Paradores del Castillo Hotel, Taal, Batangas: A home’s rebirth as a boutique hotel
(The Philippine Star) - November 7, 2015 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - How does one write about a passion, a difficult but rewarding journey, when one is standing on the threshold of the gleaming white structure of Paradores del Castillo in the town of Taal, Batangas? Remembering the home’s history suffuses the effort that went into its restoration, so that present results are better appreciated.

This old house is now a grand boutique hotel. Upon entry, you realize that you are in an antique setting, but with added modern conveniences and updated accent colors. An airy, welcoming atmosphere offers a refreshing change from the dark Victorian period design details commonly found in most turn of the century homes.

Originally owned and built by Hermenegildo “Didong” del Castillo and his wife Leonor Sanchez in the early 1900s, design elements of the 1930s and 1950s were apparent, due to renovations by succeeding heirs and tenants. The couple shared this home with their four children: Vicente, Gloria, Blanca and Antonio. Eventually, with each generation’s passing and several tenants’ use, the structure had fallen into a jumble of clashing design elements, disrepair and abandonment.

In August 2009, the del Castillo house was acquired by my husband, Ernie Fajardo Villavicencio, from his maternal first cousins, most of whom were living abroad, the heirs of Antonio and Corazon del Castillo. Corazon is our beloved Ninang Chong, younger sister of Ernie’s mother, Titang Fajardo.

In 1995, we committed to restoring and maintaining another old structure, Casa Villavicencio, the ancestral home of Ernie’s great grandparents Eulalio and Gliceria Villavicencio. Both were patrons of the Philippine Revolution during the Spanish and American periods. The Casa V house is now a tourist destination in this quaint Southern Luzon town.

We proceeded to clean up and use the del Castillo structure for five years as a storage facility for old bricks, antique wood, doors, capiz windows, carvings, wrought iron retasos, furniture and lights collected through the years, for use in other home restoration projects. It was in late 2013 that Ernie decided to undertake the restoration. Aside from the debris that was left there, it was a huge challenge to get the same original materials for aesthetic uniformity.

As a couple, we have gone through this arduous task of restoring old spaces many times in the past. Paradores del Castillo was our fifth restoration project in Taal. Our team of engineers, architects, craftsmen and construction crew were made to understand that they were on board for the long haul, no matter how many design revisions were done. In repairing and maintaining bahay-na-bato ancestral homes like this one, the work was painstaking and continuous. As restorers, we use modern solutions while respecting the bones of the original structure, balancing it with budget limits.

On the construction crew’s end, it is a test of understanding the value of what was initially perceived as junk and creating something beautiful out of it. It is always a learning process.

 

 

For the over-all color palate, Ernie was insistent that the original blue-and-white motif was retained in deference to the late ship captain Indito Ilagan and his wife Blanca del Castillo’s nautical tastes, and their affinity for the Blessed Virgin Mary’s traditional garment colors.

Location-wise, the house sits on a street conveniently leading the pilgrim’s steps to the Virgin of Caysasay Church and the Sta. Lucia Well. It is also located two houses down from Casa Villavicencio, two blocks from the Taal Municipal Market and two avenues from the famous Basilica of St. Martin de Tours. It is also strategically located a block from other museum houses on the busy Agoncillo Street, like Galleria Taal (Camera Museum), Marcella Agoncillo Museum, Villa Tortuga and the Apacible Museum.

To start the construction process, everything that was rotten had to be stripped off, leaving a proud skeleton with good bones. However, to his dismay, Ernie discovered that the house was already leaning to one side. Structural engineers recommended that we jack up the house and add additional beams. Several rusted columns also had to be replaced. Using re-purposed materials, the existing capiz windows and scroll-design grilles were replicated and added in many areas for uniformity of design. Jalousie glass shutter-type 1960s windows which the former owners installed on the northern, southern and western sides were replaced with old capiz windows or wood-framed glass windows with scroll-design grilles. Antique doors were added.

The front portion and the second floor’s open spaces have original glass and capiz windows, callado wooden lace-work transoms and ipil hardwood posts. The narrow tongue-and-groove wood and linoleum flooring in all other areas of the second level have now been replaced with wide antique yakal hardwood planks. The galvanized-iron roof was totally replaced as well as the hardwood sidings on the eastern, southern and western portions of the house, depending on their degree of deterioration. From the original four bedrooms and one common bathroom, additional bedrooms and en suite bathrooms were constructed to re-purpose the space as a comfortable boutique hotel.

Still adhering to the Spanish-American Colonial-style of bahay-na-bato, the main kitchen on the second floor’s western end was moved to the first floor, with part of Bedroom 7 (Santol) and a large view-deck now in its place. A garden wing and brick-lined area were also added to complete the bar and large party space, including separate male and female powder rooms and staff facilities.

The panoramic view of the surrounding Caysasay Church, Lemery town, Pansipit River, Calaca mountains and the distant sea is best appreciated from the view deck and the multi-level garden, planted with ornamentals, sweet smelling dama de noche and a host of herbs used for a selection of mouth-watering breakfast and Italian dishes. The spacious garden can accommodate 200 banquet guests.

The seven cozy rooms of this boutique hotel are named after fruit-bearing trees which provide produce-in-season within the property’s rear garden. They are Langka (jackfruit); Lanzones (lansium); Mangga (mango); Niyog (coconut); Saging (banana); Sampaloc (tamarind) and Santol (wild mangosteen). The rooms are furnished with antique hardwood four-poster beds, brass beds, elegantly carved sleigh beds and daybeds, all topped with the most comfortable pillows, duvets and linen. Light filtering in through the translucent capiz windows is diffused with striped curtains in relaxing tones.

Planning for the restoration of the home began in September 2013, and it was completed in March 2015. It is now called Paradores del Castillo because of the Spanish practice of transforming old castles, monasteries and historic buildings into government-run luxury hotels. Parar or Para means to stop and stay. The Spanish-Filipino surname del Castillo also means castle. Thus, the hotel’s name literally means, “stop at the castle.”

By repurposing old homes like this, it is our hope that our children Gianna, Gabi and Gaston; the townspeople of Taal and guests who enter this heritage structure will enjoy its rebirth. The Paradores team composed of young people is passionate and proud of their town and their workplace. They are now all ambassadors of preservation, respecting the home’s antiquity and its surrounding green environment. We all aim to make Paradores del Castillo a landmark of hospitality to be enjoyed by future generations.

For Taal tours and information, please contact www.taal.ph and for hotel bookings, visit www.paradoresdetaal.com.

ACIRC AGONCILLO STREET ANTONIO AND CORAZON CASA VILLAVICENCIO CASTILLO DEL ERNIE HOUSE OLD QUOT TAAL
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