Vintage Vogue at Villa Tortuga

Taal, Batangas, the Philippines

April 30, 2011

What better way to make history come alive than to wear it? I couldn’t pass up putting on the past when I got the chance.

The heritage town of Taal lends itself to a little historical cosplay. A few hours south of Manila, the town could well be a century away after a quick costume change. Generally regarded as the center of Tagalog culture, Taal has preserved its tangible and intangible heritage, such as ancestral houses, traditional local cuisine, cottage industries, and one Baroque church, the largest in Asia.

Period Costume Photo Shoot at Villa Tortuga, Taal

One such heritage house is Villa Tortuga. The name was derived from the Spanish word for turtle, which thrived at the banks of Pansipit River that flows behind the house. Built in the 19th century, this bahay na bato (stone and wooden house) has been restored and converted into a bed-and-breakfast by fashion designer Angelito Perez. As an added attraction, he established the Villa Tortuga Colonial Tour, a day-long affair that includes heritage house hopping, a traditional luncheon, and a period photo shoot.

Lito Perez of Villa Tortuga with friends Rogie Reyes (L) and Edgar Madamba (R)

Lito, as he is fondly called, rolled out racks of colonial-era costumes he had amassed in his decades-long career in the fashion industry. He picked out a white suit for me, the fabric starched to crease-free perfection. I gamely donned the turn-of-the-century outfit, which was stiff, stuffy, and preposterously ill-suited to this hot and humid country, especially at high noon in high summer. The voluminous fabric effectively restricted movement of the typically free-spirited Filipino.

Strike a Period Pose @ Villa Tortuga, Taal

A jabot tie (a ruffled bib secured around the neck) and a color-coordinated Panama hat completed the ensemble. The attire and accoutrements ascertained that only my face and hands were exposed. Such clothing dictated by Western decorum fit for frigid European weather felt rather stifling in tropical summer, despite the air-conditioned sala of Villa Tortuga. I would only cover up in this manner for special occasions, but turn-of-the-century Filipinos concealed their discomfort – and their skin color – on a daily basis. Our loincloth-clad ancestors must have felt likewise sartorially smothered in colonial clothing!

A Brown Man in a White Suit

Clergy with a Cross: Even the Devil Wouldn’t Recognize Him

Fellow bloggers Joel and Ian, the Brown Man, played dress-up with me. Ian was a study in anachronism in his all-white number and Mohawk ‘do with an unwieldy DSLR strapped to his neck. Joel portrayed a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing friar to the hilt, cloaked in a shimmering red robe and brandishing a cross over the devilish grin on his face. Another tour group joined us in the period photo shoot. The women dressed up as Maria Clara, the quintessential Filipino woman, in that distinctive striped gown and embroidered chemise, coyly hiding their smile behind their calado fans. A trio of men was practically incognito as monks in brown hooded robes. It was a virtual dress rehearsal for Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere.

Dramatis Personae @ Villa Tortuga

After the photo shoot, the group gathered at the comedor for a luncheon of local cuisine: pork adobo contained in a hollow halved pineapple and gourmet tulingan (mackerel) in sliced tomatoes, among other scrumptious dishes. Dessert came wrapped in banana leaf – suman sa lihiya (a kind of glutinous rice cake), which went down well with a cup of tsokolateng binatirol (hand-whisked chocolate). At Villa Tortuga, we not only wore history, we also ate it.

Table Setting @ Villa Tortuga

Shredded Tulingan (Mackerel) in Sliced Tomato

Pork Adobo with Pineapple

A special shout-out goes to Rogie Reyes, one of the prime movers in Taal Active Alliance Legion, who cooked up this celebration of local cuisine and history. Even the servers’ uniforms were consistent with the period theme.

Flanked by Flappers @ Villa Severina in Taal

Harana @ Villavicencio Ancestral House in Taal

It was the weekend of the first El Pasubat Festival in Taal. All of the town’s heritage houses were buzzing with activities. I found myself flanked by flappers in Villa Severina and regaled by barong-clad young men serenading a damsel under the watchful eye of her mother, both wearing baro’t saya, in the Villavicencio House. Young couples in Filipiana garb performed traditional dances at the front lawn of the Agoncillo Heritage House.

In all these houses, I was a witness to the past, as it were. But only in Villa Tortuga was history a sensuous experience, where the past took on texture, taste, and volume; where our cultural tradition felt like second skin.

Silhouette on Capiz @ Villa Tortuga

For inquiries and reservations, please call or text Lito Perez at +63 927 975 1683.

About these ads

43 thoughts on “Vintage Vogue at Villa Tortuga

    • Muchas gracias, Señor San Miguel! I can totally see you strutting your colonial stuff here. You and your “byaheros kulang sa budjei” should visit. It’s not expensive, tama lang sa budjei. :)

    • They serve breakfast, but not the bed. :D Local delicacies like tulingan are usually served for lunch. Though delish, the food is really secondary. The chance to wear period costumes is the highlight for me.

    • I grew up in an ancestral house so I don’t find them creepy. :) And Villa Tortuga didn’t have that hair-raising vibe.

  1. shredded tulingan in tomato, wow, sarap. Wearing the period clothes and be able to see the ancestral house plus a photo shoot is something is really something.

  2. Buenos Dias! I’ve been to Taal recently and there are many beautiful houses made from the Spanish period. And literally in a creative way, I really appreciate your visit in Villa Severina and Villa Tortuga because of their Spanish era lifestyle as well with the Filipino food.

    • A walk in the past is not necessarily a walk in the park. :D Yes, there’s not a small amount of discomfort. The silky fabric also irritated my skin. I remember in high school I refused to wear our gabardine uniform for the same reason. I ended up defying the dress code for all 4 years by wearing cotton, haha!

  3. Another mini-time travel for me today. Earlier i saw the home of a Filipino hero and I said, it feels like ‘nag-time travel’ ako. And now I saw these images, the house, the costumes etc. It feels good to see them all. Thanks!

  4. It’s good to travel back to the past, back when the culture’s rich and the people act so noble… today, it’s less uptight and carefree but our past should always be remembered… nice photoshoot!

  5. WOW! The closest that I could ever see anyone in these vintage, Filipino costumes would have to be from my visits of ‘plays’ back in college! I remember vividly, Romnick Sarmienta role playing as Jose Rizal. So epic!

    • Perhaps that’s because I am a young haciendero. Hahahaha wish! ;)

      T.Rob said you guys are interested in bringing your Korean students there. Dunno if the rates have been updated, but here goes (thanks to Pinoy All Occasions):

      Maximum capacity for Lunch/ Dinner- 50 pax.
      Maximum Capacity for Overnight Stay- 10 pax. (2 rooms available)

      Rates:
      A. DAY TOUR PACKAGE (10AM -4PM)
      – Lunch (5 Course Meal)
      – Costume for each guest.
      – Photo Pictorial
      – Free 5”x7” Sepia Photo ( to be mailed)
      – Guided Tour of Taal
      Price: P1,500.00/ Adult
      P750.00/ Child below 10 yrs

      B. Full Day Tour with Overnight Stay
      – Includes Day Tour ( Starts at 1:30PM)
      – Costume for each guest
      – Dinner ( 5 Course Meal)
      – Overnight Stay
      – Breakfast
      Price: P 2,000.00/ Adult
      P 1,000.00/ Child below 10 yrs

      C. House visit only – Entrance Donation is P50.00/ person

    • Yep, start ‘em early in history appreciation outside of books and classroom discussion. I think they’d have fun playing dress-up. And for a discounted fee!

    • It was the first time I had a jabot on (mom calls it an ascot though; never know the difference). I guess an advantage for older men was that it hid their sagging necks. But I suppose it trapped heat under the shirt. I wouldn’t have liked to wear it if I lived during that era. :D

  6. Thanks for sharing the rates; was about to ask that! Sounds like I have to be there next year for the El Pasubat! Taal was quiet when we dropped by last week.

    • Oh, El Pasubat is far from quiet. The festivities included an Erik Santos mini-concert at the plaza at night and a parade of fruity floats the next day. It was fun, but IMHO, Taal is best appreciated on quiet days.

    • You said it. Those were climate-inappropriate clothes! At least, my discomfort put a smile on your face. I read your Villa Tortuga post as well. Colonial tours are more fun in the Philippines! :)

  7. Good morning. Do you have the number so we can make an earlier reservation for three…overnight stay. If ever we’ll come from Cavite, what time is the best time to check-in? Am i right to assume that we can enjoy the whole package by getting there Saturday morning and checking -out Sunday?

    • Call Lito Perez at 0927 975 1683 for reservations. Yes, get there Saturday morning (maybe 9am) so you can also have the period pictorial and lunch. Take the heritage tour around Taal in the afternoon, and check out Sunday. That would be perfect. Thanks for your interest. Enjoy!

    • These are last year’s rates:

      Rates:
      A. DAY TOUR PACKAGE (10AM -4PM)
      – Lunch (5 Course Meal)
      – Costume for each guest.
      – Photo Pictorial
      – Free 5”x7” Sepia Photo ( to be mailed)
      – Guided Tour of Taal
      Price: P1,500.00/ Adult
      P750.00/ Child below 10 yrs

      B. Full Day Tour with Overnight Stay
      – Includes Day Tour ( Starts at 1:30PM)
      – Costume for each guest
      – Dinner ( 5 Course Meal)
      – Overnight Stay
      – Breakfast
      Price: P 2,000.00/ Adult
      P 1,000.00/ Child below 10 yrs

      C. House visit only – Entrance Donation is P50.00/ person

      Please call Lito Perez at 0927 975 1683 for more info and reservations.

  8. Wow! I just loved this concept with meal and all. You must have had a blast decking up and enjoying the transportation into another era. Wearing history is wonderful, na? I experienced something like this in a museum in Belfast, N. Ireland but sadly we didn’t get any lovely meals as you did.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • Wonderful because it turns history into a tactile and even auditory experience. The rustle of fabric against the floor is not something we hear so often these days. Oh yes, the meal of local cuisine was also delightful.

      I’ll take you to this place, Mrs Sus, if you and hubby make the trip here. :)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s