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Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar: An Experience of Filipino Culture and Heritage – Day Two
When In Manila Team, the other bloggers and press people had a goodnight’s sleep at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. Day Two into the heritage tripping adventure, we were roused from sleep by the roosters who keep on crowing, just like how it was then, the natural alarm clock of the olden days. Mornings are beautiful at Las Casas Filipinas where the gentle sea breeze touches gently on the skin and fog on the mountains visible. It was off to Casa Unisan for a hearty breakfast.
Tour Guide Joycelle for Las Casas Filipinas at Casa Mexico
We headed to Casa Mexico hurriedly after breakfast for the scheduled tour around Las Casas Filipinas. Unfortunately, the tour group already left but the resort management was gracious to have us another tour guide. There are twenty-seven ancestral houses transplanted in Las Casas Filipinas, mostly saved form being demolished from their original locations around Luzon and one from Mindanao. Every single heritage house is of unique design and speaks about the previous owners with their status in society. It took us almost two hours with the tour guide revealing the stories of the following houses:
Marivent Restaurant in Casa Unison of Las Casas Filipinas
Casa Unisan, the ancestral house that hosts Marivent Restaurant, never fails to amaze me. The extensive wood work on top of stone works is my preference for a heritage house. Casa Unisan was the first bahay na bato or stone house in Unisan, Quezon built by the lumber magnate, Don Antonio Maxino, in the 1839. The floor slabs used are from whole trunks, owing to their family business. Because of constant attacks by bandits, a trap door was made in the house for escaping.
Casa Meycauyan, one of the vacation houses in Las Casas Filipinas
Casa Meycauyan’s interiors of Art Noveau Design
Casa Meycauyan was a heritage house built in San Fernando, Pampanga in 1913 by the Escota family but was acquired by Rogelio Urratia and transfered to Meycauyan, Bulacan hence the name. Casa Meycauyan is one of the houses in Las Casas Filipinas where a family rent the whole house for their use. This house of Art Noveau design features three spacious rooms and a cozy sala or receiving area which has a wide walking space where families can have their own private moments.
Casa Meycauyan and Casa Binondo II with Filipino Games Sculptures
Interiors of Casa Binondo II, another vacation house at Las Casas Filipinas
Across Casa Meycauyan is Casa Binondo II, a quaint heritage house that serves as a family vacation house. This house and Casa Binondo I, another house from Binondo, are of the similar design. While Casa Binondo II has only two wide rooms upstairs, Casa Binondo I has three rooms albeit smaller. The receiving room in the ground floor is spacious with a flat screen TV while there is a well-apportioned area for a small kitchen or pantry for needs of the family renting this house.
Casa Quiapo, the first building of UP now in Las Casas Filipinas
Halfway stop for ladies going up the stairway at Casa Quiapo
Casa Quiapo, also called Casa Hidalgo, the grand mansion few meters from Casa Binondo I is one of the biggest and most elegant in Las Casas Filipinas. The first building used by the University of the Philippines, it was once situated in Calle San Sebastian or what we call now as R. Hidalgo Street in Quiapo so named after the house’s owner, Rafael Hidalgo. The architect who designed the house was Felix Roxas y Arroyo, the first Filipino architect in Spanish-era Philippines who taught in UP. Novice students are restricted downstairs but the master architects are allowed in the halls upstairs.
Original pillars preserved in Casa Quiapo at Las Casas Filipinas
Grand Stairway, Grand Ballroom and view of Las Casas Filipinas
Like the old maestros, we climbed the grand stairway of Casa Quiapo to the hall above. The halls were restored in their pre-UP look complete with the original pillars preserved and transformed into the Grand Ballroom for special events. Debuts or weddings are usually the functions done there which is reminiscent of the old haciendero parties in my native Negros. View of the beachfront fares prominently in the capiz shell windows of the ballroom. If weather permits, windows may be opened.
Casa Baliuag, the owner’s personal retreat at Las Casas Filipinas
Beside Casa Quiapo is Casa Baliuag, the ancestral house of Vergel de Dios, the Capitan Municipal of Baliuag. He had 21 children so he built it big for the family. Currently, the house is the personal retreat of Mr. Jerry Acuzar, owner of Las Casas Filipinas and CEO of New San Jose Builders, Inc. This house served different functions like the Baliuag Post Office and the Baliuag Municipio or the Municipal Hall in the 1950′s before it was sold in 2007. Since it was a personal retreat, we did not enter the house but before it was restored, most details were gone. Now, Mr. Acuzar restored most of the floral motif.
Casa Biñan and Casa Baliuag I on background at Las Casas Filipinas
Room of Teodora Formoso, wife of the house’s owner, Don Jose Alonzo
Casa Biñan is one of the controversial heritage houses in Las Casas Filipinas. This was the childhood home of Teodora Alonzo, mother of Jose Rizal. It was owned by her brother Don Jose Alonzo who was the High Commissioner, in the terms of the present times, to the Spanish Cortes in Madrid. Having a high status in government, he expanded the house further and became the most prominent house in Biñan. We were shown the room of Teodora Formoso, the adulterous wife of Don Jose, who accused his sister-in-law Teodora Alonzo of poisoning her in the food she brings in her virtual imprisonment for her scandalous adultery. This incident is one of the many cases that grew the desire of Rizal for more freedom to the Filipinos.
Casa Maranao, one of the latest additions at Las Casas Filipinas
Las Casas Filipinas ongoing construction for a Church
From Casa Biñan, one may glance a view of Casa Maranao, one of the latest additions, standing while the nearby Church is being constructed in an artificial island at the middle of Umagol River and some more ancestral houses are reconstructed. Casa Maranao is the first of many more indigenous houses that will be placed in Las Casas Filipinas as a tribute to the unique ingenuity of the tribal people. The Church was added as well since that is the prominent feature of every Philippine town. Construction is set to be finished by the end of the year for Christmas and will serve Sunday Masses apart from weddings.
Casa Lubao behind the bronze statue of Lola Basyang
Ornate interiors of Casa Lubao at Las Casas Filipinas
Casa Lubao, the Virginia Plantation-inspired heritage house once owned by the Arastia-Vitug Family. This house has a deep connection with the Macapagal Family since the house owners were known financial patrons of President Diosdado Macapagal who sent him to school all the way. The Arastia Family has been know for their kindness that when the Japanese tried to burn their house, their former gardener who happened to be high-ranking officer of the Japanese Imperial Army stopped them because they were kind to him. At present, the house is used as museum and showcase house of Filipino Games.
Casas Cagayan, or the Poor Man’s Houses at Las Casas Filipinas
Batis or Brook-inspired Swimming Pool by Casas Cagayan
Near Casa Lubao are the Casas Cagayan, four stilt houses in all that stood in Cagayan Province in the 1900′s. They were seaside houses where the living quarters are upstairs while the stilt bottom is used as storage area of boats, pigs or goats and sacks of rice. They are now located near the beachfront and flanks the batis or brook-inspired pool. Boulders were placed to mimic natural look of the rural brooks. Nearby Umagol River is currently closed for swimming due to constructions.
Casa Baliuag II, now an arch at Las Casas Filipinas
Inside the Museum of Las Casas Filipinas at Casa Luna
Across Casas Cagayan are Casa Baliuag II and Casa Luna. Casa Baliuag II was a heritage house that sat at the Iglesia ni Cristo compound in Baliuag and was used as meeting hall before it was sold to Las Casas Filipinas while Casa Luna is the resort museum featuring the art and antique collections of Mr. Jerry Acuzar. The house is a typical Ilocano heritage house mostly made of red bricks. The owner of the house, Mayor Primitivo Novicio, was the one responsible for renaming the town to Luna in honor of the brothers Antonio and Juan Luna. He was actually a close relative of Laureana Novicio, the mother of the famous brothers. Casa Luna served several functions, even as a prison for Gen. Yamashita before his trial.
Casa Jaen II and Plaza Belmonte, Main Square of Las Casas Filipinas
Plaza Belmonte was the final stop for our tour. The main square of the resort, it is flanked by the beautiful heritage houses of Casa Jaen I and II with Paseo de Escolta, the hotel building of Las Casas Filipinas. Casa Jaen I was the house of the first Mayor of Jaen, Nueva Ecija while the bigger Casa Jaen II serves as another resort museum. Kundiman songs play all day long at in this heritage house. The three-storey Paseo de Escolta is reminiscent of the old hotels in Escolta, the former premiere business district of the Philippines before Ayala. It houses 17 rooms in second and third floors. I do remember very well the closing quote of the tour guide which impressed to me “Pride in the Past and Hope for the Future.”
When In Manila, consider going out of town and head over to Bagac, Bataan for an experience of Filipino Culture and Heritage at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. Plan your trip ahead since Las Casas Filipinas would have surprises soon.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar
Bo. Pag-asa, Bagac, Province of Bataan
Manila Reservation Office:
Mezzanine Floor, New San Jose Builders
Timog Ave., Quezon City, Philippines
Tel. Nos.: (+63 2) 332.5338/ 355.3032
Fax No.: (+63 2) 332.5286
Email: [email protected]
WhenInManila photos by JoTan23 with República Negrense.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar – An Experience of Filipino Culture: Day Two