If you go to Taal and ask for directions to the Agoncillo heritage house, it might get a bit confusing. There is more than one Agoncillo house in Taal.
This is the house of Gregorio Agoncillo whose uncle, Felipe, was the lawyer who took part in the Treaty of Paris negotiations that led to the sale of the Philippines by Spain to America. Felipe’s wife, Marcela, was the “seasmtress” of the first Philippine flag.
Felipe’s wife, Marcela, was Marcela Mariño before her marriage. The Mariño mansion where the Philippine flag was sewn is also known as Agoncillo house because Marcela became an Agoncillo after her marriage and she became the most prominent member of the Mariño family.
Now, Marcela Agoncillo the flag seamstress is not the Marcela Agoncillo who became the second wife of Emilio Aguinaldo, the first President of the Philippines. Aguinaldo’s second wife, Marcela, was the sister of Gregorio Agoncillo.
Mariquita V. Agoncillo whose bust is featured above was the wife of Gregorio Agoncillo whose house we visited.
I’m not a fan of antiques but old houses intrigue me primarily because of the architecture. This heritage house of Gregorio Agoncillo is typical of houses of wealthy families circa 1800s and earlier.
It’s a typical Bahay na Bato with a stone or brick lower level and a hardwood upper level.
The family area is located on the second floor. The ground floor houses the kitchen and storage.
To better appreciate the architecture of the period, think of the typical Bahay na Bato as a fusion of the indigenous pre-Spanish bahay kubo (nipa hut) and the architecture that the Spaniards introduced into the Philippines.
With the tropical heat, Spanish-style houses would have cooked the occupants like chicken in a hot oven. So, the use of stone and wood in place of bamboo and grass like cogon was adopted but with modifications.
Ventilation being a primary concern, ceilings were high and windows were wide and a-plenty.
Sliding windows were made with capiz shells (the luminous interior of oyster shells). It was a standard of houses built during the latter part of the Spanish colonial period.
(I like the rustic feel of capiz. I love its luminous translucence and how no two pieces are ever exactly alike. I like how it allows just enough light to filter into a room but not flood it. I especially love the combination of capiz and hardwood. So homey. So comforting. I once lived in a house with capiz shell windows. The problem is I have no memories of those early days. I was an infant and I only know about the capiz window panes from photos. It was my grandparents’ old house. I have photos of my grandfather, grandmother, father, mother and aunt — with me in their arms — taken at various parts of the house and garden. And the windows were lovely. Just like the windows of the house of Gregorio Agoncillo.)
Interior walls that separated rooms often featured decorative slats that helped air to circulate better.
Bedrooms were, oh, so large, but then it was the practice back then for siblings to share a bedroom.
De-forestation was not yet a serious threat nor concern. Furniture, including china cabinets and armoires, were made of solid hard wood and, often, decorated with hand carvings. Even the flooring was solid wood planks.
The house of Gregorio Agoncillo in Taal, Batangas is a great starting point to learn the history of Philippine architecture. Immersing in its ambience is a good way to imagine what it must be like to live in a bygone era.