We are the architect of our own happiness and sadness.
Recently, I met a balikbayan architect who restored one of the interesting, beautiful living spaces and heritage houses in Taal, Batangas. His works essentially breathe life to the words of Alice Walker - “whenever you are creating beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”
He is Arch. Robert Arambulo and his masterpiece – the Villa Severina.
The century-old bahay na bato was originally built in 1870. It used to be the residence of a prominent family in Taal during that time – the Nobles. They inherited it from their aunt, Severina Atienza. The house was named in her memory.
Robert, who previously worked in the US and Singapore, acquired the house in a dilapidated state. But with his innate talent, he slowly restored the house into its former glory, retaining its Old World charm and infusing French-Asian classic and contemporary design. After its completion in 2010, he turned it into a bed and breakfast place.
The exterior of the house has that monotone colors as inspired from Singapore Black and White House.
Over the thorny cactus is a noticeable signage of the house.
Upon entering the gate, I’m glad to see inside a small garden with pine tree and Dona Luz.
Robert converted the original silong into a downstairs living room, kitchen and bedrooms. But he kept the tree trunks, which served as structural posts.
Every nook and cranny of the house is adorned with beautiful furniture pieces, which Robert has amassed through the years. The original stone landing of the grand staircase was kept, as well as the yakal wooden stairs.
The second floor living room is a sight to behold with the sliding capiz windows, velvet curtains, traditional rocking chair, black and white Wassily chairs, entertainment box designed with New York skyline, Chinese wedding cabinet, miniature galleon, religious statues, plasma TV, antique telephone, family portrait paintings, photos and mementos. The interiors is alluring, eclectic; a mishmash of things old and new; a blend of the East and West; a convergence of the past and the present.
There are three designer suites, romantic and idyllic but each distinct with their own elegance and flair. They were named after cities and colonies of France, all of them Robert visited and fell in love with.
The French boudoir-inspired Paris Room is burning in red, perfect for honeymooners. The room’s passionate color reminds me of Moulin Rouge; while the masquerade ball masks hint of Fifty Shades.
A local rendition of Pierre-Auguste Cot’s “The Storm”, is hanging on the wall. How lovely!
I found a copy of a coffee table book about the real Filipino Four Sisters. At some point, they were also scheming but they love one another and supported their only brother become the country’s highest elected official.
Hanoi Room has that relaxing-Indochine feel with its lime-colored walls and accents, two-poster bamboo bed and Vietnamese artworks. The room’s atmosphere conjure images of the verdant rice fields of the former French colony.
The all-white Martinique Suite, the biggest among the rooms, has that tropical Carribean vibe reminiscent of France’s insular region. It has a king-size bed and a singe bed, good for family. I particularly love the room’s ceiling with a mural of a sunset.
The shared bathroom is very spacious with earthly colors, enhanced with art wall decors and jars. It’s rustic yet has modern amenities.
Guests could use the kitchen for free. This time, I get to cook again my favorite Taal dish – the tapang Taal. Next to Rodic’s, tapang taal is my favorite.
The house has a nipa hut-lanai with rattan chairs and daybed for lounging. It also serves as the al-fresco dining area, where the complimentary breakfast of longganisa, scrambled eggs and coffee and fresh juice, is served.
This is also where the adorable Nikita, the house shih-tzu naps and plays most of the time.
Taal is a living heritage town; but since I’ve already visited this town countless times, I decided to visit its neighboring town San Luis.
San Luis, which used to be part of Taal, is a quiet, coastal community. Its main historical attraction is the old stone church - the San Isidro Labrador Parish Church.
I also hit the nearby beach, which is a 10-minute walk from the church.
While waiting for the sun to set, I saw local children play by the shore. They were carefree, friendly too.
The sunset that day was ethereal.
The moment was picture-perfect except that I can’t choose what stays and what goes away.
From Manila, take a Lemery-bound bus (bus stations in Buendia or Cubao) and get off at Flying V Gas Station along Diversion Road in Taal. Take a jeepney or tricycle (going to Taal town proper and Lemery) and get off at Villa Severina. Tricycles and jeepneys are available in Taal going to San Luis.
Villa Severina Bed and Breakfast
#55 Calle Vicente Ilustre, Poblacion
Tel. No.: 0917-5018060