Our family stayed in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar over the last three days. It is touted as a heritage resort, and can be found in Bagac, Bataan.
Photo taken from the company website
The Acuzars Resort are owned by the same owners of New San Jose builders. The patriarch is an architect and the matriarch are designers. The resort is built on 400 hectares of land with at least 27 Spanish colonial-era buildings, which has been transferred from different parts of the Philippines, and rebuilt back in the park to preserve its authenticity.
Photo taken from the company website
The place is huge. This map does not do the park any justice.
Many of these houses were found in a pitying sense of disrepair, and it’s only because of the passion of the Alacuzars that enabled them to be restored to their formal glory.
The buildings are named from the places they used to be located in. Hence, the reception was called Casa New Manila because it is a house that was taken from Balete Drive, New Manila. It was owned by Don Manuel Alcuaz Tuason.
Here’s the list of activities you can do at the resort:
What can you do at the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar?
You can overnight at the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar to maximize their services. In a way, it’s to ensure that your 3.5 hour commute ride is sulit.
So what to do there?
Check-in is at 3pm in the afternoon.
So you can leave Manila around 10am or 11am and then travel to the resort. You can eat along the way, or avail of the handful of restaurants at the Heritage Resort.
You can check in at Casa New Manila, which houses their reception office and a Filipino/Western restaurant.
They give you a cool and sweet welcome drink upon arrival, which was nice.
The river view from Casa Manila, which you can take many instagram photos.
Our family stayed in the Binondo III House, which deceptively looked small from the outside, but boasts of 3 bedrooms, and can house 12 people.
My father-in-law spent Php 20,000 per night for the house, which includes free breakfast at the Hotel de Oriente, a big building by the bridge.
Here’s our bedroom. Air-conditioner was cold. The bed was comfy but we brought extra pillows just in case:
And the marbled bathroom. Please note that water is a bit weak and the water heater lacks consistency, but overall, it was nice to experience older bathrooms with the bidet on the side:
The kids had a lot of fun picking fallen flower outside. In a way, it was a back to nature type of experience, with the fresh air away from the pollution in Metro Manila.
Dinner at La Bella Teodora
For dinner, we ate at the Italian restaurant, La Bella Teodora.
It was slightly dark, cozy and romantic. Here’s the place and the menu:
I would strongly recommend the pasta and the pizza. My father-in-law loved the aglio olio, while my daughter and I liked the tomato cream pasta with parma ham.
The calamari was just average.
Stay away from the mushroom soup as the liquid was clear and not at all tasty.
My yaya ordered the risotto and it was a tad too creamy for everyone’s taste.
The desserts were ready made and came from the ref.
Overall, I still recommend the Italian restaurant as the pasta and pizza are above average dishes.
Day 2: Breakfast, Swimming, Kalesa Ride, Presentation and Dinner
We availed of the free breakfast at the Hotel de Orient which lay across a picturesque stone bridge. This is one of the major buildings and when we went, half of the building was used as a function room by the Bureau of Internal Revenue.
The spread was wide and impressive — they had both Filipino and Western buffet breakfast and the food was delicious.
Anybody can fight a dish that would suit their palate.
Warning: Quite a bit of flies, so you have to request for candles on the table to get rid of them.
After breakfast, the kiddos went for a Kalesa ride which was Php 75 per head. You can pay for it at the Casa Lubao Activity Center, which was in the middle of our house and Hotel de Orient.
The kalesa driver gave us a mini tour of the resort, which was nice.
Kalesa Ride for the Kids
There are around 3 kalesas going around throughout the day. The rate is a reasonable ₱75 per pax for a 15 minute tour around the area.
The tour itself was pleasant. Especially because the road was lubak lubak, the ride gave the kids a feeling on what the roads were like during the olden days. Thank goodness for concrete roads, right?
However, we were able to see how big the area was and the type of buildings it had.
On the right, there was a kiddie swimming pool that’s offered for free for in house guests. The entire pool was only 4 feet deep max so it was safe for kids.
There were also nipa houses on the side, which is offered as rooms. Naturally, the nipa houses were elevated so that the homes are cooler, were safe from floods, and you can even raise livestock underneath. Maybe next time, we can stay in the cheaper nipa houses for a different type of experience.
Following the nipa houes, there was a little grotto to highlight the religiousndeep ess of the Filipinos. There’s Jesus Christ in the center and the Virgin Mary on his left.
Plus, a few buildings in the area:
The Kalesa returned us back to the Casa Lubao Activity Center after the tour.
Casa Lubao Activity Center
At the Casa Lubao Activity Center, you can book for the different recreational activities, which include the following and their rates:
Like many buildings, Casa Lubao is airy and spacious despite not being air-conditioned. You can rent the billard table and table tennis table in case it is something that interests you.
However, the kids played sungka, and it was a good opportunity for us to teach them about counting:
Swimming by the Kiddie Pool
We took advantage of the 3- to 4-feet pool for kids.
The water was comfortable and refreshing. My 3 year old daughter could walk around without drowning but adult supervision is still recommended.
Daughter had tons of fun jumping to the water with me failing catching it.
Yes, I am a bad mother.
We then had a nice Filipino Western lunch at Casa New Manila — You must order the sisig and gambas. They are delicious.
Crafts Tour After Lunch
After lunch, we took the Crafts Tour at Casa Binan, which was headed by this beautiful woman.
I highly recommend everyone to join the Crafts Tour. It came as 3 parts: Brick Making, Wood Mosaic and Fiberglass Mosaic.
It sounds really boring but it is NOT. If you visit the Las Casas de Filipinas de Acuzar, I would strongly suggest you join this crafts tour. It is NOT TO BE MISSED!
To start, we walked through the staff dormitories and farmland to the factory.
It was around a 10 minute walk, before reaching the Brick Making Factory.
How to Make Bricks
We first visit the brick factory. To save on cost, the resort manufactures their own bricks in house and uses it around the heritage park.
Clay and water are pulverized together in a machine to make bricks.
They are then molded into bricks, with the woman dusting them with ashes for easy removal.
The hole at the end is for the nail to install the roof.
They are then compacted together with a machine before being let out to dry. They are then let to dry for seven days before baking.
Pre-drying time is 7 days before baking.
The bricks are then pre-heated for 3 weeks before being baked for 24 hours at 1,100 degrees. The baking is monitored for 24 hours.
Then after baking, they are cooled down in the oven for 1 week.
The resort tries to minimize waste, so if any bricks are in disrepair, they are puverized, mixed with cement and used to make these beautiful lamp posts, which are once again used around the park.
How to Make Wood Mosaic
Beside the brick making factory is the artisan wood factory. There are two different types of artist in this factory — 1) The Wood Mosaic Artists who pastes wood chips to create a beautiful wood mosaic painting, and 2) The Wood Carvers, who use chisels to craft amazing posts and sculptures.
Wood mosaic artists require a lot of patience to finish, while wood carvers who need precision and creativity.
Wood Mosaic Artists
Using wood as a material, the artists copy from a little photo and apply. They paint on board first, and then put same color of wood as a mosaic to make a painting.
Here is a copy of such photo:
This was the semi finished product — This wood mosaic painting will take 7 months of finish at 6 days a week.
Here are some finished wooden mosaic paintings in all their glory. From far away, it looks like a sepia painting:
But if you look at it close up, you can really see the amount of work done to make the painting look nice:
Do you see the details? Beautiful, aren’t they?
These wood carvers painstakingly carve details. It is an almost long lost art which is being placed back on the spotlight. The man with the gray shirt is carving a special post for the City of Manila that’s commissioned by Mayor Isko Moreno.
Him in action:
I was particularly impressed with their wood carving of leaves and flowers. On the left is the original wood chip, while on the right is the semi finished product.
Just imagine how big the original piece of wood is, and how small the final leaves become. Together, this is the end result — check out the amount of detail. Just imagine how long it took the wood carvers to make this:
Check out the delicate details.
Stained Fiberglass Mosaic
Right beside the wood carving and mosaic factory is the stained fiberglass painting factory.
Made of resin, the fiberglass panels are cut and glued to the painting.
This is a nice semi-finished painting of birds relaxing on a tree on a pleasant summer day:
This stained mosaic painting will take around 2 weeks to a month to finish with 5 women working on it. The factory mostly hires the women of Bagac, Bataan for this Filipino art. “Women are more detail oriented and patient,” the guide said. This makes them perfect for such painstakingly tedious job.
Many of them are plain housewives and out of school youths who undergo training to do such mosaic, so this was one way for the resort to give jobs to the community.
Meanwhile, this painting took 10 people six months to finish.
Other beautiful finished works:
The paintings are not sold but are used in-house all around the resort. This was a pity as these are beautiful murals can really be distributed and showcased in the best houses of Manila.
This is why the tour is not to be missed. How can you miss the resort highlighting Filipino talent when it comes to arts and crafts?
They also create statues from styroform. They carve the design from styrofoam and make silicon molds.
For the filling, they use bricks, cement and fiberglass for external display. For indoor display, they use plaster de paris.
We then took a jeep to go back to catch the parade at 4:00 pm. Fortunately, we made it just in time to enjoy the festivities.
The parade consisted of 3 parts: The dramatic portrayal of the execution of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Cry of Katipunan, and the Declaration of Independence
Execution of Jose Rizal
On December 30, 1896, Dr. Jose Rizal was shot after his last breakfast and his holy communion. He wrote two letters, one for his family and his brother.
He donned a black suit and and black hat and prepared for his death.
He asked to face his executioners but was refused. He tried to face his executioners but was shot before he could. He was shot at 7:03am and he was carried away.
The Cry of Katipunan
On August 21, Andres Bonifacio changed the Katipunan code. In the afternoon, the rebels numbering 500 left for Kangkong.
On August 22, Andres Bonifacio and his men went to Pugad Lawin and tore up their cedulas after an impassioned plea.
We were given paper cedulas to tear up, which was cool.
The acting of Andres Bonifacio was stellar and I almost teared up after his call for Philippines to be free.
Disclaimer: I personally think he should be the Philippines national hero.
The next program was the Creation of the Philippines Flag
The Philippines flag arrived May 17, 1898
The play showed the different symbolism of the Philippines flag.
The Philippines flag was hoisted by Emilio Aguinaldo in June 12, 1898 at his home in Kawit, Cavite.
It was declared a national holiday. The flag was unfurled for the first time, and the Philippines anthem, Lupang Hinirang, was first sung.
The declaration of independence was announced and signed by 98 people. And they announced the independence of the Philippines.
Afterwards, we took photos with our national heroes. We especially loved our photo with Dr. Jose Rizal.
Baisa Early Evening Tour
To cap off the day, we availed of the Baisa Early Evening Tour at 5:30pm, which was the last boat ride of the day. I strongly suggest that you the baisa boat tour, as it will bring you around the resort by boat, and you can see all the other beautiful homes surrounding the resort.
Once again, DO NOT MISS THIS. You really have to take this tour to fully appreciate the enormousness and wonder of the Las Casas de Filipinas Acuzar.
We boarded the baisa by the river. Landmark is the statues of Lola Basyang, telling her famous stories of tikbalang, mananangal and kapre, the statues of which are posted by the stone bridge.
Apparently, Lola Basyang was actually male, a man with the name of Severino Reyes who was a famous storyteller. However, since a lola is better to tell stories than a lolo, Filipinos changed Lolo Basyang to that of a female.
You can also have the bibingka and puto bungbong delivered for you to snack on while on he baisa. Yum!
Here are some photos of our baisa river tour:
In some ways, it felt like taking a boat ride in Venice. Actually, change that, this is better than any boat ride in Venice.
The second oldest house in the Philippines was built in 1744 was from Mahayhay, Laguna. The youngest house was built 1936. This just shows how old the houses were.
A trip to the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a must go if you visit the Philippines. It is toddler friendly and there is much to experience. We did an two-day overnight trip and there was a lot of activities for us to do.
Next time if we go, we will go to the beach and maybe do some water activities there. I will definitely do the Baisa Boat Ride in the day time for a change.
If I have foreign friends coming to town, if I have time to spare, the Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is definitely a pleasant place to visit. To book a room, feel free to contact the resort directly.