Other Grandeur Travelers.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar: Uprooting the Past to Plant the Future

I have BIG question at the end of this post. Please do share your thoughts!

If there's one important thing we need to improve in this country, it would be our way to carefully integrate the past into the future. As a young republic, we were thrown too early into a world of independence without the proper tools to look and think beyond the "present". We embraced modernization and the remnants of the past were pushed aside. As a result, some of the things the past had left behind became unimportant and commonplace. A few were preserved but the rest became victims of our apathetic sense of history.

I am talking specifically about the old Filipino houses that used to gloriously line our streets. Post-colonial era has made us forget the historic and architectural significance of these houses. They are now lost in the shadows of newer and more modern buildings.

Nonetheless, some of us are yearning to see what it would have been like to live in the 18th and 19th century. We have seen a few of these houses in Vigan but wouldn't it be a delight if we could see the grandeur of these house sin the long travel time? Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar has now made that possible.

Our 2 1/2 hour trip from Manila to Bagac, Bataan did not seem tiring because of the smooth and scenic connection between the NLEX and SCTEX. I knew we were near our destination when we saw the Philippine-Japanese Friendship tower, a structure that you could not miss.

Before I go further, a brief history is in order. Jerry Acuzar, a construction magnate, is the man behind Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. He initially collected paintings but his obsession with old houses started when he was offered to buy an old house a few years ago. After that, he started to collect more houses and the obsession turned into passion. Each house was meticulously taken down from different parts of our country to be transported and rebuilt in his 400-hectare estate in Bagac, Bataan.
The narrow roads in the town leading to the resort made the trip more climactic .The entrance did not look promising but as soon was we reached the main stone arch entrance, our jaws dropped. It seemed like we were in a theme park that transported us back in time. I had never seen anything such majestic houses in this country.
Casa Mexico is the focal point since it would be the first thing you would see. Most of the materials used to rebuild this structure came from a junkshop. Casa Mexico is also where the reception is located.

Interiors of the Casa Mexico clearly reflected European influences.

A tub for a classic Filipino house.

Aside from Case Mexico, my eyes were also instantaneoulsy drawn to the three-storey Casa Vyzatina (Byzantine), which was originally located in San Nicolas Binondo. I could not help but look because it must have been masterpiece for Filipino architects during its time. The restoration of this was undoubtedly laborious. As a protection from earthquakes, you would notice that the ground storey was made of stone while the materials for the second and third storeys came from Philippine hardwoods. Before its relocation, this place was home to 50 informal settlers (I'll find the old picture so you could see the major change).



One of the charming fountains in the resort. Perfection in the details.

Our tour guide brought us to our the next mansion - Casa Hidalgo, which was used as the first campus of The University of the Philippines School of Fine Arts. Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo were two of the famous young artists who used to train here. Fernando Armosolo, Guillermo Tolentino, Tomas Mapua followed suit.

Inside the mansion, you could see a mix of the old and new. The columns here still from the old building to give it a more authentic feel,

It was huge.

Casa Meycauayan. We no longer went inside since it was occupied by some guests. It was originally built in 1913 in San Fernando, Pampanga.

More Houses.

Casa Binondo I.

Casa Meycauayan again and Casa Lubao (Right).

Casa Lubao was my favorite because of the elaborate and intricate details of the walls and ceilings.

It was inspired by an American Plantation House in Virginia, USA.

Previous owners of this house were related to the late President Diosdado Macapagal and Former President Arroyo.

Casa Tondo.

A bar can even be found here for guests who need a drink or two.

Casa Jaen I. This mansion was the residence of the first Mayor of Jaen Nueva Ecija. Its reconstruction started in 2007.

Casa Luna (Left) and Casa Baliuag 2. Casa Luna was built in circa 1850 and it was originally located in Namacpacan La Union. The style of this house was a typical Ilocano Bahay na Bato (House of Stone).

Inside Casa Luna. The Aliping Sagigilid could only stay in this part of the house, hence the name.

Paseo de Escolta - the center of the resort.

This building is a replica of the commercial buildings in Escolta. On the ground floor, you'll find gift shops, salon and an art gallery. For guests who want to stay overnight, Casa Escolta has a total of 17 rooms and they are all founf are on the second and third floors.

The colors pop! I really wish we could still see these structures scattered all over the country.

Casa Cagayan is where the hilot center is found. If you want to get a massage overlooking the sea and pool, you can have it here. Indios lived in these houses before but they certainly did not get any spa treatments.

Lounge in style as you go back in time.

Cafe Marivent (in Casa Unisan) is the main restaurant in the resort. A la carte meas/Buffets are served here.

A grand fountain in Plaza de Castro.

This resort, however, is not without controversies. Conservationists claim that Mr. Acuzar has uprooted the houses from its "real" past and historically significant locations. People say that he should have simply restored the houses in their original location. I myself was torn but after seeing the beauty that had sprung forth from his passion, I thought that maybe it was for the best. Maybe. The government definitely was not going to restore these houses. Mr. Acuzar had a vision and he made it happen. I applaud him for that.

He has left a gift for us Filipinos all over the world. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar gives us a chance to reconnect with the past to understand the genuine significance of our heritage. You either welcome this change or not.

For the conservationist: Idealism without action will never do any good. Of course, Idealism with action is the best. For now, realism with action and vision will definitely suffice.

What do you think? I'd like to know.
Accommodations/Day Tour:

Studio Deluxe: 3,825 nett per night.

Studio Deluxe with Loft P5,525 nett per night. (min 2 adults/2 kids)

Executive Suites (min size of 120 sqm)

Feel like splurging? You can rent one of the mansion for 25,000 to 30 thousand per night. They also have day tours - P650/pax which includes snacks.

Behind me is Casa Binondo.

Goofing around with my lovely siblings.

For more information: Visit http://www.lascasasfilipinas.com/