Monday, December 23, 2013


All of these stuffed turtles are antiques. 
The entresuelo of Villa Tortuga

I first visited Taal in the 1980s, and it was love at first sight. What's not to like? The beautiful cathedral, imposing homes, friendly people, and cheap barongs. With each subsequent visit, my liking for the town remains undiminished. It was therefore a welcome treat to have been invited by a friend to an excursion (is this word even used still?) to one of Lito Perez' heritage bed and breakfasts, Villa Tortuga (Turtle House, so named after the river turtles that, up to now, nest in Lito's yard). The house is beautifully preserved, and further embellished with Lito's personal collections of old photographs, frames, glassware, furniture, and friends.

Before lunch was served, we had a trip putting on colonial costumes and having our photos taken at Villa Tortuga's studio. Lito has an aunt who owned a photo studio and he was lucky enough to have salvaged a lot of the studio's furniture and fittings. This kodakan session is part of the Taal Heritage Tour that Lito conducts for tourists. 

We were served lunch featuring tilapia (which no Bisaya of my generation eats), and heirloom recipes like adobo sa turmeric, pinasingawan na gulay at manggang hinog, and baboy sa piña, with suman Taal with chocolate eh as dessert. It was made into an even more decadent feast with the addition of really delicious relleno, crispy ulo ng baboy and kalabaw ice cream with buko pandan, brought by Freddie Santos.
Lito's antiques collection is formidable, and this tureen is still used, not just displayed 

We were longing for a post-prandial nap, but there was just so much to see. We went to Ramon Orlina's Taal home, the ground floor of which has been converted into a gallery. Maestro Orlina, whose mother is Taaleña, supports local artists by opening his gallery gratis to them. What a guy.

Maestro Ramon Orlina's art gallery.

Typical of old Filipino homes, only the second floor is used as the residence. 

Then we went on to the house of Marcela Agoncillo, who sewed the first Philippine flag. Lito was of course our tour guide, and he was very informative and insightful. He fielded our questions (Hong Kong was a popular destination for Filipino exiles because of its proximity and the welcoming attitude of the British) and filled us in on our Philippine history.

Lito Perez conducting the intro to the Marcela Agoncillo tour. In the background
 is a resin sculpture of the three women sewing the first Philippine flag. 

A window at the Agoncillo house

Main sitting area of the Agoncillo residence
We then had coffee (barako, of course!) at Tam-puhan Café that had framed magazine covers of old print ads. And scary frames of a childhood chant.

Our final stop was Casa Victrola, another bed and breakfast, before we finally left for Tagaytay for the second stop of our excursion.

Mabini by Warhol x Casa Victrola

It would be cool if the Victrola would be restored to working condition

For inquiries on these tours, please call Lito Perez at 09279751683. 

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