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Thursday, December 25, 2014

Where to Stay in Vigan: The Heritage House of Villa Angela


It was still dark when we arrived at the front gates of Villa Angela and fortunately the caretaker was waiting for us already. She opened the gates and let us enter a long driveway flanked by gardens on both sides leading to a short staircase going to the upper level of the house. Stepping on creaking wooden floors we were ushered inside our spacious room furnished with two double beds and a lone single bed. It was the fatigue from our long bus trip that had us dozing off in no time - at that moment still unmindful of the rustic charm of Villa Angela, whose historic walls we just walked by under the mask of darkness.

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I woke up just as the clock strikes 7 AM and instantly heard the sounds of the tricycles and early morning chatters from passersby - of locals going to the market and tourists about to walk the famed cobblestone steps of Calle Crisologo. One by one as we stepped out of our room and made aware of our surrounding by the seeping early sunlight, we were instantly impressed by the real character of Villa Angela.

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Framed old photographs stands on decades-old tables, while family portraits hanging on the walls stares back at me in a semi spooky manner (that's just me with old photographs) Turn of the 1900 century clocks, candle stands, piano and wooden timeworn cabinets storing impressive collection of china wares and other kitchen fixtures, filled my vision and mind with added awe for all things antiquated. 

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The history of this ancestral house leaves a trail of interesting family tree and a tidbit of Hollywood trivia as well - as actors Tom Cruise and Willem Dafoe stayed here during the shooting of the Oliver Stone film "Born in the 4th of July" sometime in the late 1980's. 

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According to its historical marker, Villa Angela was built in 1873 "by the spouses Don Agapito Florendo Bonifacio who was Gobernadorcillo of Vigan LA Ciudad Fernandina in 1959, and Doña Maria Villanueva" and was later "bequeathed to their eldest daughter Señorita Joaquina Florendo Y Villanueva who in time bequeathed it to her niece Doña Angela Villanueva Y Florendo, to whose memory this house is lovingly dedicated."

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While planning our Vigan trip I already had in mind the kind of place where we would stay - an architecturally gifted establishment that radiates with a charmingly rustic appeal but peppered with hints of mystery, to which ordinary folks would label as 'haunted'. This paranoia that usually associate with our perception about old houses are not at all accurate, while admittedly I wouldn't dare go out of our room in the middle of the night to get some drinking water in the kitchen, the caretakers have assured us of not experiencing anything unusual during their 20 years of staying there. 

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Other guests though have shared some of their adventures with a few out of the ordinary occurrences inside the house - which I think is just normal for an old house like Villa Angela with a colorful storied past. Most probably, the previous owners are just making sure the house is still in good hands and is being occupied by non-rowdy visitors.  

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A few steps from the heritage street of Calle Crisologo, where the muffled steps of horse drawn carriages immediately takes you back to a century ago, being billeted at Villa Angela completes the role playing of time travel. If only, I could dress up as Don Ramone while Monnete and her sisters sported 1800's fashion and portray the Señoritas of 1890's, then the experience will be complete.


Our stay at Villa Angela was a brief one, but something I plan to experience on a longer duration next time with the same company and additional friends in tow, as the rooms are big enough to accommodate 4-5 guests each. This ancestral place certainly brings back childhood memories of going home to my lola's (grandmother's) house in the province where me and my other cousins, would play a game of hide and seek all over the old furniture. Villa Angela gives you that exact vibe - a nostalgic trip back to a provincial life you thought was long gone already.

* this is the first part of  a series called 'A Northern Roadtrip' *
- The Baroque Church of Paoay
Malacañang of the North: Ageing Reminder of a Dark Regime


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