It was my first time to visit Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect as I had never been to a heritage resort before. I was amazed, no–completely blown away by how grand and impressive this place was. I couldn’t imagine how a sleepy little town like Bagac, Bataan was transformed into a historical tourist spot that features 18th century antique mansions from all over the Philippines (many of the houses originated from Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Meycauayan, Tuguegarao and Old Manila). I mean, if you think about how meticulous and detailed they have to be to recreate and restore these very old homes, brick by brick, tile by tile, and plank by plank, you cant help but be impressed. I guess I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that they had brought these historical homes to life so we can enjoy and appreciate them, and yes, even live in them! The site was conceptualized by businessman and developer, Jerry Acuzar whose passion for antique furniture and houses led him to create a one-of-a-kind heritage resort.
I was there to feature the resort for my lifestyle/travel show, #TrendingWithKelly. I spent around four days exploring the place, and happily discovered their most stunning houses while learning about its history. It was a unique experience, to say the least, and I was happy to come home to Tristan at the end of each shoot day. Actually, while I did my shoot he had his own itinerary with his nanny, like exploring the cobblestone streets, swimming in the fresh water pool and playing with the sand on the beach. Thats when I realized how family-friendly this resort is–you can bring your whole family and stay in one of their suites or lofts, and take guided tours, swim in the pool, enjoy the beach, go hiking, or just relax and eat. The 400-hectare land is more than enough space to explore, and the 22 (and counting–more are being constructed as we speak) antique mansions each have an interesting story to tell.
I wasn’t able to take one of their famous walking tours, but I was given a personal tour and interview by their head tour guide. Here I learned about how these heritage houses were restored, which made me appreciate the stories behind these very old houses. Of course, I couldn’t help but notice how beautiful these restored homes looked–some even came with the original furniture and photographs of the previous owners. That’s why I highly recommend taking their guided tours while you’re here. There are so many stories behind each restored home, and when told bring these houses to life, and allow you to travel back in time. I kept thinking to myself, “if only these walls could talk”, they would be telling an incredible story that surely I wouldn’t believe.
So, as I learned, there are several tours scheduled throughout the day starting at 830am. These go for about 1.5 hours and are lead by their knowledgeable guides who know each house by heart. I think this is better than reading anything from a book, because you can see, hear, feel and imagine what happened in these homes. You can learn how our Filipino ancestors lived back in the day, and have an idea how daily life must have been for them. The guides share the origins about the homes, the history behind it, and the controversies that happened through the years.
Tip: Bring comfortable shoes or flip-flops, as you will be doing a lot of walking and you’ll have to remove your shoes before entering certain houses. It is also good to pack extra water with you, as it can get hot and muggy depending on the season. And of course, wear comfortable clothes, especially when you’re bringing the kids along. The Walking Heritage Tour goes for P1,500 and the All-Day Tour costs P2,000 for weekdays and P2,500 for weekends. You can schedule these tours a day before with the resort.
Accommodations at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar can range from P8,000 a night to P120,000 a night, depending on your budget, number of people you’re traveling with, and needs. For the show, they housed me, Tristan and his nanny in Casa Esquina. It costs around P17,000 to 22,000 depending on the season (you are bound to get good discounts when you book in advance), and it was complete with two queen-sized beds, bathroom and amenities and free breakfast. The most expensive room is at the luxurious Casa Byzantine House, which can fit up to 16 persons. It goes for around P120,000 to 150,000, depending on the season. We featured it for my show and it looks incredible! What a dream it must be to stay there. There are also cheaper alternatives, of course. A deluxe room good for two persons would go for about P8,000 to P10,000 a night.
For dining options, you have quite a number of restaurants to choose from: Cafe del Rio, a tapas bar that serves signature dishes like sizzling sisig, sambas a la ajillo, and flavored coffee; Cafe Marivent at Casa New Manila, which is the main restaurant of Las Casas–they serve Filipino-Spanish cuisine with specialities like chicken binakol and gabi ice cream; and La Bella Teodora at Casa Binan, an Italian restaurant that serves amazing quattro formaggi pizza, marinara pasta and risotto de Teodora. Among the three mentioned, I recommend La Bella Teodora the most. The pizzas and pastas are excellent!
One thing that people forget when planning a trip to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is that it actually has a beach! I am a beach-lover, so this is something that appeals to me. Fronting Bagac Bay, you can get proper beach time given the weather and the season is good. The waves can be high and rough during certain parts of the year, so you might not be able enjoy the beach the way you’re used to. There is also a river that connects to the beach (Umangol River), which allows you to explore Las Casas via balsa. I think it’s an interesting way to see the resort–you get to see the intricate details that went into designing each structure.
If you are interested in taking the day tour, it will cost around P1,500 per person. This includes admission to the site, guided tours, and refreshments. This should be an interesting option, but for me, in order to get the full experience you have to stay in one of their rooms. It has an old world feel that you wont get anywhere else, because it is uniquely Filipino. To be honest, visiting this place made me proud of our history and heritage. We don’t get to see a lot of places like this in our own country (sad but true), so learning about our past felt good. I will surely go back here again one day, especially since the resort is continuing to expand to add more interesting sites for us explore.
Getting around the resort is quite convenient. A free shuttle goes around the site to bring people to where they want to go, and they also have a jeepney that continuously makes it rounds. You can also rent your own golf cart, which costs P650/hour. You will need to show your driver’s license and give a P1,500 deposit.
For more information, visit www.lascasasfilipinas.com.