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DESTINATION: THE PHILIPPINES - N. LUZON PART 2
LAS CASAS FILIPINAS DE ACUZAR
A section of the plaza, bound by reconstructed houses and replicas, and dotted by metal sculptures depicting scenes of kids having fun, playing traditional Filipino games that have long been forgotten with today's dominance of electronics.
HOW IT ALL BEGAN?
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a celebration of Filipino Heritage. The sprawling estate is a showcase of Filipino talent, ingenuity and craftsmanship. One is taken in a virtual time warp, authentic 19th century Principalia Mansions and Bahay na Bato stand resplendent around a cobblestone plaza. These structures are carefully and painstakingly taken down from difference parts of the country and rebuilt, "brick by brick", "plank by plank".
Staying in the resort is a step back into a majestic past, reliving the age-old traditions and practices distinct to our culture, without leaving the luxury and comforts of the modern world. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is managed with distinction by Genesis Hotels and Resorts Corp.
Upon entering the gate, this attempt at recreating the look and feel of a bygone era was already evident when the guard who let us in was dressed as a guardia civil. Well, all of their staff were dressed in period costumes. There is a designated parking area, and vehicles are only allowed to enter the cobblestone section to drop off and pick up passengers and luggage.
Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar has several tour guides who are very much connected in the past. They will guide you all throughout the walking heritage tour (about 1.5 hours) scheduled from 8:30 AM to 11:30 AM in the morning and 1:30 PM to 4:30 PM in the afternoon (with one hour intervals). Place of assembly is in front of Casa Mexico (resort reception area).
A section of the reception area. If this were a hotel, this would have been the lobby.
Tucked in the peaceful town of Bagac, Bataan is a collection of Filipino century old houses known as “bahay na bato”. The Bahay Na Bato, a style of construction, is a mixture of Filipino-Spanish influences. A house built on stone foundation with wooden legs designed to stand earthquakes. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a brainchild of Mr. Jerry Acuzar who owns a beachside property converted into a historical village resort.
It will transport you back in time, and fortunately we have witnessed an enthralling world of old Filipino houses. The Acuzar village depicts the old Filipino town where twenty-two bahay na bato stands on a cobblestone streets. One who wants to go around the area may either take a leisure walk or take the kalesa ride. The grand houses surrounding the area were formerly owned by prominent families in their respective provinces. These houses were either abandoned or dilapidated. Acuzar bought them from its present owners, then transported each and every part of the house, then rebuild it to its present location. Just exactly how it looked ages before us.
The first school of UP College of Fine Arts
Aside from the historical houses, the village is also a resort; it is located next to the beach where one can enjoy swimming. There’s also a mid size pool available for guests. A restaurant and bar is also present in the area. The main objective of Mr. Acuzar in building this village is to showcase and preserve the old Filipino-Spanish architecture. One of the most notable structures in the area is the Casa Hidalgo, the grandest house in its time. It was the first School of UP College of Fine Arts. Its notable products were Fernando Amorsolo, Tomas Mapua, Carlos Francisco, and Guillermo Tolentino. Accordingly, when the school was transferred to Padre Faura, the building was poorly maintained it became a bowling alley, dormitory, venue for sex live shows and an abortion clinic.
The view from one of the balconies
The once glorious Escolta is also pictured in this village. A building patterned from Escolta’s shopping district stands and serves as the hotel. Each room is beautifully designed by Mr. Acuzar’s wife, who is also an interior designer herself.
While a number of the casas at Las Casas also serve as accommodation options, particularly for families and big groups, room-type choices are all housed under Paseo de Escolta, a replica of typical commercial buildings in Escolta, Manila, circa early 1900s. As with the original, the ground floor is occupied by shops while the upper two floors serve as hotel rooms. Paseo de Escolta, has a fantastic facade.
It was nice and spacious, had a concrete and tiled floor, lots of dark wood furniture and cabinets, and two doors that each opened up to a small balcony. The bed was partially covered by curtains, presumably for that four-poster feel, and the bathroom was huge with a bath tub and a separate shower area. There's a perfectly-functioning air conditioning unit, a flat screen TV, a personal fridge, a coffee-making facility, but no WiFi.
Mostly reserved for VIPs and as such, was quite pricier than other accommodation options. It had a spacious living area, a posh dining room, and walls and ceilings with replicas of paintings by the likes of Amorsolo. Could be rented the whole place for Php 100K a night (better confirm at the front desk!)
The living area oozing with grandeur
To date, only a few Spanish colonial houses are left in the country. Earthquakes, fires & floods have destroyed many of them. Some are abandoned or just left to decay because of dwindling family fortunes & some are forced to give way to the inevitable domination of vertical landscapes.
Lucky are the families who have sustained their generations of wealth because they are able to keep their ancestral houses either as their current day living spaces or have turned it into private museums. However, some cannot survive & even the government cannot rescue because of the lack of funds to refurbish them.
HOW WERE THESE ORIGINAL HOUSES RESTORED AND TRANSPORTED FROM WHERE THEY REALLY ORIGINATED ALL OVER THE PHILIPPINES TO A NEW LOCATION?
The New San Jose Builders Inc, bought these houses from their latest owners & transfer them to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, fully restored & gloriously shining.
Carefully, these structures are tore down into pieces & rebuilt brick-by-brick, plank-by-plank. It is a high engineering task to break these into parts without causing damage to the original structure & transporting it to its new home. Its reconstruction takes painstaking planning with experts on history & architecture specialists. As each house reemerge from its decaying state into a fresh & restored look, history also starts to re-unfold & stories of our illustrious past are retold.
CASA HIDALGO (also known as Casa Quiapo)
Commonly called as Enriquez Mansion owned by Rafael Enriquez. Built in 1867 in its original location in Hidalgo St., Quiapo, Manila. Reconstructed in 2006. During the Spanish regime, this was considered to be the most elegant in the entire country. Designed by Felix Roxas y Arroyo, the first Filipino to practice architecture. In 1909, it was used as the first campus of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts where the finest artists like Juan Luna, Felix Hidalgo, Fernando Amorsolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Emilio Alvero, Carlos Francisco & Tomas Mapua were trained. In 1927, sadly the house transformed into a bowling alley, dormitory & sex live shows until it decayed.
“Young artists in the 1870s used to train in the entrezuelo (mezzanine) of the house, notable among them were JUAN LUNA and FELIX HIDALGO. Later, outstanding artists who were products of the school included FERNANDO AMORSOLO, GUILLERMO TOLENTINO, EMILIO ALVERO, CARLOS FRANCISCO and TOMAS MAPUA.”
It was considered the most elegant house in the entire country during the Spanish regime. The mansion was then used as the first campus of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts.
Also, it has a very nice view of the beach and Umagol river. This house is really huge that is why it it is used for big functions like weddings and other major events.
Aside from the magnificent view, a church is also being constructed across Casa Hidalgo. It’s going to be the biggest structure in the village. I wonder who will be the first couple to get married here?! A Filipiniana themed wedding would be perfect!
It is also popular as the Byzantine House, a classic example of Bahay na Bato at the corner of Madrid & Penarubia Streets in Binondo, Manila. Built in 1890 by Don Lorenzo del Rosario, a native principalia. From 1914 – 1919, the house was leased out to Instituto de Manila to hold elementary & high school classes. Until the end of World War II, the house was leased to various tenants. Until 2009, the house was home to 50 squatters. The structure was typical of bahay na bato where the ground storey is built of stone & bricks where the upper storeys are built of various Philippine hardwood. It is representative of floral bahay na bato where delicate embellishments influenced by Neo-Mudejar style. However, that style traces its origins in the Byzantine style.
The first ancestral house we visited was Casa Binondo III, which is also known as Casa Bizantina. The most premium house for rent and the only rental house with free wifi, this is where Vice-President Binay stayed and other VIPs. You may rent the whole house (with 7 rooms) for Php 150,000 per night – with full butler service.
Hermes Toiletries can also be found
Constructed in 1920 in its original location in Lubao, Pampanga originally owned by Arastia/Vitug families. Inspired in American period plantation houses, it has a large balcony with iron grills & large windows. Its elaborate exterior details speak of the owners of the house, an influential clan in Lubao, relatives of whom included the family of former President Diosdado Macapal. Reconstructed in 2006.
Another great sculpture inside Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar – Lola Basyang sharing stories to kids. Behind her is Casa Lubao. This ancestral house is not for rent, rather, it’s a show-house.
Among the 27 heritage houses inside Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, Casa Lubao is the youngest, having built in 1920. The windows and other details of this house are somehow unique (e.g. glass windows instead of capiz). This is due to the owner’s inspirations from traveling abroad.
Fruit baskets in the ceiling represents how lavish Filipinos from Pampanga are with food when they celebrate. Also shown in Casa Lubao are the sofas in the living area, which are only about 6 inches high for a more comfortable fit during the 1920s.
There are also 4 ancestral stilt houses for rent along the beach of Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar, which were referred to as “The Poor Man’s House” during the 1900s.
Owned by the Esquivel Family of Jaen, Nueva Ecija, this ancestral home served as the residence of the first Mayor of Jaen. Reconstructed in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in 2007. This house is another typical Bahay na Bato with its ground floor made of stone as a protection from earthquakes. In 1870, curved roof tiles was not allowed, instead galvanized iron sheets were used as added protection from earthquakes.
Built in 1839 in Unisan, Quezon for Antonio Maxino. This claims to be the first Bahay na Bato in Quezon. It is composed of two main structures of almost equal size. The sala & the cuartos are in the larger structure; the comedor, kitchen & azoteo in smaller structure. The main staircase that terminates in the caida on the second floor fuses the two structures. It is characterized by heavy roofing system that needs to stabilized by king posts. Reconstructed in 2007.
The materials used in the construction of Mexico house came from the salvaged materials bought from the junkshop. Originally standing in Mexico, Pampanga, this house was built based on an old photograph which the owner used in reconstructing the house.
It is the famous residence of the Luna Brothers, Antonio & Juan. Built in 1850 in La Union & reconstructed in 2007. It was originally owned by the Novicio Family with whom, Laureana Novicio the mother of the famous brothers belongs. It then became the ownership of Santoromana Family. The immense symmetrical house was constructed on a square plan typical of Ilocano Bahay na Bato. The ground floor is used as cochera for the carriages & bodega for their harvests. Casa Novicio has played an important rendezvous in our history especially during the liberation period.
Across these comfortable rest-houses is Casa Luna, which houses Mr. Acuzar’s antique collection.
Originally located within the compound of Iglesia ni Kristo in Baliuag, Bulacan. Some of the striking architectural details in ancestral houses in Baliuag are its elaborate adobe carvings & intricate wood carvings at its bandejas (wood sidings).
It is now Mr. Jerry Acuzar’s private vacation house. This was originally owned by Capitan Vergel de Dios, who lived here with his 21 children.
During the early 1900s in Cagayan Valley, these houses were considered to be Poor Man’s houses. It is typically built on stilts with three trunks in its natural shape used as columns, in order to give its residents extra space for relaxation, storage & livelihood activities.
Originally constructed in 1913 in San Fernando, Pampanga owned by the Escota family. In the 1950s, Rogelio Urrutia reconstructed the house in Meycauayan, Bulacan using exactly the same design & materials. Constructed out of adobe stone on the ground floor & various hardwood on the second floor. The house is generally a classic example of passive cooling ventilation such as continuous media aguas (lower eaves) & ventinillas (lower windows).
It is one of those houses closest to the pool area.
5-bedroom house (min. 10 – max. 18 persons)
Ground Floor: 2 spacious rooms with 1 King size bed each; individual toilet, bathtub and shower
1 spacious room with Twin beds; with toilet, bathtub and shower,
1 regular-size room with Twin beds; with toilet, bathtub and shower,
1 regular-size Room with 1 Queen Size bed; with individual toilet, bathtub & shower
Special Feature: Azotea/balcony (covered) on the 2nd floor
The mansion was originally owned by the Reyes family in Candaba, Pampanga. It was built in 1780 & was reconstructed in 2005. The Spanish Gobernador Heneral also used the house as his residence whenever visiting Pampanga. It may appear to be just as a study & simple house on the outside but on the inside, its neo-Gothic influence is as elaborate as the other houses. The last known owner of the house was Estanislao Reyes in 1941.
CASA BINONDO I
It is perfect for guests who will be bringing Senior Citizens with them because this house is close to the restaurant and has one huge bedroom at the first floor – the elderly guests do not need to climb up the stairs anymore, While the younger ones can stay on the second floor, which has 3 more bedrooms. The stairs in most ancestral houses are designed like that because as Filipinos, we usually have long goodbyes. I think this is still true until now – after saying goodbye at the dinner table, you’ll find yourselves standing at the doorstep after an hour still talking and talking and talking.
4-bedroom house (min. 8 – max. 13 persons)
Ground Floor: 1 Room with 1 King- sized bed with toilet and bath
Second Floor: 1 spacious Room with 1 Queen Size bed with toilet and bath with own access to the balcony on the 2nd floor 2 Rooms with 1 Queen Size bed each room (adjoining with common toilet and bath)
Special Feature: Azotea/balcony on the 2nd floor overlooking the rice fields (not covered); noveau art paintings and furniture.
CASA BINONDO II
3-bedroom house (min. 6 – max. 10 persons)
Ground Floor: 1 spacious Room with 1 King size Bed with Toilet and Bath
Second Floor: 2 regular size Rooms with Queen Size beds each; adjoining with common Toilet & bath
Special Feature: Azotea/balcony (covered) on the 2nd floor overlooking the rice fields
One of the most interesting house in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar would be Casa Biñan, which used to be the house of Jose Rizal’s mom. You have to be all ears during this part of the tour to know bits of history that wasn’t taught in school.
CASA SAN MIGUEL
6-bedroom house (min. 12 – max. 30 persons)
Ground Floor: • 1 room with 2 Queen Size bed each; individual toilet, bathtub and shower ; • 3 rooms with 2 Queen Size bed each; individual toilet, and shower
Second Floor: • 2 spacious rooms with 2 Queen Size bed each; with toilet, and shower
Special Feature: Azotea/balcony entrance (covered) on the 2nd floor with Living and Game room and Dining Area
• All houses have ground floor guestrooms
• 2-storey house
• Living room and dining area
• Hot and cold shower
• Individual air-condition and modern plumbing • 85-90% original structures
By Bus – Take Bataan Transit or Genesis Bus Line from Pasay or Avenida Stations. Drop at Pilar, Bataan Junction. Take the mini-bus to Bagac (about 33kms away). From the bus station, take the Tricycle to bring you to Brgy. Pag-asa.
By Private Vehicle – From Manila, take the North Luzon Expressway & exit at San Fernando, Pampanga. Follow the southwest directions to Olongapo. At Layak Junction, turn left to take you all the way to Bataan, passing through the towns of Orani, Abucay & Balanga. Straight ahead, turn right at the junction of Ala-uli in Pilar. Straight ahead, about 33kms away is the town of Bagac with the Philippines-Japan Friendship Tower as its landmark. Take the left side road & follow the signage that leads you to interior part of Bagac & to Brgy. Pag-asa.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar also provides a luxurious accommodation for guests staying for the night. Casa Escolta, a full hotel service is designed in the likeness of early 1900s buildings in Escolta, Manila. It is managed by Genesis Heritage Resort, making each guest experience how it was to live in old Manila feel.
Room rates ranges from P3,825/night to P7,225/night depending on your choice of accommodation.
Day Tour Rates
Package 1- P1,000/person (inclusive of set lunch & snack)
Package 2- P1,200/person (inclusive of buffet lunch & snack)
All packages are also inclusive of welcome drinks, guided tour of the heritage houses, use of the beach area & printed descriptions of each houses.
Las Casas Filipinas De Acuzar
Barangay Pag-Asa, Bagac, Bataan
Telephone Numbers: (632) 332-5338, (632) 355-3032
Quezon City, Metro Manila Office
Las Casas Sales & Reservations Office
Mezzanine Floor, Victoria Towers, Timog Avenue, Quezon City
The Filipino culture, being a melting point of many influences, is complex yet distinct. Experience the uniqueness of authentic Filipino-Hispanic cuisine at the Marivent Café where dishes are cooked and server the traditional way. Taberna del Señor Pepe offers a variety of Spanish tapas, deli items, cocktails and cigars handrolled right before your eyes.