Being just three hours away from Metro Manila, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar can be found tucked in a 40 hectare area out of a total of 400 hectares in Bagac, Bataan.
And while the pictures on the brochures and site try to prepare you for the sights, nothing compares to the scale and size of this living museum when you are actually standing on the cobble-stoned roads.
As you know from Part 1 of this article, our tour guide was dressed in a traditional costume as she shuttled us around the cobble-stoned facility.
She had a portable speaker attached to a microphone so we could hear every word she said as she rattled off the histories behind each house.
Some were actual houses, transplanted to the facility after being bought. And when I say transplanted, I mean they were disassembled carefully and reconstructed brick-by-brick in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
Altogether, there are there are twenty seven homes in the facility. Some are the original homes, with a few repairs of course, while one, the house of Jose Rizal’s mother, was a replica with just a few original parts remaining.
Most of the houses were names from the places they were transplanted from. So you have house names like Casa Baliuag, Casa Binondo, Casa Hidalgo, Casa Lubao, Casa Meycauayan, and Casa Tondo.
Unfortunately, due to neglect or lack of money, some of these houses chalked up quite a sordid history before being rescued and transferred to the present site.
Perhaps one of the houses with a colorful past was the one named Casa Hidalgo.
The mansion was designed built by Felix Roxas y Arroyo for Rafael Enriquez and was built in built in 1867.
When Enriquez became the first director of the University of the Philippines Schools of Fine Arts, the mansion was used as by the university, becoming the first school of architecture in the Philippines.
Some of the more famous people who studied within its walls during the 1870s included Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo.
When the University of the Philippines transferred to Padre Faura Street, the house became a bowling alley, a dormitory for boys and girls, and was even a venue for live sex shows before it was rescued.
The case of Casa Lubao was, thankfully, less sordid over the years.
It was constructed in 1920 for the Arastia and Vitug families in Lubao Pampanga. The design was based on a plantation house in Virginia in the United States.
It has a large balcony with iron grills covering its equally large windows. It has a big living room, dining area, and three bedrooms.
After being purchased from its original owners, the house was taken apart and reassembled in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in the year 2006.
Another nice thing to look at is a bridge made of stone and also lined with cobble stones. It is as magnificent as it is grand. The only odd thing was that the guide said the bridge was based on an Italian design, which kind of wasn’t in keeping with the motif of the place.
But other than this, the bridge was very well detailed, with statues and lampposts dotting its side as it arches over the Umagol River.
If the bridge looks great in the day time, those lights make one heck of a romantic place to be on. And if it hasn’t happened yet, I predict that bridge will see a healthy share of wedding proposals during the evenings.
And if you think the place just has houses and a bridge, you may be surprised that the area is dotted with bronze statues depicting life during the early days. Children playing, carabaos bathing, and even statues of Doňa Sisang reading to children can be found near the water.
Should you wish to stay longer, there is a pool available for guests and people to massage the stress out of you. A game room has a billiard table and dart board. And I also noticed a kayak by the Umagol River.
Since the houses are original, I hear that it is becoming a favorite for shooting local movies. And though I haven't heard about it yet, it's possible that even musicians may want to tape their music videos here.
Facilities for Rent
Speaking of nights, if you want to spend more than a day admiring the houses, you can actually rent one for the evening. The cheapest is a Studio Deluxe Room at Paseo de Escolta. One of these rooms can accommodate two adults and two children at PhP3,825 during the off-peak season. During peak seasons, the room is available for PhP4,500.
The most expensive is Casa San Miguel, which has a total of six rooms. The ground floor has four separate guest rooms and two Queen-sized beds. The second floor has two guestrooms, each with an individual bathroom. During the off-peak season, the rental cost is PhP38,250 per night. If you will be staying during the peak season, which is classified as official holidays and other special days, the house will cost PhP45,000.
During our day tour, a couple was renewing their wedding vows in the facility, which may explain why the parking lot was nearly full.
I’ve heard that several historians have raised a howl over a private enterprise buying up national treasures then transplanting them on private property.
And my initial thought was that this should not be allowed as such an action privatizes these national treasures.
But then I realized two things. The first is that these national treasures are actually owned by private citizens, families be exact. With this in mind, transferring ownership really isn’t changing anything other than changing hands.
The second is perhaps the sticking point many see. It involves physically moving the house from its original place to this 40-hectare site. And quite frankly, I initially thought that physical moving them should not be done.
Then I heard the sordid history of Casa Hidalgo, starting off as a mansion only to be degraded in to a sex den because of neglect.
I also recalled all the other places, houses, building, and even churches that I visited back when I was in school. Many of those structures are now rotting in their places of origin, slowly dying from neglect. Roofs have collapsed, walls have topped, and floors have rotted them over the years.
And I’ll tell you, some of these houses are not only destroyed by mother nature, you’d be shocked to hear that some of them reek of urine and feces as people use them as public toilets.
This is when I realized that I would rather see these magnificent structures exist in a living museum where they will be cared for by people who want to preserve history.
The sad truth is that our government cannot maintain these houses properly. Even worse is that the later generations of the original owners do not care about them. They would prefer to leave them to rot because their upkeep costs too much money.
But in a place like Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, these structures can live on forever. More than that, regular people can visit all these houses, in all their glory, all in one spot.
I don’t know the total history behind Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. But I can imagine it must have been difficult to buy up houses that are considered national treasures and transplant them all the way to Bagac, Bataan.
It was such a novel idea that I’m sure more than enough people made it tough for them. But the family persevered and the result of this bravery is a living museum scattered over forty hectares of land.
Seeing 27 houses built in a facility of cobble stones really transports you back to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
And like I said in Part 1 of this article, the PhP850 entrance fee was definitely worth the price of seeing all these works of art all in one place.
Before I go, I would just like to say that I was never much into history when I was back in high school. I always found it to be a boring subject.
But when I got to college, I had the opportunity of taking a class under an excellent teacher who added color to an otherwise black and white history. Since then I realized that it was not history that was boring, it was the teachers.
Class field trips should make this place a must-visit destination. Not only will young minds have the opportunity to actually see history with their own eyes, they will be able to touch it with their hands as they are regaled with stories of years gone by.
Well, that's it for me. Keep your camera batteries fully charged and your memory free because you may need them in the next place you visit!
|Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar|
|Address||Barrio Pag-asa, Bagac, Bataan|
|Telephone Number||+63 (2) 546-9123|
|Manila Sales and Reservation Office|
|Address||Mezzanine Floor, Victoria Towers, No. 78 Timog Avenue, Quezon City|
|Telephone Number||+63 (2) 332-5338, +63 (2) 332-5286, and +63 (917) 8729361|
|Facsimile Number||+63 (2) 738-4728|
We would like to thank Anything Under the Sun for contributing pictures and videos for this article.