villa Tortuga

Home-Cooked Tulingan and Adobong Dilaw

The last time we visited, we dined in Taal Bistro. We considered lunch in full Filipiniana regalia in Villa Tortuga this time around. But my friend Alice has a cousin in Taal waiting to serve us a breakfast of Tapang Taal, Longganiza and Pancit. It didn’t stop there.

Sinaing na Tulingan

Adobong Dilaw

Home-cooked Tulingan (matched with bagoong made of tulingan innards – a first time! yummy) and Adobong Dilaw was scheduled for lunch. How can you resist that? (Thank you, Alice). It was all we could think about as we passed a number of heritage houses along Agoncillo Street. Just off the Villavicencio and Goco Houses , and right along the street leading to Taal Basilica, we had our lunch of Batangas delicacies. We only stopped eating these local dishes when we were served Turon. Hmmm, you can say we stopped eating to eat again and have our desserts – if there ever is such a thing. 🙂

Stairway to History

Villa Tortuga

Alice arranged this visit at the Villa Tortuga. Lovely house. And alas, I found a truly good tour guide in Taal, Batangas. Well, I met him in my earlier visit but he guided us only in a couple of heritage houses then. This time around, Rochie guided us around Villa Tortuga and even took our photos! His assistant Adrian is just as competent without saying much. Adrian knew just where to have us pose, arrange the folds of our skirts here and there, pin our baro’t saya wherever, and snap our pictures. Oh, we had a blast.

How hard can it be taking ur own photo dressed like this?

And here are ur LOLAS. Donya Victorina? Maria Clara? Sisa? No, don't answer that.

While I have already written about the heritage houses of Taal, Batangas (check out http://www.travelblog.org/Asia/Philippines/Batangas/Taal/blog-652149.html ) as well as the religious sites here, this experience deserves a separate blog. Our photos will tempt you to brand us either as Donya Victorinas, older versions of Maria Clara and Leonor Rivera, or a Sisa looking for her sons. Whatever. Eat your heart out. We had a blast!

Looking for her Ibarra. Or Crispin. 🙂

Thank you ladies, for a wonderful time. It may not be the best of time to visit and have fun, but we really had a hilarious day trip, didn’t we?

Those planning day trips not too far from Manila, try this. If you like, call Villa Tortuga : 7250819, 7254562 or 0917-8246900 for lunch and Taal tour. It’s actually easy to do, but you need to arrange to visit some heritage houses. Otherwise, you just admire them from outside.


This beats many a collector’s dream.  I am not sure whether to thank the collector,  to envy him, or what.



We accepted a friend’s invitation to spend the weekend in Pilar, Bataan and prepared ourselves for a somewhat dull weekend visiting the local market, Mt. Samat War Memorial Shrine in Pilar, Bataan,  and enjoying fresh fruits in season. “Ciudad de Acuzar” was not part of our itinerary. Neither have we even heard of this heritage town where the owner’s collections included many historical turn of the century houses, town hall, school and chapel!


Just 3 hours north from Manila


The drive  northwest of Manila via an expressway and paved roads  took more than 3 hours. Pilar is a sleepy town in Bataan.  Right beside a ricefield with a view of Mt. Samat, our host’s house promised a lot of rest , peace and quiet.  History lessons reminded us of the annual celebration of the “Fall of Bataan” in 1942.  Every April 9,  which was declared a public holiday,  we remember our fallen brothers who gallantly defended our land. The Shrine on Mt. Samat was built in loving memory of these brave Filipino and American soldiers who died  during World War II.  Along with the Fall of Bataan, this province also reminds us of  the famous  Death March from Bagac and  Mariveles, Bataan all the way to Capas, Tarlac. Rich in history,  it was ironic that what we remember most from our Bataan weekend would be the “heritage town” put up by a local land developer in Bagac, Bataan.


The “Old Town” Collection


Uprooted from various areas within the country were a small chapel, the entire turn of the century school building, and many ancestral houses to form part of the new “old town” representing Mr. Acuzar’s collections. This development inevitably invited many critics to scream foul, asserting that these historical landmarks are best left and preserved wherever they were. So much furor for the transfer of all these heritage structures to satisfy one man’s dream collection!  At the same time, there were also those who hail the transfer of all these ancestral and historical structures to one area with a good promise that the owner/collector will preserve the structures.  Though a private collection and property,  “Ciudad de Acuzar” is bound to attract a lot of attention, and likely curious visitors.



We saw a lot of activity in this heritage town during our visit, where men worked on cobble-stoned pathways and reassembled doors, windows and posts from some old near-forgotten buildings in some faraway place.  The restoration and reassembly of these old buildings in this single area begs a debate on the propriety of such a collection. Will these structures now be better preserved here , or best left where they were?  I have no answers to that.  I only know that I feel lucky  viewing all these “collections” in a single afternoon.  Ciudad de Acuzar may either be your heritage town or modern day theme park, depending on your take.  As they say,  the Philippines “spent 400 years in a convent, and 50 years in Hollywood”.  (That’s nearly 400 years under the spaniards, another 50 years of American rule)



By the way,  at the time I visited, the place is not open to the public.  The site is in this 60 hectare property somewhere in Barrio Pag-asa in Bagac town, 150 km from Manila, or a 2½-hr drive through NLEX and SCTEX.  Not sure, but I hear the Museum Foundation runs tours .   The property makes for  a good day trip.  Check out their link here.   

P.S.  The property was featured recently in a major daily. Here is the link.  

More photos can be viewed from my TravelBlog site. 

Silay’s Heritage Houses


Specter of Affluence From Bygone Era

Silay City, is less than an hour away from Bacolod City. Just a 30 minute drive. It is in the Philippines’ Western Visayas region and the flight took less than an hour from Manila. Because it counted many famous artists during its heyday, it was then dubbed the “Paris of Negros”. A number of heritage houses , mostly built at the turn of the 19th century, still exist, some remarkably well preserved, to this day.

It should be mentioned that Negros is the seat of the country’s sugarcane industry. Many sugarcane plantations flourished and brought wealth to a number of families here. In our country, they were called hacienderos, taken from the word “hacienda” which means a big plantation or farm. Hacienderos refer to their owners or the families who owned them. These days, whenever we meet landed gentry, rich elitist families, we are tempted to call them “hacienderos”.


The Heritage Houses of Silay City

Silay City enjoyed its Golden Age with the boom of the sugar trading industry. This is the period from 1880 to 1930. Many of our parents and grandparents were born during this period. The city oozed with wealth and enviable affluence. Children of many sugar barons enjoyed their fortunes which manifested in the number of beautiful ancestral homes in the city. Interestingly, this period was also marked by the country’s bid for independence from Spain. More interestingly, many of our national heroes and artists actually came from prominent families such as the barons from this part of the country. For a while, Silay City and its neighboring Bacolod City served as the hub for European artists and musicians. This atmosphere must have spawned the emergence, and prominence of many of our local artists and musicians in this part of the country.

Victorias Milling Company is about an hour away from Silay City. You’d better believe this, but it used to be the world’s biggest mill from 1960′s -70′s. No wonder then, right? After all, these hacienderos observed a regular schedule of work limited to just 6 months (planting season), and another 6 months of harvesting and spending their fortunes. Those 6 “idle” months must have invariably spelled “party season” for the rich and famous Ilonggo families. Naturally, the ancestral houses one finds here have big lawns and gardens, as well as grand receiving rooms complete with chandeliers and grand pianos . Imagine the parties they threw here when the scions of wealthy families must have grown tired counting their fortunes!

There are several ancestral houses just off the San Diego Pro-Cathedral along Rizal Street. One may opt to start a walking tour from here or from El Ideal Bakery, also along Rizal Street. Since we had an appointment for a guided tour at the Hofilena Heritage Home, we started our tour here. Hofileña Ancestral House is the repository of the private art collection of Ramon H. Hofileña. The exhibit includes the work of our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal , and a number of top artists in the country like Juan Luna, Hidalgo, H. R. Ocampo, Manansala, Joya, etc. We had the good fortune to have Mon Hofilena himself give us the guided tour of this lovely heritage house. Mon shared many historical trivia with us, peppered with some of his own personal history. There were many portraits of Mon in the second storey of the house, painted by some of his friends like Hechanova whom Mon thinks should have been given more recognition as a Filipino artist of note. The photos of the Hofilena ancestors and children were also all over the house, along with newspaper and magazine clippings featuring the accomplishments of the Hofilena children. Mon didn’t forget to also mention how he was the first Filipino male bikini model (he is now 77 years old) and showed us some of his nude paintings with “strategically located” post-its in case there are children in the tour group. *Wink Wink*

Not far from the Hofilenia House but not open to the public is this private home formerly owned by the family of Teodora Morada. The Dimacalis who bought this property restored, maintained and preserved the grandeur of this charming white colonial house. As with the Hofilenia residence, there was also the grand staircase where one imagines the debutante daughters of the former owners of this mansion walking down , resplendent in their designer gowns. Teeming with prosperity, many daughters from these wealthy families enjoyed this “introduction to society” (debut) by way of lavish parties celebrating their 18th birthday.

Balay Negrense is the ancestral mansion of the Gaston Family which has since been converted into a museum showcasing how sugar planters lived at the beginning of the century. The property has a huge front lawn , and a just as huge living room, and an even bigger second floor receiving room. Up on the second floor are the rooms, where canopied beds, antique Filipiniana costumes and other memorabilia are on display. You would even find collections of old dolls and other toys in what could have been a children’s room. (Museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday at 10:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m. Cinco de Noviembre Street Tel. No. 4954916.)

Bernardino Jalandoni House , now also a Museum, was built in 1908. This house showcases the affluence of Negros at the turn of the 19th century. All items on display are authentic period pieces. Interestingly, a grandson of Don Bernardino is a high-ranking leader of the country’s Communist Party. His name is Luis Jalandoni who is now exiled in the Netherlands. (It is located at Rizal Street with Tel. No. 4955093. It is open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.). Strolling along this same Rizal Street, one finds many more heritage gems which have since been converted into banks, eating establishments or other business offices. The entire Silay City is definitely one heritage town!

The Ruins. That’s how they call this former mansion built by Don Mariano in memory of his departed wife Maria Braga who died while giving birth to their youngest child in 1911. Sounds similar to the Taj Mahal of India? The Mansion pales in comparison to the Taj Majal, but its timeless elegance resonates of an era when sugar barons ruled the land. What is amazing about this place is that it was built right in the middle of the sugar plantation. With its many huge windows, the sugar barons of those days must have enjoyed a 360 degree view of their sugar plantation as the “sacadas” (paid farm hands) tilled the soil. This place is best visited at dusk. Pray there is no school group or big tour groups when you visit!

And then there are the eating places in Silay. El Ideal Bakery and Restaurant on Rizal Street, Silay City is one of the oldest restaurants in Silay or in Negros Occidental famous for guapple (guava and apple) pies, buko (coconut meat) pies and assorted delicacies. I have not stopped eating since I arrived here in Silay City, but I certainly made sure I had room for the guapple pie, lumpia ubod which are rolls with heart of palm fillings, batchoy (a very Ilonggo soup dish). El Ideal also has a “pasalubong center” (gift center) and some take outs include ibos (made from corn, wrapped in banana leaf like a suman), puto lanson (a kind of rice cake made from coconut meat), piayaya, and many more. Surely, a trip to Silay City is never complete without trying out these native delicacies! If your pockets are lined with wads of pesos, try the Showroom. Here is a place where souvenir items are put in a different class worth every cent of their price tags. The capiz serving trays, bags made from indigenous materials, hand-crafted and intricately-designed neck and ear pieces, as well as sugary and baked foodstuff make for a shopping sidetrip to remember or …. avoid.

Go check out this link too. More photos. 

La Gota de Leche


Skipping Manila? I know …. the sun and sand beckons in the beaches of Boracay. There’s serious diving in Palawan. You long to breathe the mountain air in Baguio and Benguet,  or simply go completely rustic in the northermost part of the country in Batanes. Or maybe you want to try your surfboards in Siargao or even check out the tarsiers and chocolate hills in Bohol.  For many, it’s the heritage sites in Vigan and Laoag in the Ilocos region, where one is transported in time to a colonial era.  The air is cleaner, less crowded, people likely less busy and thus friendlier, and board and lodging even cheaper in the islands south of Manila and the provinces north of Manila.


La Gota de Leche

And Then There’s Manila…..


I can’t blame you.  Manila is so congested, dirty in many parts of the city, and traffic is so bad.  I live in the better part of  Metro Manila not too far from the shopping malls and fancy restaurants  lining the streets of Makati.  I hardly venture out of Makati. In fact, it has been ages since I last got to the center of Manila where one finds Rizal  Park,  Intramuros with its city walls and Fort Santiago.  Whenever I have foreign visitors who have a day or a whole afternoon to spend in Manila, I would invariably bring them to Intramuros and Fort Santiago, and simply point out Rizal  Park as we pass this park along the way.  These 3 are the likely top tourist attractions in the city, but I’d say only because not too many write or talk about the other interesting historic sites in the metropolis.



No, it is not a secret.  We have heard of some of these places, even watched documentaries on television about them.  But perhaps not often  enough. Nor enough.  Many history books hardly talk about them too.  And as soon as we hear the heritage sites are in Quiapo,  many of us would either lose interest or feel not too brave to walk the streets there.   Sad but true.  And I am ashamed to admit it.


Quiapo Church




QUIAPO is best known for the Quiapo Church, the official “residence” of the Black Nazarene. Around the Church, one finds many hawkers selling religious articles side by side vendors selling “anting-anting” (charms, herbs, amulets, voodoo items) . Crossing the plaza towards the Church, one would likely meet “traders” who would not too subtly whisper the  dollar-peso exchange rate for those interested to change their precious dollars to Philippine pesos.  Mixing with the crowd are likely predators on the lookout for “innocent victims”.   You find them too in the streets of Madrid, Paris, Prague and Rome.  The bag snatchers and thieves.  Sadly, these characters kept many like me from visiting this place more often.


All That Chaos Towards A Center of Spirituality!

Garden View from Inside La Gota de Leche

La Gota de Leche


Amidst all the chaos, it is a pleasant surprise to find this corner of elegance.  A kind of class that soothes the nerves.   Like some oasis which quenches the thirst for some degree of tranquility.  


Literally means “drop of milk”.  This place was inaugurated in 1907 by then Governor-General, later US President William Howard Taft.  Designed by Arcadio and Juan Arellano, fathers of Philippine architecture, inspired by the Hospital of the Innocents, an orphanage in Florence designed by Brunelleschi, a renowned  Italian Renaissance architect.  As if to indicate what this structure stands for, there are decorative reliefs on pediments with images of infants.


Established as a clinic to address malnutrition concerns among the indigents, it was run  by the La Proteccion de la Infancia, Inc. This outreach organization was founded by philanthropist Teodoro R. Yangco in 1907. Records show the construction was completed in 1917 so that makes this building nearly a hundred years old.  You can say this organization was the country’s very first NGO or non-government organization.  A charity project dedicated to infants and young children, its operations involved the distribution of milk to indigent children. It further evolved to champion women’s rights as it also houses the “Kababaihan Laban sa Karahasan Foundation” (literally “Women Against Violence”). The charity organization exists to this day, and must take credits for the restoration of this building in 2002-2003, for which it was awarded the 2003 Heritage Award of the UNESCO Asia Pacific Heritage Award for Culture Heritage Conservation.


Located in 859 Sergio Loyola Street (parallel to Morayta Street), La Gota de Leche is very near the University of the East.  It almost sticks out like a sore thumb in the University Belt, in Sampaloc to be precise, in an  area hemmed in by sidewalk vendors, dilapidated buildings and smelly trash bins. But La Gota stands proud like an old contessa, with its cross-vaulted arcaded loggias, front garden and a non-functional water fountain.

Bahay Nakpil

Bahay Nakpil


Bahay means house.  This is the house of the Nakpils and Bautistas, built in 1914 Truth is the house should be called Bahay Nakpil-Bautista. Besides being a century-old house , its distinction lies in its being home to some of our heroes of the 1896 revolution.  Located in A. Bautista Street, just off Ramon Hidalgo Street,  the 2 Philippine flags and a marker in front of the house are the only tell-tale signs that it is a house of distinction.  Right beside it is another house, even older, which seems ready to collapse anytime. Both are of the “bahay na bato” architecture which literally means “house made of stone”, though structure is really that of an upper storey made of wood built over a stone foundation.  Typical of the bahay na bato, architect Arcadio Arellano incorporated Viennese Secession motifs into the making of the house. Oddly, the style was adopted after the family received a gift of Secessionist furniture such that the design of the house worked around the furniture motifs.


Street Scene @Bahay Nakpil


The house is owned and built by Dr. Ariston Bautista, a noted propagandist during the Philippine Revolution .  His wife was Petrona Nakpil, whose brother, Julio Nakpil, composed the secret society Katipunan’s patriotic hymns.  Katipunan was founded by Andres Bonifacio, who is married to Gregoria de Jesus.  Inside, there is a marker citing that this has also been home to Gregoria de Jesus, widow of working class hero Andres Bonifacio, who then married Julio Nakpil.  Bahay Nakpil-Bautista was also the place where the family operated its Plateria Nakpil which crafted many jewelry pieces highly prized by Manila’s elite at the time. As distinguised Quiapo families,  the house witnessed many social gatherings and concerts aside from being home to national heroes and artists. Continue reading