Bataan’s Heritage Houses: Preserving Culture and History at Las Casas

Bataan is a province that occupies the whole Bataan Peninsula, facing the West Philippine Sea, Subic Bay, and Manila Bay. This area is known for its power generation plants, factories, and freeport. Its manufacturing industry produces everything, from optical lenses to military-grade weapons and vessels. 

The province is also known for its contributions to the country’s storied and rich past. One of its most famous landmarks is the collection of heritage houses in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. If you’re planning to visit this tourist attraction, use this guide to know more about the destination.

A Massive Project That Started as a Hobby

The Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a beach resort, heritage destination, and convention center located in Bagac, Bataan. The development of this project started in 2008 when owner Jose L. Acuzar chanced upon parts of an old house in Cagayan Valley. Acuzar, an architecture graduate and owner of New San Jose Builders, Inc. (NSJBI), took the components to his private estate in Bagac and rebuilt it to its former glory.

The project didn’t stop there. Jose soon found himself buying various heritage homes from different parts of the country. He used the same strategy for each project: disassemble, reposition, and rebuild. During his work on the first few houses, the Acuzar estate was still closed to the public. However, people who passed by the area became fascinated with Jose’s beautifully-crafted structures. 

Launching an Award-Winning Resort

Restorations weren’t cheap, and Acuzar needed the extra money to continue working on his heritage homes. This dilemma, coupled with the growing public interest in his creations, pushed him to transform his private property into a resort business.

Jose worked quickly, and in 2010, he launched Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. This destination has won many awards throughout the years, most notably the 2021 Best Historic Hotels in the Asia Pacific. It also garnered multiple consecutive Travelers’ Choice Awards from TripAdvisor from 2013 to 2021. 

Expanding the Collection

Banking on Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar’s success, the owner continued to improve the development’s features. Most of the upgrades went to the heritage houses themselves. Acuzar enlisted a team of craftspeople and artisans to expand the collection of heritage homes to over 63 units. 

Here are five historic houses you should check out at Las Casas:

Casa Hidalgo 

This house was originally built in Quiapo, Manila, in the early 1800s. It has a bahay na bato architectural style, designed by Felix Roxas y Arroyo. It was once owned by a peninsular named Rafael Enriquez. 

The Philippines’ best artists at the time honed their craft in Casa Hidalgo, painting beautiful scenes and portraits on the home’s mezzanine. The University of the Philippines’ School of Fine Arts even used the property as its first campus. Enriquez served as director for the school from 1909 to 1926. 

Following Enriquez’s passing in 1927, Casa Hidalgo became the site for businesses. It was turned into a dormitory and even a bowling alley once. This house features a ground floor made of adobe stones and a second floor built with hardwood. It also has ionic columns, which provide shade to passersby. 

Casa Lubao 

The affluent Arrastia family occupied this for two generations. It was then seized by occupying Japanese troops during World War II. The same family was able to reclaim it after the war.

This house, built in 1920, incorporated American, Filipino, and Spanish design details. It has high ceilings, spacious rooms, and a grand outdoor staircase. Its original structure featured a ground floor made of concrete instead of stone, a more modern take on the bahay na bato style.

Casa Bizantina 

Also known as the Don Lorenzo Rosario House, this structure used to be located in the San Nicolas District of Manila. It was a project of Joan Josep Jose Hervas y Arizmendi, a Spanish architect, in the late 1800s. It’s the only building in the country he designed. 

The lower level of the house was dedicated for commercial use, while the second and third floors were residential spaces. A notable occupant of this home was Don Lorenzo del Rosario, one of the signatories of the Malolos Constitution. Jose Acuzar bought the house and moved it to Bataan in 2009. 

Casa Bizantina got its name from its architectural style. While it’s also a classic bahay na bato, it has ornaments influenced by Byzantine architecture. These include engaged columns, window arches, and a half-moon opening above its main entrance. 

Casa Unisan 

This was once the home of Don Antonio Maxino, who had the structure built in Tayabas province (now Unisan, Quezon) in the mid-1800s. This home has a tragic past, as the Maxino family was massacred by bandits, leaving only one survivor. A member of the family sold it to Acuzar in 2007. Its first level serves as a Filipino restaurant named Marivent Cafe in the Las Casas complex. 

Casa Unisan follows the traditional bahay na bato design as well, with a stone ground floor and wooden second floor. However, it subverts the tradition by omitting ventanillas, the small openings below each window, giving the home a more streamlined appearance. 

Casa Baliuag 1 and 2 

The first Casa Baliuag structure was built in 1898, right in front of the Baliuag Church. It served as the town hall of the municipality in the 1950s. The house features elegant wood carvings. Casa Baliuag 2, on the other hand, was once a compound of the local Iglesia ni Cristo. 

Overall, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar boasts 63 heritage houses and 34 historically significant structures. Built in a rustic style, these iconic properties fit the overall aesthetic of the resort. 

What to Do in Las Casas

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a full-fledged resort and events place with various amenities, like shops, restaurants, and activity centers. When visiting the tourist spot, include these in your must-trys:

Stay in the Historically Beautiful Casas 

Take yourself back to an older and simpler time by staying in one of the casas. Jose L. Acuzar and his team of builders modernized the heritage homes without sacrificing their original look and structure. You can enjoy the comforts of a modern hotel room, like air conditioning and showers, while marveling at the casa’s traditional architecture and vintage features. 

Go on a Heritage House Tour 

Want to know more about the casa you’re currently staying in? Or maybe you’re just a fan of classic architecture. Whichever the case, taking a guided tour of each heritage home is a must. You’ll learn about the history of each ancestral home, the fascinating stories of people who lived in them, and how they were restored. 

The heritage house tour ends with a visit to the actual Las Casas workshop, where you’ll see elite artists and craftspeople restore antique structures and furniture. This is a walking tour, so make sure to put on some comfy shoes, use sunscreen, and schedule snack and water breaks. 

Go on a River Cruise 

The resort is located along River Umagol. The best way to appreciate this body of water is through a river cruise from Las Casas. During this activity, you’ll see beautiful sculptures and murals crafted by the resort’s artists. The boats have comfortable benches so you can have a full meal during the cruise. 

Watch a Live Performance 

Learn more about Philippine history with a live performance from Las Casas’ in-house crew. It features different stories like the execution of Jose Rizal and The Cry of Pugad Lawin. It has an interactive portion, so audience members can truly feel what it’s like during those historic moments. 

Las Casas holds cultural shows, too. See the performers showcasing traditional Filipino dances like singkil and tinikling. These shows are usually held in the evening. 

Clean the Beach

This activity is for environmentally-conscious guests. The resort provides a 30-minute orientation on the environmental problems that the world currently faces. It ends with a beach clean-up session with other participants.

Craft Some Mosaics 

If you want to bring home a unique souvenir from your Las Casas experience, create a mosaic with the guidance of the resort’s instructors. Guests get to work with fiberglass, which Las Casas also uses for its murals and other art pieces. Crafting sessions happen every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. The entrance fee is around PhP 1,000 per person. 

How to Get to Las Casas

You have different options for getting to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar:

Via Private Transportation 

Head to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and take the San Fernando, Pampanga exit. Then, take Jose Abad Santos Avenue to Lubao, Pampanga. Then, continue onto Dinalupihan and turn left at Roman Superhighway. From there, you’ll reach Balanga City. Turn right at Governor J.J. Linao National Road until you get to Bagac. You’ll see road markers that point to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

Via Public Transportation 

You can take the Genesis Bus and Bataan Transit. This will lead you to the Balanga bus station. From there, take a jeep to Bagac. Then, take the tricycle to the resort. 

With every house restoration, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar showcases the best of classic bahay na bato architecture. The restored structures preserve the memories of people who once lived in them. Each home is created out of the passionate collaboration between the builders and artisans. While pictures and virtual tours are good, nothing beats visiting and seeing these pieces of historic art and architecture to truly appreciate their beauty. 

In case you’re planning to build a home inspired by classic Filipino architecture with a blend of more contemporary designs, find the right lot for sale here in Lamudi. Use our advanced search features to discover the right property in the right place and in the right price range. Turn your dream home into a reality today.

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