Mention Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar and immediately its famed 19th-century homes which evoke Old World charm come into mind. Situated at a coastal village in Bagac, Bataan, it is a recipient of the prestigious 2021 Historic Hotels Worldwide Best Historic Hotel in Asia and the Pacific by Historic Hotels Awards of Excellence.
But more than the ancestral homes were painstakingly transported from their original communities and meticulously restored, this heritage resort is also noted for its cuisine and crafts, which make it a quintessential and eclectic destination.
Beyond traveling back in time, guests can sink their teeth on a culinary journey which spans more than three centuries of cultural amalgamation of Spanish, Filipino and other influences.
Cusina ni Nanay Maria, the 60-seater main food and beverage outlet of Las Casas, is housed at Casa Unisan, an ancestral house from the old provincial capital of Quezon. As you may have guessed, its claim to fame are timeless Filipino dishes which remind you of your mother’s delectable and homestyle dishes, which uses freshly-caught seafood and locally-sourced ingredients.
Lose yourself in the bevy of household heirloom recipes such as the sought-after kare-kare, lechon carajay, adobo and tinola, and top them off with desserts like leche flan and gabi ice cream. Because of its turn-of-the-century feel and proximity to the picture-perfect nooks, the restaurant is ideal for lunch.
For an exclusive setting, small groups can bask on an intimate meal and long hours of chit-chat at an old house, most notably the Casa Hagonoy, a storied heritage house from this seaside town in Bulacan.
For dinner, Cafe del Rio is the cozy spot with its riverine location and breezy al fresco dining. Housed at Casa Sta. Rita, the 120-person capacity Pampanga home serves Spanish delights, namely, the paella, pescado ala sal (fish wrapped in salt), an assortment of tapas, and a variety of wines and spirits.
Another option is La Bella Teodora, which is situated at Casa Biñan, the Laguna home named after Dona Teodora Alonzo, the mother of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal where the latter stayed during his student days. The equally-storied house, which was caught in the crossfire of a heritage conservation controversy, and almost crumbled into oblivion quite literally if it did not find a safe space at Las Casas Filipinas. The romantic restaurant serves authentic Italian dishes such as Italian pizza and pasta.
La Parilla at Plaza de Castro is the place to be for snacks and in-between meals, popular Pinoy kakanin and home-grown drinks, such as puto bumbong, bibingka, native brewed coffee, and salabat (ginger ale).
For chilling out with a refreshing cocktail or cold drink, the poolside Dapitan Bar will give you a front row seat as you await the setting of the sun in the horizon. The 40-seater bar is named after the once-obscure coastal town in northern Zamboanga where Rizal was deported by Spanish authorities and became his home from 1892-96.
The iconic Hotel De Oriente, the equivalent of a five-star lodging during the colonial-era in old Manila, is the most massive of the restored structures in the enclave. Known for its elaborate interiors and staircase, the stately edifice is also the center for social, cultural events, art exhibits and performing arts. The hotel’s ground-floor multi-purpose hall, Binondo, which is named after the world’s oldest Chinatown is the buffet breakfast place.
An equally-exciting behind-the-scene story which shouldn’t be missed is its workshop tour which takes you to the huge warehouses where community artisans and craftsmen painstakingly work on the oft-unseen details which make Las Casas a class of its own.
The walking tour brings you to the nondescript workshop on wood mosaic, ceramic tiles, wood carvings, and brick making, where you come face-to-face with the unsung heroes whose collective body of work who have made the property a consummate work of art.
As part of an immersive experience, you can also make your own fiberglass mosaic piece to take home and serve as your bragging right.
Do a virtual time in style aboard a calesa horse-drawn carriage or a tranvia coach, or navigate the waterway and marvel the houses on board a guided boat cruise.
Starting this weekend, visitors will enjoy another visual treat with the revival of the pre-pandemic Freedom Land cultural shows which reenact key events in Philippine history such as Cry of Pugad Lawin, Execution of Dr. Jose Rizal, and the Proclamation of Independence, among others, through crowd-engaging presentations.
Lest we forget, the resort is also the perfect spot for a period-inspired pictorial for pre-nuptials and events, and even simple snapshots for its inimitable ambiance.
With the eclectic blend of cuisine, craft, cultural expressions, and everything in between, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is simply irresistible.
Image credits: Bernard L. Supetran