My family drove to Bagac, Bataan with one destination in mind: the Las Casas Filipinas de Azucar. We wanted to see the grandeur of Philippine old houses in one setting, rather than fly all over the Philippines and seek them out. Las Casas didn’t disappoint. It has an extensive collection of houses. How this was done is a credit to the patience, dedication, and eye for detail of its owner, Jose Gerry Azucar, who also owns the construction firm New San Jose Builders.
Las Casas boast of a collection of heritage houses carefully chosen for their historical and architectural values. Some of these materials were originally transported from the original houses. This passion to build a collection of heritage houses resorted to this heritage resort that has themed restaurants, beach, calesa rides and a replica of the first hotel built here in the Philippines.
Houses during the Spanish era were grand. One significant feature it has are grand staircases. Almost all houses owned by affluent families have these staircases. Most have wooden staircase railings, others have metals. It depends on the family residing in house. In Las Casas, we saw houses with these features but what stood out and left us in awe was the grandest staircase of Hotel de Oriente, said to be the first hotel ever built in the Philippines. The whole structure is a replica of the original. The details involved in each step of the staircase is mesmerizing as these are like tiny puzzles put together. The photos don’t do justice to how awesomely the replica was made.
The walking tour brought us through history. Each house has a story to tell. Some were inspiring, some were tragic. But such is the case of a country like ours that has gone through eras of colonialism under different regimes. Walls of houses and buildings stood as silent witnesses over time. If they could speak and tell stories of tragedy and heroism, there will be volumes to speak of.
The modern houses in the Philippines have evolved to cater to modern needs but the same Filipino values of a close-knit family remains. These days, we have apartments, condominium, duplex houses. Those who can afford houses have the privilege to do their own house designs. Only a few can live up to the style of yesteryears.
Those who do manage to maintain the elegance and grandeur of big houses and long for the prestige a grand staircase can achieve for a house. If Fontanot stairs designers can replicate the longevity of these designs and the sturdiness of their architecture, house owners will definitely be smiling with contentment knowing that they have a treasure for posterity to carry on and emulate.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar let us live and hold on to the glory and prestige of our glorious days. This is where its charm resides that’s why it promises to draw in more people inside and truly experience our heritage as a country and as a people.