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A tale of love and legacy

Like a magic wand that illumines all in its path, the surreal becomes reality at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, an impressive resort that preserves and proudly showcases our history and legacy, nestled in the picturesque town of Bagac in Bataan.

Voted by the people behind Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence as the Best Historic Hotel in Asia and the Pacific, the property is known as the “Vanguard of Filipino Heritage.”

Take a stroll back in time at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar and admire the glorious history and legacy that characterizes 63 ancestral houses and 34 historically significant structures from different Philippine provinces.

Hotel Oriente: A replica of the Philippines’ first luxury hotel, built in 1889

These unique homes and structures were painstakingly transported and assembled piece by piece at Las Casas over a period of 10 years.

The result is a timeless synthesis where modern comforts seamlessly coexist with historical charm. Luxurious rooms, complete with air-conditioning, modern amenities as well as impressive service, cuisine and activities now await discriminating guests.

Historic casas: (clockwise) Casa Luna, named after Antonio and Juan Luna; Casa Balayan, where Hispanic and oriental flavors merge; Casa Byzantina, known as the Don Lorenzo del Rosario House; a luxury bedroom in Casa Byzantina; Casa San Miguel, a five-bedroom casa with enormous living room

Our very own Secretary of Human Settlements and Urban Development Jose "Jerry" Rizalino L. Acuzar, the esteemed visionary behind this extraordinary and monumental project, began collecting these heritage homes in 2000. The grand opening to the public in 2010 marked the culmination of a decade-long dedication to preserving our heritage, not just for the Philippines but also for the world.

The luxurious Hotel de Oriente, as seen from the balsa ride

Filipino historian Ambeth Ocampo once said, “Who says history is stagnant? For a historian, facts do not change; it is the way we look at things, our interpretations, that are always changing. This is what makes history exciting — that we can always find something new in what is old.”

We had the privilege of taking a guided historical walking tour with our competent tour guide Dianne Rose Diaz and this precious immersion made us feel the pride in our past and the hope for the future. Of the expansive 400 hectares of land, 40 hectares have been utilized for the impressive Las Casas de Filipinas de Acuzar. We felt like we stepped onto the movie set of Quezon’s Game that was filmed here. It is a profoundly touching movie about how President Manuel L. Quezon saved 1,200 Jewish refugees from Austria and Germany by welcoming them to the Philippines.

They say every jewel has a story. In Las Casas, every structure has a very interesting story to tell. Among the casas we visited during our walking tour included Casa Biñan, the residence of Teodora Alonzo, mother of our revered national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

Dianne shared that Casa Lubao is associated with the education of Diosdado Macapagal.

The San Juan Batangas house, with 90 to 95 percent of its original parts intact, was visited at its original site by former presidents like Manuel Roxas and Ferdinand Marcos.

Casa Luna, named after the Luna brothers Antonio and Juan, was once a garrison for US armed forces during World War II.

The unforgettable experience continued with a motorized banca ride or a balsa through the picturesque waterways. Accompanied by gracious arts and culture manager Eva Canta, this dreamlike journey reminded me of travels to Venice and Paris. The ride showcased a glorious panorama of heritage homes, gilded lampposts and structures adorned with Filipino works of art.

Our dear friend, physical therapist Edwin Santos from Tyler, Texas, says that experiencing Las Casas for Filipinos living here and abroad is the epitome of loving the Philippines. He believes it's a microcosm of Filipino heritage, a place where one can genuinely feel the historical ground beneath their feet.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar’s general manager, Jorge Villanova from Spain, shared his passion for preserving the authenticity of this place while offering a remarkable venue for precious moments of our lives.

To solidify its status as a global historic treasure and heritage destination is the vision of Las Casas.

Another remarkable structure that truly left us spellbound is the replica of the iconic Hotel de Oriente, a testament to opulence and the Philippines’ first luxury hotel. Imagine the grandeur of June 26, 1892, when our national hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, checked into Room 22, overlooking the Nino de Church. The intricate woodcarvings, gilded staircase, chandeliers, statues, European-styled opera, and expansive ballroom here are better experienced than explained.

Another highlight is the massive church Sanctuario de San Jose by the waterways, adorned with intricate carvings, the impressive hand-carved Stations of the Cross definitely command reverence. A labor of love and profound faith, this church is a work in progress.

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The journey through time extends to Casa Quiapo, associated with artistic giants like Guillermo Tolentino, Fernando Amorsolo, Carlos “Botong” Francisco, and Tomas Mapua. Each ancestral house undergoes meticulous cataloging, dismantling, transportation, and rebuilding. The task of maintaining heritage homes is a colossal challenge, but passion and perseverance makes it possible.

Talented and creative artisans from Bataan, Pampanga, Laguna and other parts of the country master crafts like stonework, woodcarving, wrought-iron steelwork, carpentry, fresco painting, and cotton lacework. Every detail, from sculptures to roof tiles, is meticulously created by a dedicated local team spearheaded by Sec. Acuzar. The site planning, landscaping, interior design, and furniture design remain authentic to specific periods.

Visitors actively participate in living history, immerse in cultural shows, movie nights, water sports, folk dancing, and occasional fireworks.

Themed restaurants here serving delectable Filipino, Spanish, and Continental cuisine reflect the diverse flavors of our country. Watching the sunset slowly disappearing beyond the horizon while sipping brews and cocktails is one precious activity one can embark on here.

The poignant fusion of past and present transforms the resort into a timeless museum, said GM Jorge Villanova. “Seeing the joy on the faces of our guests as they learn about history and heritage makes all our efforts in Las Casas worthwhile. It's not merely about managing a property; it's about sharing a cultural treasure.”

It must be said that to preserve our heritage for future generations, we must also have a shared duty of stewardship. This unforgettable stay in Las Casas proved that it is much more than just a resort: it is a journey, a living legacy of love.

If we don’t share our stories, who will? Let us not allow our history to remain in our dreams.

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For more information on Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, call 0919-056-7789 or visit www.lascasasfilipinas.com.

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Credit belongs to : www.philstar.com

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