Tuesday, 22 December 2015

13 Heritage Houses You Should Visit in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan


I never fail to visit old and historical houses in the Philippines whenever I explore a new province in the country.  From a string of beautiful Filipino style architecture houses in Iloilo, to The Ruins of Negros, to Intramuros of Manila, the nostalgic yet stunning houses in Bulacan, Rizal’s Dapitan in DiPolog, to UNESCO heritage site in Ilocos – I thought I have seen it all.  There’s one that I have yet to discover, the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan. At first I admit I didn’t like the idea of the owner buying these old colonial houses of the Philippines then transferred to his property in Bataan to become an accommodation for rent to those who can afford. 




After seeing how he transformed these into a place where you’ll feel being transported back to yesteryears of the Philippines most especially during the Japanese, American and Spanish colonization in the most preserved way, you’ll surely be in awe. I certainly feel the objections of some heritage advocates against this idea that these houses should remain on its original locations no matter what but if these are slowly decaying with no one to take care, why not we hand it over to those who can righteously preserve these for a hundred more years to be seen by more people?  


UPDATE As of January 7, 2017. Day tour entrance fee from Php 99 is now Php 1, 500 as per Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar Heritage and Convention Center




The Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is located in front of the seaside and along the Umagol River in Bagac, Bataan. It is owned by Jose “Gerry” Acuzar, a Filipino architect and the owner of New San Jose Builders – the company behind the New San Jose condominium currently constructed in Malate. I was one of the bloggers who covered its launching a few years ago actually. Being a residential slash condo developer and an architect himself, I am not surprised how Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar turned to be such a man-made community that preserves and adores the architectural beauty of the past.



From Manila to Bagac, Bataan it took us about 3 hours so we reached around 11am. Since Mount Samat is along the way to Las Casas so we stopped there for an hour. We arrived in Las Casas past 1pm. We were so hungry so we ate first, checked in to our room then proceeded to a one hour free tour included in the accommodation package around the historical houses inside Las Casas de Acuzar. 





Click HERE my blog post about Mount Samat National Shrine

There I understood how Gerry Acuzar chooses a bahay na bato or stone house according to its historical, cultural and architectural value whether it’s in good condition or in a state of neglect.  A stone house is usually made of stone on first floor and made of wood on second floor. Thirteen of these houses are from Tondo, Binondo, Quiapo, Quezon City, Bulacan, PamPanga, La Union, Iloco, Laguna and Cagayan.

Below are the thirteen heritage houses you can find in Las Casas Filipinas de 
Acuzar

Casa  Binan or the Alberto House -  probably the most controversial among the acquired historical houses of Las Casas This two story house belongs to the great – great  - grandparents of Rizal’s mother. The current owner is Gerardo Alberto who decided to donate the property to Gerry Acuzar. However the heritage advocates and the municipal officials of Binan strongly protested amidst the fact that this is a private property and there is currently no legal declaration or markings by any level of government to support their protest. Right now, the house has not been moved to Las Casas successfully. This house which is thought to be 200+ years old sadly is now slowly decaying and been surrounded by vendor stalls. Only one percent has been brought to Las Casas so what Gerry Acuzar did is he constructed a carbon copy of this inside. Some of the scenes in the blockbuster movie Heneral Luna has been filmed inside Las Casas  version of Casa  Binan or Alberto House.                     

Casa Hidalgo or Enriquez Mansion
This house built in 1867 designed by the first Filipino architect, Felix Arroyo. Casa Hidalgo is said to be the most elegant in the country during the Spanish times as described by American historian A.M. Norton. This mansion used to be the first campus of the University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. Later on after it was transferred to Padre Faura St., this building housed a bowling alley, dormitory, live sex shows, an abortion clinic etc. Las Casas invited a Catholic priest to perform a blessing ritual to this house to ward off the negativity of this place.

Casa Unisan
Owned by Antonio Maxino, this house was built in 1839 and claims to be the first ever bahay na bato built in Unisan, Quezon. It is composed of two main structures of almost equal size. The sala and quartos are in the larger structure the comedor, kitchen and the azotea in the smaller place. The main staircase terminates in the caida on the second floor which fuses the two structures. From the caida, one can go either to the sala or the comedor. The most intriguing part of this house is the sliding wood and capi windows and the marked absence of ventanillas.

Casa Meycauayan
This house was originally built in 1913 in San Fernando, Pampanga by the Escota family.  In the 1950’s, it was later acquired by Rogelio Urrutia. Two things worth knowing about Casa Meycauayan – first, this is  classic example of the passive cooling ventilation adopted throughout the entire structure  and second this has exquisite Art Noveau motif made of plain of GI sheets.

Casa Bizantina
Casa Bizantina demonstrates the characteristics of a floral bahay na bato indicated by the Moorish door transom on the exterior, which are echoed in the interior wooden arches and traceries. This house was built in 1890 was created by Don Lorenzo del Rosario, a building contractor in Binondo who won the contract to renovate the Tribunal de Sangleyes. In 2009, this house became a home to 50 squatter families. Later it was demolished and transferred to Las Casas.

Paseo de Escolta 
The replica of commercial structures of the typical Escolta buildings in Manila during 1900’s. Buildings during this time had stores and shops on the ground floor and hotels on the upper floor which caters to tourists and transients.  This was built purely based on old photographs in magazines. The rooms and interiors are designed by the wife of Gerry, Tess who is an interior designer. It has 17 rooms all with individual toilets and baths.

Casa Luna or Novicio House
Historically, Casa Luna has an interesting role in the during the liberation period of Japanese occupation in 1942. It became a rendezvous for important gatherings and a headquarter of the United States Armed Forces in the Philippines of a group planning the capture of Gen. Yamashita. Former president Ferdinand Marcos, was one of the guests in this house during a party convention before. In 2007, the house was eventually abandoned, moved and architecturally restored in Las Casas.

Casa Mexico
This house is totally destroyed but its unique imagery of a good – looking bahay na bato prompted Gerry Acuzar to reconstruct everything. The materials used to rebuild the carbon copy came from the salvaged materials bought from the junkshop. Just like the Paseo De Escolta, old photographs were used to base the design and final look of Casa Mexico.

Casa Lubao
The Lubao House is a family ancestral house built in 1920 in Lubao, Pampanga. During Japanese  occupation, the took this house and used as a garrison. They wanted to burn it but a certain Japanese colonel stopped them saying he has been a driver and gardener for ten years while hiding his true identitiy to the family who owns this and was very kind to him.   

Casa Jaen
Casa Jaen belongs to Esquivel family in Nueva Ecija. This house served as the residence of the first Mayor of Jaen. There’s nothing much written about Casa Jaen nor the Esquivel owners but I definitely agree  that this house is one of the most beautiful bahay na bato inside Las Casas.

Casa Candaba
This mansion looked sturdy yet simple but the interior is neo – Gothic in influence from the arches, brackets and column details. In 1961, National Artist for film Jerry de leon used the mansion as one of the settings for his immortal epic “Noli Me Tangere”, an adaptation of Rizal’s novel wherein this house 0served as the residence of Kapitan Tyago an Maria Clara. The last known owner of Casa Candaba was Estanislao Reyes in 1941 who belongs to prominent families in Pampanga. Constructed in 1780, Casa Candaba served as the residence of the Spanish Gobernador Heneral when visiting the province.

Casa Cagayan
Near the shorelines of Las Casas are four houses built on high stilts with tree trunks in its natural shape used as a post or column in order to give the guests extra space for relaxation and storage. I have seena number of these in its province of origin in Cagayan. During the early 1900’s these houses are called as the Poor Man’s Houses.

Casa Baliuag 1 and 2
The Baliuag House 1 or Taberna del Senor Pepe is from Baliuag, Bulacan just across the Baliuag Church. It once served as the municipal hall of the Baliuag in the 1950’s. This house  had elaborate adobe carvings at the fa├žade while the intricate wood carvings at its bandejas (wood sidings) define its highly floral motif. The Baliuag House 2 is within the compound of Iglesia ni Kristo in the same town and province. There’s a part of the house that is used by the INC members as a function hall before.    


           

Our room in Las Casas Filipinas Acuzar is just in front of the sea. I specially loved walking along the seashore barefoot on the black fine powdery sand while occasionally dipping my toes in the waters. We got a room good for 5 pax with two beds but ended up adding two more single beds since we are six. It costs about Php 9k+ all in all. Our room is spacious with an equally comfort room with a bath tub. The walls and ceilings are hand-painted. We have a flat screen, a heater and free toothpaste, toothbrush and shampoo.   




The accommodation package includes free one hour tour to the heritage houses, a glass of cocktail drink available during night only, free use of the swimming pool, a one hour cultural dance presentation only available during weekends and especially the buffet breakfast.




There are three restaurants inside Las Casas – Casa Rio, Casa Mexico and La Bella Teodora. Casa Rio serves Filipino food - we were not impressed, the food taste is average, Casa Mexico offers buffet meal of PhP 600 each we thought it is too much and finally we felt full at La Bella Teodora housed inside Casa Binan. We were satisfied with the taste and the Price is a bit less compared to Casa Rio. 




An overnight stay in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is not for a backpackers budget.  This is a type of accommodation within the range of middle to luxury.  To those who are on a tight budget, they offer a whole day tour for Php1, 500. 




I must say I evolved from someone who hated the idea of transferring these old houses to a fan of Jerry Acuzar – a collector of century old houses who was able to bring back the charm and elegance of these. I hope he continues and be able to restore more heritage houses whether in his property or in the original locations. I am definitely going back to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.  This is one of the best restored heritage styled villages in the country I have ever seen personally.   I hope this Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar blog review will be your quick guide and do visit the place soon :)  


Las casas acuzar address: Bagac, Bataan
Las casas acuzar contact number: 02) 332 5338
Las casas filipinas de acuzar website: http://lascasasfilipinas.com/                           


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