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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/


leah said...

wowwwww....jaw drop!!! lol

kira said...

hail to Mr. Acuzar! in my opinion, we should thank him for what he did. do you think people in the government or those conservationists will do better? i doubt.. what he did will prolong the life of these structures and we are lucky that our children can still see them in real life rather that just in books or photos on the internet. :)

kookie kulasa said...

tuloy I wanna go back! when we went there kasi a few of the houses weren't done yet.

deobaraanmd said...

@leah -really wow! haha
@kira- i totally agree. i don't think our government or those conservationists have plans to restore those houses to their former glory.
@nicole -haha. you should. I hope they build more! :P

carmen said...

My thoughts! I feel that it’s inappropriate for me to comment since I don’t live in the Philippines anymore. However, I can give you a very good example. I have a friend who currently living and own a house which the government listed it under heritage listings. The house is old and badly needing renovations but my friend can not just renovate it as they need permits after permits and the materials has to be the same or similar for that matter. We all know how expensive they can be. This said house now is falling apart as they can not afford the renovations. As you said, the government will not restore these houses and it’s up to the people who own the houses to spend money on it. Question is, can they all afford to have these houses restored? May be not.

As I said I’m not going to comment but I can’t help it. If he is to restore it in their original location, there’ll be less people to see it. Therefore less people will know its history. I’d rather see it in one place and maintained properly rather than in different places. So I will be visiting the place when I get there…

deobaraanmd said...

hi carmen! I hear you. Renovating these heritage houses can really break the bank. The government should start something like a heritage conservation society for old houses (like the one in Newport, Rhode Island) so proper funding can be allocated.

I tell you that the place is really worth a visit. I am proud of what Mr. Acuzar has done so far.

BOY said...

Thanks for posting this! The place looks so nice. Good work GT!

doc glud said...

That was such a brilliant idea of Mr. Jerry Acuzar to do it. it really amazed me (pictures pa lang yan.. hehe). i am so looking forward to visit that place too =D

deobaraanmd said...

@boy- i know who you are. haha. yes it is an unbelievably amazing resort! :P
@hey dr glud - you should really goooo! i highly recommend it.

Sr. Patpong said...

Very interesting post Deo... and the pictures are awesome. We need more places like this in the Philippines and more people like you and Mr. Acuzar. People who truly love our country and has the foresight for the future.

My only suggestion is that they should have something in it that is affordable to the "common tao". Seems like their prices are not easily affordable to the average Filipino.

may said...

thank u mr. gt...
with the blog u have posted, i see myself touring to the places which i know can't afford to go to...
and i appreciate mr. acuzar for his effort in maintaining these beautiful houses.
and i agree with those who commented that if we all leave it to the government, these can never be seen by my granchildren (hopefully) anymore...
we also have old houses here in argao, cebu which a few has maintain its original design and we are thankful that our governor gwen garcia has help maintain it...and till when?

deobaraanmd said...

sr patpong - thank you! Yeah i think that's one of the drawbacks of this luxury resort. it's quite pricey, even the day tour (P650). I really wish we have more structures like these restored in our country.

@may -i am happy to share all my travel experiences with everyone! kudos to your governor. I hope they continue their efforts to maintain the old houses.

monette said...

wow..thanks for posting..i wish to be here soon..its in my list but not a priority...but when i see the pix...i made a change. Well we are lucky to have Mr. Acuzar restore and preserve those centuries old ancestral houses. Remember that they are on state of neglect when Mr. Acuzar bought them in order to preserve them (though not in its original place).I think he just did the right thing. rather than lost it totally, better uproot these heritage houses then restore them so the future generation will still see and appreciate them.

deobaraanmd said...

hi monette! it was my pleasure to publish it. all filipinos should definitely visit las casas! I am a big fan of filipino architecture and las casas will definitely a treat!

Harold Melvin said...

@deo: as an architecture graduate i know that being a conservationist is really a hard work, you must consider a lot of things before you start the project most especially the laws regarding building codes (PD1096) and i think we do have that heritage conservation society here in the philippines. there was one time a group of conservationalist led by Arch. Luis Mata went to the Pangasinan Provincial Capitol to meet up with Gov. Agbayani at that time to discuss about the importance of building conservation but politics destroyed the history of the capitol when it undergo another restoration led by the new administration, some people don't even realize that true importance of history. I also attended a seminar once about Architectural Heritage restoration and Arch. Ramon Zaragoza is one conservationalist who does not ask even a cent in the government to pay him in his restoration works, most of his works is the intramuros, the quiapo church and much more and i asked him why he doesn't even ask for a cent and it's because the government cannot afford it and i asked again why continue because it's really hard to imagine how can a person do such things without getting paid? and he said "Personal Satisfaction" after that i was really inspired but still i kept on thinking where the hell he's getting the money to do his works?? but as i researched his roots i was stunned because his family roots belongs to the ayala, zobel and of course zaragoza anyway i really do hope people like ramon zaragoza will do this without asking in return.

deobaraanmd said...

Hi melvin! Thank you for sharing that. We really need more people who realize the importance of restoring these houses. :P

kiko said...

another great post! i applaud mr. acuzar for his effort in preserving these structures. i hope there'll be more people like him. there are still lots of old structures out there that need to be rescued from total destruction. it doesn't really matter if the houses are dismantled and taken somewhere else as long as they are restored. at least there is someone like mr. acuzar who thinks that such architectural gems are worth saving. to hell with those idealistic conservationists. just imagine if these structures were left in their original location. even if they are restored, do you think they'd ever look as grand? never. take casa vyzatina as an example. Binondo, as it is right now, is not the perfect location for a restored casa vyzantina. it will look out of place. maybe it's just me but i think that somehow there should be some regulation or law as to how new structures should look like in a certain locations. they should somehow stick to a common look or architectural style. anyway, i see las casas filipinas de acuzar a a museum of filipino heritage structures. it's not much different from the philippine national museum or the louvre or any other museum. museums showcase things that were taken from somewhere else to preserve them and to use them in educating people of their rich heritage. just my two cents.

deobaraanmd said...

Thanks kiko. Great to hear from you again. We share the same sentiments. Eventually, I believe that what Mr. Acuzar has done will be a gift to the next generation. Priceless!

claws67 said...

its really a beautiful place.. and it is a big help for bagakenos.. nagkaroon pa ng trabaho ang mga tao dito.. a big applause for (01) Mr Acuzar!!!!

Anonymous said...

Genius idea! I would like to commend Mr. Acuzar for doing this. Although it would be better if these houses are restored in their original locations..but I doubt if people from the government would ever give a damn to keep and preserve them.
Keep it up Mr. Acuzar...more houses please. I hope I'll be able to see these houses soon.

Thanks for posting this as well, Grandeur Traveler.

deobaraanmd said...

@claws67- it's really brilliant work
@anonymous - thank you! it was my pleasure to share this with everyone. :P

Anonymous said...

wow..as in super wow..
im from mindanao po and im planning to explore luzon this coming november...las casas filipinas de acuzar is certainly one of the places i wish to visit..... how much po ang day tour nila ang how to get here po?..
tnx tnx...

deobaraanmd said...

@anonymous- i think the daytour is P600 now. It will blow your socks off. :P

Cagayan de Oro City said...

I like the place.. I would love to stay there for a while..:)http://www.cdokay.com

Anonymous said...

one of the house that was built in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, the CASA MEXICO was the house were we used to live...but unfortunately it was demolished yr.2005..

deobaraanmd said...

hi cdo -yes it is a trip to the past.
@anonymous- interesting to know that you used to live there. hope is everything is ok now though since it has been moved to bataan

Anonymous said...


I'm from Bataan, but I now live in SG. It's good to read about interesting places, especially of my hometown in your blogs.

Btw, would you by any chance have the contact details of the resort? I'm planning to take a visit in February. Thanks!

Rio (lavieenrose579@yahoo.com)

deobaraanmd said...

just click the link on my blog post. last line. everything is there. :P

deobaraanmd said...

just click the link on my blog post. last line. everything is there. :P

Anonymous said...

It's wonderful to find some people who truly appreciates and sees the beauty of historical Filipino homes. If only the government gives importance to these strctures, I guess we don't need to save every centavo just to see the Big Ben or the Eifel Tower, instead we can take a stroll to the plaza and enjoy the uniquely designed houses, churches, cafeteria, hotels and even movie houses and colonial style Filipino gardens which are just as magnificent and carries the same granduer like of those European structures. I think what has to be done is there should be a some sort of restructuring in our curriculum in schools. See, the way I see it now, it seems the subject Art and Philippine History hasn't been able to to reach or touch some of our student's heart and soul. This is especially true to those courses related to arts and design. I'm not saying that having a taste for industrial modern design is a bad thing. We can still be modern at the same time holding on to our "roots". A good example is the country Japan. Anyway, I personally enjoy looking at historical homes. They have so much to say of the way they were built - not to mention those carpenters and designers behind the scene. Who spent hours and hours in a time when things has to be done by hand.

Also, thanks for the owner of this blog! Surely it's nice to share the same interest and passion for historical Philippine homes. This just inspired me to do more research about "character" homes!

deobaraanmd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
deobaraanmd said...

I wish you put you name here. I agree with everything you have said. Children should know how to appreciate our history and culture. That has been lost already..Sad. Hopefully kids and even adults will have a deeper sense of appreciation for our historical buildings.

And thank you for your generous comment! I love it when I read "comprehensive" feedback.


Anonymous said...

@Granduer Traveller - naah, don't mention it. I guess I was just so thrilled to see all those pictures you posted as I never thought someone in the Philippines would really care about saving them! & thus I did say a "lot" infact, my mind was bursting with thoughts and emotions as I was trying to collect all my thoughts... Perhaps I guess I have no other means of expressing myself but here in your blog & I do agree that I am quite generous in speaking my mind.... Anyway, just like what I said before, I appreciate your work here and I will be reading your blog to get more info about historical homes. Thanks again!


Anonymous said...

wow you really have the guts to call the former dwellers of casa cagayan "Indios"?! Have u seen the contrast of abject poverty and affluence in that place? And take note, the developed property was a former rice field...fertile rice field!