A tour of heritage houses in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar
A heritage resort in Bataan gives guests a glimpse of Spanish-era Philippines
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.
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, 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 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.
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 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 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