(I know, I know. Pardon the late post! Hope this still helps future roadtrippers, though! Las Casas is a must visit when in the Philippines. 🙂 )
Las Casas has become a favorite destination for us ever since our visit last July 2011. Even though we commuted all the way there at such a bad time (it was raining non-stop due to a tropical depression), we still had a grand time, but promised ourselves we’d return during the summer. We thought, if we could have fun there with the rain, just imagine how much awesome it would be with the sun!
Rainy visit last July 2011. 😦
Luckily, I received a Php 1,000 worth of gift certificate last December, which we can use as a rebate for our next visit! I got so giddy and decided to use it as my Valentine’s Day gift for ❤. This time around, he decided to drive since our last backpacking stint was an uncomfortable experience. We felt so happy that we were blessed with such a fine weather! One of our best roadtrips / weekends ever! ❤
Yehey for sunny weather!
What’s so special about Las Casas, anyway?
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a private-owned heritage resort by an architect named Jerry Acuzar. Jerry started buying off old houses, which he eventually transformed as a business and tourist spot at a 400-ha. land property in Bagac, Bataan. Most people say it’s like a mini-Vigan / Ilocos that’s only a couple of hours away from Makati city. If you’re planning to visit anytime soon, I suggest you bring your own car. They have ample parking space (for free) in front of the resort, plus it’s only 2 1/2 hours away from Makati with light traffic. If you’re the backpacking type, you can check out this commute guide link, which we used for our first visit.
Heritage Resort, you say?
The main attraction of this resort are the refurbished houses and mansions, which once stood proud all around the Philippines from 18th-20th century. The owner bought these structures to save them from their depreciating conditions, brought them all the way back to Bagac, and carefully refurbished them piece by piece. Just imagine how much effort went into transporting and refurbishing these houses! Some of them came from neighboring provinces like Pampanga and Bulacan, but some were transported from as far as Manila and Laguna. Most of these structures came to life during the Spanish colonization in the Philippines (around 1840s), but some were also built during the American and Japanese periods. When we went there the first time, there are about 27 structures in the resort. This year, we were not able to get the actual count, but we saw new structures on their way to full refurbishment. I’m excited to see the final development once they have converted this 400-ha. property into an Old Filipino/Spanish Era township!
The interiors of these houses are as beautiful as its facades.
Of course a resort would not be complete without a pool, so in the heart of Las Casas is a pool facing a man-made lake and the beautiful view of the West Philippine Sea (formerly known as South China Sea). On the day of our trip, we woke up early in the morning for a quick dip and photo shoot at the beach. The water was too cold so we ran back to the pool right after taking some vanity shots!
While most websites lure you by posting deceiving pictures, Las Casas is not one of them. What you see on their website is even better upclose! Every nook and cranny of Las Casas is as picturesque as the photos on their gallery. You’ll have so much fun feeling like a Donya as you get camera-frenzy around the resort!
The Las Casas Tour
What’s great about Las Casas is that you get to experience all of the houses on a guided 1-hour tour. The tour guides are well-equipped with historical knowledge starting from where the houses were bought, to actual historical events that took place in that house, and other random facts that build each of the house’s character. It was fun listening to them as they always have something interesting to share. You would really feel like you’re warped back in time as the staff don the traditional Filipino Baro’t Saya, and the guards are dressed as guardia civil. There’s even native Filipino music like kundiman blasting in the background as you roam around the resort.
Below is our grand Kalesa ride, which transported us from our hotel to La Bella Teodora, the newly opened authentic Italian restaurant in Las Casas.
My most favorite parts of the tour include these three —
Jose Rizal’s old ancestral house: When Jerry began to acquire Rizal’s old house in Binan, Laguna, the local government interfered and stressed that it’s a historical landmark in Binan, and cannot be transferred to Bagac. However, when the government failed to take care of the house, the owner pushed his luck once again, but only managed to save very few parts of it. The house in Bagac is mostly a replica, but they did their best to preserve the old pieces. I love the very spacious courtyard in this house! It also houses the new Italian restaurant in the property called La Bella Teodora.
Mini Museum: The mini museum, which was the house used by Generals during the Japanese period to plan the capture of Yamashita, showcases the antique collections of Jerry. I am very much amused with the old method of ironing clothes (lower right photo)! Back in the day, ironing feels like a total body workout above everything else. You need to balance on the wood and rock back and forth to iron the clothes underneath!
The old UP building: This building became controversial back in the day because it was converted for vice-driven activities such as live shows at night. Now they are converting it into a chapel.
For our second visit though, since we’ve heard most of the information already last year, we took advantage of the sunlight and went gaga on photos. If you’re wondering about the interiors of the houses, you could also see some snapshots below (aside from our vanity pictures). 🙂
Quick fact: The names of the houses were given based from where they were bought. For example, Casa Binondo was from Binondo, Manila, and the hotel Paseo de Escolta is a replica of the old buildings in Escolta, Manila during the 1900s.
Hotel and Houses
Currently, Las Casas has one hotel called Paseo de Escolta with 17 hotel rooms. On our first visit, ❤ and I could not believe our eyes when our lovely hotel room greeted us. It was spacious, cozy, and complete with hotel amenities like bath tub, hair dryer, hot shower, toiletries, safety deposit box, LCD cable TV, coffee, and so much more. All that for their Standard Room, which costs Php 4,050 per night less the Php 1,000 rebate I got. We only paid roughly 75 USD per night! The feel of each hotel room is a mix of old and new; the structure looking vintage, but the amenities are all modern. Their website says Jerry’s wife, Tess Acuzar, who’s an interior designer, designed the hotel rooms. Look at that awesome view from our balcony window below.
Disclaimer: I don’t usually take photos of the bedroom during our trips so I borrowed the upper right photo online.
If you feel like splurging, you can also rent out the houses depending on the size of your group. This photo below is the most expensive house in Las Casas, which you can rent at Php 160,000 a night (roughly USD 3,930) good for 16 people complete with butler service! If you want to feel like a Don and Donya, then go ahead and indulge!
OH SO YUMMY FOOD!
❤ and I are such food lovers. One of the first few things I have to check when I plan for our itinerary is the food reviews. Las Casas instantly became a favorite the first time we set foot in Casa Unisan, their Filipino restaurant. Most of the photos below were taken during our last year’s trip. This time around, we were too hungry and excited to eat that we didn’t care about anything else anymore! Funny story, after we had our dinner, I pleaded that we head back to our room as I felt really dizzy. I plopped on our bed and stayed motionless for about 20 minutes until I felt better. It was total gluttony at its finest! We went for a walk outside the property after the wicked and nauseating feeling went away.
These are our most recommended at Casa Unisan. However, I assure you that you will love whatever it is you order from here!
The tocilog (Tocino with egg, garlic rice, and slice of watermelon on the side) below is one of the choices for free breakfast inclusive with the hotel room charge. Pair it with their Tsokolate E (hot chocolate) and you’ll have the best breakfast experience!
One of our favorite desserts in Casa Unisan is the Turrones de Leche con Sorbetes. It is best paired with the hot chocolate. Just writing about it makes me crave!
During this trip, we also tried out their new Italian restaurant called La Bella Teodora. We had their brick-oven Margarita pizza, carbonara, and porkchop. Ah, everything was just too yummy! We can’t wait to go back again and eat our hearts out! Too bad I only got a photo of the porkchop and it does not even look delectable anymore. If you want to eat here, you can ask the receptionist for a kalesa ride since it’s quite far from the hotel. This service is such a nice touch to the very vintage feel of the resort!
I could go on all day and talk about much nicer things about Las Casas. We’ve been here twice and not a single complaint comes to mind. It’s definitely a gem that’s located near Metro Manila! If I haven’t convinced you yet to try and check out this place, then I have nothing else to say. Can’t wait to visit this place again soon! ❤