August 29, 2016


All you need to endure this world is a memory of love. And sometimes pain… the pain that reminds you that you made it thru.

Given the proliferation of rice terraces scattered all over Cordillera, I can say that I’ve never seen such grandeur and unparalleled beauty compared to that of Batad’s amphitheater rice terraces. I simply fell in love with it at first sight. A UNESCO World Heritage site built by bare hands more than 2,000 years ago, Batad is almost like that elusive Shangri-la. It may be a picture-perfect postcard, but getting there is another story, perhaps one for the books.

I’ve read online that one can hire a tricycle from Banaue to Batad for just P150. When I inquired at Banaue’s Tourism Office, they told me that the standard rate is P700 one way, good for 3 persons. But since I was travelling solo, I just decided to ride the jeepney, which leaves Banaue at 2 pm. Fare is P50 for the locals, and P150 for tourists. I was the only tourist passenger. (Later on I will meet fellow tourists at my homestay who rented tricycles. A couple got one for only P300, while another group got it for P1,200. So the fare really depends on your haggling skills.)

It took us about 40 minutes to reach Batad. Maswerte na nga ang mga pumupunta ngayon because the road is paved all the way to the new jump-off point, which is about 15-minute walk to the Batad Tourist Registration Area. Before, everyone needs to alight from the Saddle Point, and walk all the way down to village which takes more than an hour.

May nanligaw na kaagad na guide sa akin sa jeep pa lang. At ilang minutes lang napa-oo na agad ako kay Ate Perlita. She gave me a rate of P700 going to Tappiya Falls and Batad View Deck.

But before, we proceeded with the tour, I checked in first at Kuya Ramon’s Homestay. This is one the few homestays that offer fale or traditional huts and an authentic Ifugao cultural immersion. The huts, which costs only P500/night for solo, are decorated with animal skulls (animals are usually offered to their deities during their annual rituals). Every night, Kuya Ramon gathers all his guests around a bonfire for storytelling about the history, traditions, customs, and beliefs of Ifugao. Napaka-bait at napaka-down to earth ni Kuya Ramon. He loves to entertain guests. His niece also serves one of the best tinolang manok (cooked with lots of turmeric) I tasted my whole life. I had it for dinner. And ordered it again for breakfast the next day.

Ate Perlita brought me first to the view deck, passing thru rice paddies. On the way pa lang, I was already awed with the majestic beauty of the rice terraces. It was harvest season, so everything glistens in yellow and green. The mountain ranges as its backdrop adds more drama to its panoramic landscape.

From the view-deck we proceeded to Tappiya Falls. They say that the only time you can finally say “I survived Batad” is if you’ve reached and conquered its waterfalls. It’s a steep, arduous downhill trek (with twice the difficulty of getting out). Pero nung nasilayan ko na yung falls, promise nawala ang pagod ko. At kahit sobrang lamig ng tubig, syempre hindi ko na rin pinalampas ang maligo. If you ask me kung mahirap ba marating ang falls, I would say kasing-hirap ng Math 17. Dahil ginapang ko sya pabalik. Sabi ko kay Ate Perlita baka malumpo na ako pauwi.

The next day, despite my body and leg pains, I still went down in the main village to see the church and a day in the life of the locals.

Batad is not only a place. It is actually an experience - a tiring but rewarding experience.

I made some friends along the way and learned a lot about Ifugao culture. I wanted to stay until the afternoon but then again, I need to catch up the lone 9 am jeepney trip back to Banaue. It was another 20-minute grueling, gradually ascending trek back to the jump-off point. But I keep reminding myself about this Thought Catalog quote “Promise yourself that you will not become someone who ends up with a life that doesn’t match up with all they know it could be” until I saw the parked jeepney, about to get full. I didn’t get inside. Instead, nag-top load ako. As the jeepney started to ascend, it feels like this is another Hell Raiser ride. Oh no… not again.

How to get to Batad and tips:
1. Ride Ohayami night bus bound for Banaue (terminal station is in Sampaloc, Manila).
2. Upon arrival in Banaue the following morning, hire a tricycle going to Batad (P500 one way is already a good deal – good for 2-3 pax). If you opt to take the 2 pm jeepney ride to Batad, better tour around Banaue first.
3. Get a guide at the jump-off point or registration area (P800 is the regular rate). Kung nagtitipid, just follow where the tourists are going or ask the locals for directions to the view deck or the falls.
4. There are so many homestays in Batad. Reservation I think is not that needed unless it’s a Hoy Week or a long summer weekend. Better stay at Kuya Ramon’s (0929-6124423, 0926-5187360) for an authentic Batad experience. 

August 24, 2016

Villavicencio Wedding Gift House Bed and Breakfast

“When I count all the gifts I received in life, I count you twice.”

Had Eulalio Villavicencio uttered those words to his young bride Gliceria Marella on the eve of their wedding, I bet she might have swooned with so much kilig. But the Don was more of “man of action” than “words”. He sealed his promise of forever to the one woman he loved by giving her a house. Not just any ordinary house but a grandiose, stunningly beautiful one that was an envy of many. 

It was in 1871. And more than a century hence, the house now popularly known as “Casa Regalo de Boda” or “Wedding Gift House” still remains the most gorgeous, most vibrant, and most nostalgic among the two dozen remaining ancestral houses of Taal. I swear. 

It was a dream come true to finally spend a night, pretending to be an Ilustrado, in my most favorite traditional Spanish-colonial bahay-na-bato in the historic town of Batangas. The house was built in 1870 and was originally owned by two of the wealthy funders of Philippine Revolution – Don and Doña Villavicencio – both hailed from Taal’s affluent families with businesses in shipping and sugarThe latter is even known as the forgotten heroine in Philippine history. She and her husband strongly supported the Revolutionary Movement, helped disseminate copies of the fiery periodical La Solidaridad to inspire Filipinos to rise up against Spaniards, and donated funds to Rizal in 1892 as their personal tribute to the propaganda movement. For her heroic contributions, she was named “The Godmother of the Revolution” as declared by Emilio Aguinaldo in Kawit, Cavite during the Independence Declaration in 1898.

The house has witnessed not only Spaniard colonization. During the American occupation, it served as a hospital for wounded American soldiers. Though it has survived World War II and natural calamities, the house became derelict. The surviving heirs, particularly Jocelyn “Joyce” Villavicencio Joven-Quiblat (fourth generation of Villavicencios) with the help of her husband, led the house restoration which started in 1998 and lasted until 2003. The house now serves as a museum and a bed and breakfast place.  

The entresuelo or ground floor has beautiful intricate patterned Portuguese azulejo tiles.

A guestroom and showroom on the ground floor features some of the vintage collection of the family such as original edition copies of Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo, a Remington typewriter, and a miniature replica of SS Bulusan. The family-owned steam ship was donated by Gliceria to General Emilio Aguinaldo and became the first warship of the Katipunan.  

The main wooden staircase is not the typical 13 steps. And I’m not sure if the last step falls under oro, plata or mata.

But it leads to a caida or foyer where the replica twin portraits of the couple (painted by Juan Luna) still seem to guard over the house. The whole upper floor has sunny bright and beautiful interiors – the walls and ceilings are mainly painted yellow and enhanced by curlicues, fleur-de-lis patterns and murals designed by historian Sonny Tinio. They look so warm, playful and whimsical, very pleasing to the eyes.

The design extends to the sala furnished with life-size mirror, chandelier, figurines, tables and art nouveau chairs with carved faces, paintings, lamps and grand piano - a showcase of fine elegance and opulence reminiscent of Victorian era. The living room also has wall-to-wall sliding capiz windows and box like balconies overlooking a courtyard.

The cuarto principal has a charming four-poster bed, a study area and a prayer nook filled with numerous religious figurines and a mesa altar with Virgen del Rosario.

Connecting to it is a smaller but equally exquisite room with enchanting bamboo and butterfly wall design. It is also equipped with an American period toilet. Since it is a wedding house, the room is quite perfect for honeymooners.

A much bigger family room could occupy seven and more.

Staying overnight comes with a hearty Taal breakfast in the comedor. The dining room has a long mahogany table that could fit a family or group of 12. It is usually Ate Raquel, the wonderful caretaker, who personally prepares the rich and thick mainit na tsokolate, and the sumptuous tapang Taal and daing, with rice and eggs.

Ate Joyce also allowed me to cook tapa and longganisa (I bought from Gerry and Lheen), in the adjoining azotea.  

From the mirador or viewdeck, one could see the rooftop of the neighboring Casa Villavicencio, the original house of Eulalio when he was still single.

The courtyard has a landscaped garden with a gazebo. But what’s really fascinating are the vines that have find their way to the walls up to the windows, perfectly framing the side house exterior.

I imagine the couple, so young and still in love in a time so uncertain and precarious.

I remember Mark from NHCP telling me that before Gliceria married Eulalio, she was already promised thru an arranged marriage to Felipe Agoncillo. She almost gave her heart to someone else. She almost ended up with someone she didn’t love, and who didn’t love her in return.

Oh well, when did the course of true love ever run smooth?

Villavicencio Wedding Gift House
#32 Calle Gliceria Marella
Taal, Batangas
Tel. No.: 0917-8970363