Have you ever thought of building a time travelling machine so as to get the feel of the lives, the houses, and the things back in the Old Manila days? Have you ever imagined a cross-over between the 21st Century and 1800s? Have you ever been in awe of the architecture and design of heritage houses?
Well, no need for a time machine and no need for an imagined cross-over because you can experience Old Manila and still have the luxury of what might be considered as the most important thing in our time now – Wi-Fi connection. Just kidding, there are much more important things than Wi-Fi connection.
Anyway, it was a bright, sunny day in Bataan and the traveler souls within us were hungry for some exploration and this trip definitely satisfied that hunger of ours. It was an adventure filled with history and grandeur, a travel exploration through time, a journey back to the Old Manila days. It was an experience like no other and it was all thanks to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
We couldn’t wait to see the whole place as our initial reaction upon our arrival was just wow; we were first welcomed by a lady in a typical Filipiniana blouse and skirt in Casa New Manila. Casa New Manila was built in 1926 and stood for almost 90 years in Balete Drive. It was built by an Italian-American, Joseph Francisco, and then was later bought by two scions from two well-known families in Manila, Manuel Alcuaz y Tuazon and Rosa Araneta y Zaragoza. This house demonstrates the practical side of American culture; with wide open verandas and extended eaves – features best for a tropical country, like ours, the Philippines. What’s more amazing is that the existing fireplace is original to the house.
Currently, this house serves as the reception area and activity center of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. There are so many activities being offered here. If you want to fully imbibe the traditional Filipino games, you can; they have kadang-kadang, patintero, hula-hoop, palosebo, egg throwing, agawan panyo, hampas palayok, sack race, sipa, habulang sisiw, calamansi relay, tumbang preso, sepak takraw, and piko. If you are up for some fun in the beach other than swimming, they have beach activities such as frizbee, tug of war, and beach volleyball. If you want more physically challenging activities, they have an obstacle course wherein they have tire, log, net, and pole 6’ to 7’. If you are more of the indoor type, you can also have fun in their Filipino pool, go play billiards, darts, table tennis, or mah-jong. And if you want some games that would exercise your mind, you have a lot of games to choose from – Chinese checkers, games of the generals, snakes and ladders, domino, sungka, marble, scrabble, and chess.
There really is a lot to do in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. We have a whole itinerary already planned out and we need energy for all those, so before we take you with us to an experience of a lifetime, first we take you out with us to lunch at Cusina ni Nanay Maria, an ancestral house turned rustic restaurant which gives its diners an authentic and native Filipino cuisine experience.
The ancestral house that hosts Cusina ni Nanay Maria is Casa Unisan, the first bahay na bato in Unisan, Quezon which was built in 1839 by lumber mogul, Don Antonio Maxino. Whole trunks were used for the casa’s floor slabs and a trap door was also made in the house for escaping as bandits kept seeing the house as a target and kept attacking it.
A little trivia as to who Nanay Maria actually is: Nanay Maria is José “Gerry” Acuzar’s mother. Mr. Gerry Acuzar is the man behind this resort that is a treasure trove of history, and because he loves his dear mother so much, he named the restaurant after her. Plus, some of the recipes of the dishes served in Cusina ni Nanay Maria is in fact the recipe of Nanay Maria.
More on our full feature of this restaurant on this blog: Cucina ni Nanay Maria
After having our lovely lunch, we have three tours lined up. Our first tour is the Heritage Tour where different stories of different houses have been told to us – a house with a tragic past, a house that was a center for culture and arts, a house that was once a headquarters of the US Army back in the day. Each piece of each house has a story to tell, imagine if the walls and ceilings could talk!
For here though, we’ll be sharing with you two casas that we’ve been to – one is Casa Luna and the other is Casa Lubao. Casa Luna was originally built in 1850 and is now a reminder of our brave and artistic heritage. It was owned by Primitivo Novicio, Uncle of the illustrious Luna brothers, General Antonio Luna and Filipino Arts Master Juan Luna.
It was symmetrically constructed as it echoes the typical square floor plan of the Ilocano bahay na bato. Consisted of three floors, the ground level serves as cochera – a place for carriages and carrozas, and as a storeroom for farm produce. Next an entresuelo – a mezzanine for servants, and of course the main second floor with bedrooms, the grand living room, kitchen, toilet and bath, and an azotea at the back. This house also features a volada which is a standard for the illustrado house. A volada is a catwalk that encircled the entire perimeter of the house that only the alipin saguiguilid used.
Meanwhile, Casa Lubao has been occupied by two generations of Arrastia Family before it was seized by the Japanese during the Second World War. After the war, the Arrastias were able to reclaim possession o the house which from then became their provincial house. Also, the Arrastia family was the one who provided for school materials for a Lubao boy who became a President of the Republic of the Philippines, Diosdado Macapagal.
Another historical event that happened in this house was that during the war, the family sheltered a Japanese under their care, even employing him as a gardener and a driver, which later on they found out was a spy as he was a colonel in the Japanese army. With this, in the peak of the war and as houses were being burned down, the Japanese colonel returned the favor to the Arrastia Family and asked his comrades to spare the house of the kind hacienderos.
Just a little side note, wear comfy clothes and footwear that you can easily take off and put on again because as a Filipino tradition and as a sign of respect, you will be removing your shoes upon entering the casas.
Having said that, after our Heritage Tour and seeing how the houses are amazingly being restored and maintained, we went on with our Workshop Tour wherein we saw how every little detail of each house in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar were being made. The resort was self-sustaining as they are making their own materials, from bricks for house foundation, to statues, to ceiling art, to stained glass mosaic, and tiles – everything!
We did not only get to see how their bricks were made, but we were given the opportunity to have our hands printed on them!
Their workers are actually people who also live nearby, they are considered as trained artists as they didn’t know a thing or two on how to make the materials before they were employed. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar gave more employment opportunities, helping more people, more families in sustaining their daily lives.
We were supposed to have our third tour which was the Hotel De Oriente Tour, but our tour got cut short as we chose to have a spontaneous snack break at Pica-Pica and La Parilla. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar’s Pica-Pica offers different Filipino snacks such as arrozcaldo, puto bumbong, cassava, kutsinta, kikiam, fishball, squidball, hotdog, and tokwa’t baboy. While La Parilla is the one in charge of drinks that are perfect in quenching our thirst for our knowledge-filled, fun-filled tours.
For our snacks, we had Cassava and Puto Bumbong. The Cassava was such a sweet, cheesy treat while the Puto Bumbong was served with sugar and shredded coconut which added more texture to our palate. The drink we had was a zesty, bright yellow mango shake that made us feel recharged for our next activities.
While having our snacks, a seller of balut and penoy passed by and we just couldn’t resist so we found ourselves having some of those as well. Both balut and penoy were tasty, perfect partnered with salt or vinegar!
The parade of pretty majorette and well-dressed carabaos was a perfect timing as we have just filled our tummies and we are ready for our next activity in our itinerary which was to be spectators of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar’s Weekend Activities – Palo Sebo and Carabao Race.
Those were two Traditional Filipino games that we enjoyed watching as both were races and both were a total thrill. Also, the well dressed carabaos were competing as to who is the best dressed, they were all covered in beautiful colorful flowers and ornaments. After the best dressed, which was Emma, was announced, the flowers and ornaments were removed from the carabaos so as to let them be freer to move for their race, which was won by Kardo.
Two tours, two meals, and two weekend activities after, we finally got some down time as we headed to our room and seek comfort among fluffy beds and warm, soft comforters. We took naps, unpack a little, and freshen up. Our room was in Accessoria which was inspired from old female dormitories in old Binondo back when Binondo was actually surrounded by water and riding a balsa was the citizens’ mode of transportation.
Dinner time came and we were fetched by a jeepney that delivered us to La Bella Teodora. It’s a restaurant that serves homage to Teodora Alonso Realonda y Quintos, the first teacher and mother of our National Hero, Dr. José Protacio Rizal Mercado y Alonso Realonda. La Bella Teodora which in English translation means The Beautiful Teodora, specializes in Italian cuisine, highlighting fresh pastas and pizzas that emanate simplicity and balance that makes the flavors more powerful and pleasant to the palate.
La Bella Teodora is currently updating their menu as they are planning to have a little garden of their own in which they will be getting their own ingredients from, so that they can have more, make more, and offer more to their growing patrons. Also, the restaurant itself is such an intimate place to be in, with live music from singers that would serenade you as you enjoy every bite of your dish.
It was such a hearty dinner; the perfect way to end a very tiring yet fruitful day of enjoyment, nostalgia, and love for own history and culture. And as Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar has put it; pride in the past, hope for the future – this is surely one way to also put what we have experienced on our first day here.
Read more about our hearty experience here at our full feature for this restaurant: La Bella Teodora
After a peaceful night of sleep, we woke up fresh and so ready for another set of activities that will absolutely be as fun as what we did yesterday – if not more. We went out of our room and waited for a jeepney that would deliver us again to our destination which was the Marivent Café. We had our breakfast on the second floor of Casa New Manila, with a spectacular view of almost the whole heritage resort and the crisp, blue sky, as if promising a wonderful day for us.
Marivent Café takes a traditional approach to Filipino and Spanish cuisines, reminding us of summers in the province when meal was served on a long table, may it be in the grand and flawless dining room or in the lovely backyard. We were once again served with food that were either their bestseller or yet to be added in their menu. It was more than just good food as the Chef and staff were very warm and accommodating which was such a plus!
Read more about our gastronomic experience here at our full feature for this restaurant: Cafe’ Marivent
And now that we were not only tummy-filled, but excitement-filled as well, we headed to our first activity for today which was the Balsa Tour. With the Unagol River cutting through the entirety of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, we no doubt had so much of a great time with our tour, even though the sun was bright and beaming. With additional knowledge of our heritage and culture, it’s so nice and humbling to actually see how Manila was back in the day.
In our Balsa Tour, we have learned more; not only about of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar right now, but how everything in it has come together. We got to experience how old Binondo was and we got to see the islands that are also open for accommodation wherein you can have three casas and a private pool. The islands were so beautiful that you would probably wish to own one as well. We also learned how not only each casa has a story, but also the bridges, the statues, and even the gargoyles have a story to tell.
As our tour was cut off early yesterday, we requested to be dropped off at Hotel De Oriente so as to get the full experience of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. The original Hotel De Oriente was actually once the most prestigious hotel in Manila as it was at one time considered as the only first class hotel in the entire Philippine archipelago. Unfortunately, as it was told to us by our tour guide, Kate, the hotel was destroyed by fire beyond repair, and so they made a replica of it here in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar, where the place is so grand that we think there are no enough words to describe how gorgeous it is.
With every detail being an art and manually made, it would totally be a waste if we didn’t push through with this tour. The wood used in making some parts of Hotel De Oriente were of no varnish or anything at all, but rather they used different types of wood to achieve the hues they are aiming for. Events are being done here at Hotel De Oriente, such as conferences, conventions, and the likes have been done in this place, which currently is even being made more beautiful than it already is.
After our jaw-dropping tour at Hotel De Oriente, we headed to our last activity not only for today, but for the whole experience of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. As this place is a cross-over of 21st century and Old Manila, this place also offers more than just history and heritage as they also offer activities that are of our current era. One of these activities which probably may be the newest attraction is the Inflatable Playground. If you are up for a really challenging activity, this one is for you! It’s an inflatable obstacle course that will definitely test your strength and strategy as you try to make your way in each and finish the whole playground.
We recommend doing a little warm up stretch beforehand so as to not shock your muscles and have your body sore all over after all the pulling-yourself-up, trying-not-to-fall-so-hard, maybe-jumping-from-time-to-time, and so much more. We mean, it is undeniably fun, but we also want you ready.
Being in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar and actually touring it will really take you back to a period in our history that is both captivating and difficult – identified by tremendous class systems, one known as the Spanish caste system; unclear religious ideologies from being conquered by different nations; and a social awakening, which kids these days identify as being “woke”, that led to the birth of a new and independent nation, The Pearl of the Orient Seas, our motherland, the Philippines.
With so much to offer and not just relaxation, history, and glory; Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar will fill your heart with nostalgia that you have no idea you had and humbleness for what our country, our people, and we have gone through already.
Address: Bayan ng Bagac, 2107 Bataan
Contact Number: (02) 332 5338
To book your stay click on this website: Las Casas Filipinas Acuzar Bataan
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