A tour of her­itage houses in Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar

A her­itage re­sort in Bataan gives guests a glimpse of Span­ish-era Philip­pines

Red Magazine - - CONTENTS - WORDS ALYOSHA J. ROBILLOS

In Ba­gac, Bataan, about 125 kilo­me­ters north­west of Manila, lies a her­itage re­sort that is home to at least 55 old houses.

All taken from their orig­i­nal sites and faith­fully re­stored, the struc­tures are fully func­tional and are deemed the main at­trac­tions of Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar.

Las Casas, owned by New San Jose Builders Inc. chair­man Jose Acuzar, is nes­tled on a 400-hectare prop­erty fac­ing the West Philip­pine Sea. No doubt the scene it paints is pic­turesque: au­then­tic prin­ci­palia man­sions, stone houses, and pre-World War II homes just a stone’s throw away from calm wa­ters. And per­haps the best thing about this so­called “liv­ing mu­seum” is that vis­i­tors can ac­tu­ally stay in these her­itage houses and im­merse them­selves in the prop­erty’s 18th­cen­tury charm for a day or two.

Opened to the pub­lic in 2010, Las Casas was borne out of Acuzar’s love for Philip­pine cul­ture and her­itage. But what ul­ti­mately pro­pelled the project was his frus­tra­tion over the de­mo­li­tion of an ag­ing house in Bataan. Af­ter learn­ing that it was torn down, Acuzar set on a mis­sion to search for the struc­ture’s parts and re­build it piece by piece. Since then, he hasn’t stopped scout­ing for di­lap­i­dated or aban­doned her­itage houses, which he then trans­fers to Ba­gac for restora­tion.

Now, Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar is not only a re­sort, but also a show­case of Philip­pine his­tory and craftsmanship. Las Casas reg­u­larly holds her­itage tours and cul­tural shows, and of­fers other ser­vices. Among its ameni­ties are a spa, a swim­ming pool, and a pri­vate beach. Vis­i­tors can also dine in any of the her­itage re­sort’s three restau­rants: Café Marivent, La Bella, and Café del Rio, which serve Filipino, Span­ish, Ital­ian, and con­ti­nen­tal dishes.

To give you a taste of this “liv­ing mu­seum,” we present a tour of seven her­itage houses in Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar.

Casa Byzantina

Orig­i­nally lo­cated at the cor­ner of Madrid and Pe­naru­bia Streets in San Ni­co­las, Bi­nondo, Casa Byzantina was a typ­i­cal ba­hay na bato de­signed by Don Lorenzo del Rosario, a na­tive prin­ci­palia and a build­ing con­trac­tor. The house’s first level was built from stone and bricks, while its up­per floors were made from dif­fer­ent kinds of Philip­pine hard­wood. Casa Byzantina’s orig­i­nal struc­ture, which dis­played flo­ral em­bel­lish­ments, was built in 1890. In 2009, it was home to around 50 ur­ban poor fam­i­lies. It was later de­mol­ished and trans­ferred to Ba­gac, and is now a pri­vate casa that can house as many as 16 guests.

Casa Mey­cauayan

Casa Mey­cauayan, as its name sug­gests, hadn’t al­ways been in Mey­cauayan, Bu­la­can. In 1913, it was sit­u­ated in San Fer­nando, Pam­panga, where it was owned by a cer­tain Teodoro Es­cotto. In 1950, a man named Ro­ge­lio Ur­ru­tia pur­chased the prop­erty and had it trans­ferred to Bu­la­can. Ac­cord­ing to Las Casas, the main at­trac­tion of the house is the “pineap­ple mo­tif ” found on the ceil­ing. Casa Mey­cauayan be­came part of Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar in 2005, able to house a max­i­mum of 10 guests.

Casa Ga­pan

Casa Ga­pan was built in 1926 by Hospi­cio Gar­cia, an ar­chi­tect mar­ried to Macaria Buen­camino. It was said to be in­spired by his el­dest daugh­ter Hen­oveva, but when she eloped with her Amer­i­can ad­mirer, an en­raged Gar­cia doused the house with gaso­line with the in­tent of set­ting it on fire. The an­ces­tral home was saved thanks to the in­ter­ven­tion of his brother-in-law. Ac­cord­ing to man­age­ment, Casa Ga­pan is a show­room and is for her­itage tours only.

Casa Irosin

The tale that nar­rates how Casa Irosin with­stood the war in 1942 is bit­ter­sweet. Its owner, Rosario de Cas­tro, sup­pos­edly begged the Ja­panese not to de­stroy her home. A widow, de Cas­tro ex­plained that she and her chil­dren had nowhere to go if their house were to

be razed to the ground. A Ja­panese of­fi­cer de­cided to in­spect the home and, upon do­ing so, no­ticed a photo of the widow in a kimono. Pleased that de Cas­tro had taken an in­ter­est in Ja­panese cul­ture even be­fore the war broke out, the of­fi­cer spared Casa Irosin, but a neigh­bor’s house was de­stroyed in its place. Ac­cord­ing to man­age­ment, Casa Irosin is a show­room and is for her­itage tours only.

Casa San Juan

One of the most strik­ing struc­tures in Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar, Casa San Juan is con­sid­ered one of the most well-main­tained. In fact, it now stands in Ba­gac al­most in its orig­i­nal form. It was owned by a prom­i­nent fam­ily in San Juan, Batan­gas. Atty. Lorenzo Her­nan­dez, who was a mem­ber of the Lib­eral Party, later on mar­ried into the fam­ily that owned the house. Be­cause of his po­lit­i­cal ties, Casa San Juan has re­ceived many of the coun­try’s lead­ers: for­mer pres­i­dents Dios­dado Ma­ca­pa­gal, Fer­di­nand Mar­cos, and Ser­gio Os­meña, to name a few. Ac­cord­ing to man­age­ment, Casa San Juan is a show­room and is for her­itage tours only.

Casa Lubao

Casa Lubao was built in the early 1900s in Lubao, Pam­panga. It was the plan­ta­tion house of Valentin Ar­ras­tia and Fran­cisca Sal­gado, a cou­ple who man­aged rice and sugar lands. Dur­ing the war, the Ja­panese used the Lubao res­i­dence as a gar­ri­son. Con­sid­ered a ba­hay na bato, the an­ces­tral house had a wooden up­per floor and a ground level made of con­crete. The struc­ture’s orig­i­nal de­sign in­cluded a straight, grand stair­case—a com­mon fea­ture of ar­chi­tec­ture at that time. Later on, the struc­ture be­came known as the Ar­ras­tia-Vi­tug home. It is cur­rently Las Casas’ games and en­ter­tain­ment cen­ter.

Casa Quiapo

Casa Quiapo was a man­sion orig­i­nally lo­cated at the cor­ner of Calle San Se­bas­tian (now R. Hi­dalgo St.) and Calle­jon de Carcer in Quiapo, Manila. It was built in 1867 and was de­signed by Felix Roxas y Ar­royo, the coun­try’s first prac­tic­ing ar­chi­tect dur­ing the Span­ish era. The man­sion was the first cam­pus of the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines School of Fine Arts. In 1927, the school trans­ferred to Padre Faura in Manila and the house was repur­posed into a bowl­ing al­ley and a dor­mi­tory, among other things. Af­ter years of ne­glect, Casa Quiapo fell into var­i­ous stages of de­cay. Now it is home to the Bel­las Artes Projects Foun­da­tion, a hub for con­tem­po­rary art that was founded by Jam, daugh­ter of Jose.

Las Casas Filip­inas de Acuzar is lo­cated on a 400-hectare prop­erty in Ba­gac, Bataan Above: In­side the Ho­tel De Ori­ente

One of the rooms in Casa Byzantina

Clock­wise from left: Casa Lubao’s in­te­ri­ors; the pool area of Casa Irosin; Casa Ga­pan

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