Time travel: an afternoon in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

In a world where a premium is put on the gleaming and new (case in point: the iPhone5), I always find it refreshing to visit places that celebrate heritage and history. Some months ago, I had a chance to visit Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, heritage destination developed by New San Jose Builders Inc. (NSJBI).

According to Mr. Jose Acuzar, chairman of NSJBI, the story of Las Casas started 12 years ago. “My wife and I saw an old house, we picked up the parts of the house and built a new one. We took the stairs, the windows and put them back together,” he shared. “When we went to Scandinavia…I opened my mind to build a small village like Estonia. It was an ambitious dream and an ambitious project. I told myself: “I think I can do this.””

He narrated that building and transferring heritage is difficult because of all the studies that have to be done. “The houses are fragile,” he added.

After we did the Incalgado House, all of my foremen asked me, “why don’t we try the stone house? Do you think we can do that?” We had a team meeting and decided to deconstruct and re-build it. It takes about 2 years.

“Yes, 2 years to finish one house.  I had to research how to put together the window sills, the door jam, the walls, everything. If there are parts that are missing, you have to reconstruct the parts and it takes almost a year to study.”

Acuzar was recently honored at the 8th Annual Tourism Awards hosted by The Rotary Club of Manila for his efforts in developing tourism destination.

“The story of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar started when Mr. Acuzar discovered that an old house he’d been searching for was torn down. Armed with a picture of the house, Mr. Acuzar and his team scoured junk yards to find the pieces of the house. It took years to recreate and restore the house. It was literally a  “plank by plank” and “brick by brick” effort,” shares Gina delos Reyes Virtusio, NSJBI’s Manager for Strategic Marketing and Corporate Communications.

Today, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar features 27 traditional Filipino bahay na bato (stone houses) that have been reconstructed or rehabilitated to reflect their original state. The heritage resort takes visitors back in time with its authentic 19th century Principalia Mansions and stone houses.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a 400 hectare property is located in Bagac, Bataan.The heritage resort rests at the hollow of the Bataan peninsula: between the the fine sands of Bagac Bay and the picturesque mountain ranges of Mariveles.

Nightfall at Casa Bizantina

The resort was originally a private family getaway for the Acuzar family. Over time, it became the site for the restoration of old, dilapidated houses that Acuzar bought them from its present owners. Each house was transplanted completely and rebuilt at its present location.

Today, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is managed by the Genesis Hotels and Resorts Corp. Its amenities include the traditional Filipino restaurant Marivent Café, tapas bar and deli Taberna del Señor Pepe,El Museo artifact museum and art gallery as well as function rooms and outdoor social activity centers.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar now has 52 hotel rooms with 70 more nearing completion.  Another bahay na bato, Casa Lemery and an authentic Maranao house are also being added. The Umagol River, which runs through the property to Bagac Bay, will soon have a cathedral on its banks.

Dubbed as a “living museum,” the resort has many notable structures. Among these is the Casa Hidalgo, which was transplanted from Hidalgo street in Quiapo, Manila. It was the first location of the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts. In its heyday, Casa Hidalgo was frequented by (then UP students) Fernando Amorsolo, Tomas Mapua, Carlos Francisco and Guillermo Tolentino.

Paseo de Escolta, a reproduction of the old commercial district of Escolta, Manila houses the Casa Escolta. Casa Escolta has 17 hotel rooms. Each hotel room was designed by Mr. Acuzar’s wife, Tess, who is an interior designer. The building comes complete with the replicas of the statues that lined the old Escolta buildings.

Visitors can also stay at the dazzling Casa Bizantina. Built in 1890, Casa Bizantina was Binondo’s first three storey building. Casa Bizantina housed the precursor of the University of Manila, the Instituto de Manila from 1914 to 1919. Families can also stay at Casa San Miguel, whose unique features includes flower motifs on its galvanized iron window eaves.  Casa Lubao, which features a 360 degree of the the whole resort and an authentic Atay bed, is also worth a
visit. Casa Biñan, a reproduction of the house owned by the family of Melchora Alonzo is set to become the main museum and art gallery of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

To know more about NJSBI’s projects, log on to njsbi.net.

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