[By Joel Aldor]
Nostalgia of time could be an enthrallment of the soul and spirit. But the demands of today’s world, however, make nostalgia a luxury, only afforded through whatever little time people has. We try to catch our own lives these days, amidst the fast changes and the need to cope with the change. In spite of this, people still have a close affinity for nostalgia and the old. What beauty it would be if we could try to make time “stop” for a while, and be enthralled again with nostalgia.
The weary and the beat-up could take refuge in the historic town of Taal, Batangas. Travel time from Manila to this town is just 1 hour and 15 minutes via Star Tollway. If you’re thinking of getting your history fix like Vigan but don’t have the luxury of time to travel 8 top 10 hours going up north, Taal is your best bet. Even for a weekend, let this charming town relive your memory as you traipse thru the massive Andalusian stone houses that were built by families of the heroes of the past, and fill your tummy with native Batangueño cuisine as well as enjoy its fine arts and crafts.
But back to nostalgia. What would a weekend tourist in Taal possibly want to bring back, aside from what could already be seen by the naked eye, like the massive Basilica of San Martin de Tours (which is by the way, the largest Catholic Church in Asia), the Our Lady of Caysasay Church, and the grand mansions of Gliceria Marella Villavicencio, Felipe Agoncillo, Marcela Agoncillo and Leon Apacible, to name a few? Would it be a lot nice to actually experience the way of living of the people from the colonial past: clothing, food, photography and all? How does feeling the air of excitement as when families gather in their grandparents’ home for Sunday lunch or to celebrate a joyous occasion with laughter and food, sound to you?
Lito Perez of Camp Suki, the premier costume resource company in the country, now provide these “colonial experiences” through his home in Taal called “Villa Tortuga”. Located in a genteel corner of Agoncillo and V. Illustre streets, beside the Pansipit River (where the turtles of Taal Lake nest at the riverbanks, and still does to this day), Lito welcomes his guest at the caida (antesala), with welcome drinks and rondalla music. From there, guest are taken to a studio down at the zaguan area where you can pick your choice of costume from his extensive wardrobe of baro’t saya, panuelos, laced tapis and burda de barong Tagalog, complete with accessories of fedoras, canes and zapatillas to bring out the colonia avatar in you: a Spanish mestizo illustrado, a fraile, a Maria Clara, aninsulares, or even a lowly indio if you feel like one. Once you are donned with your colonial attire, pose in front of a camera for your own keepsake of a souvenir sepia photograph.
A lavish colonial lunch (or dinner) follows after at the dining area, complete with hors d’oeuvres, canapés and traditional Batangueo dishes like adobo sa dilaw, longganisa and tapang Taal, tawilis and maliputo and sinaing na tulingan, set on a backdrop of Lito’s best sterling silverware and collection of antique china. A favorite part of the meal is the dessert, and Lito surely does it pretty well with Batangas empanada, suman, bonete or panutsa, which are usually accompanies with thick
This overall experience of nostalgia in a town filled with rich history and stories of bravery, is what Lito does best for Villa Tortuga. “I want people to relive a life when these ancestral homes reflected the nationalistic and gracious souther Tagalog lifestyle,” Lito stresses out on his passion for his craft of reliving the nostalgia. It educates and reminds guest of the rich and interesting heritage we have. They leave with pride in their hearts and an experience that not only filled the eyes but I believe fills heart and soul as well with enthrallment.”