Part one of a two-part Bataan series
That week between Christmas and New Year’s is a great time to travel—little to no traffic, most are already on VLs anyway, great weather, and the overall atmosphere is just light and merry. However, and unfortunately for us, nothing major (major, major?) was penciled up so we had to settle for a day trip. Amidst the post-Christmas rush and mandatory family get-togethers, we found a date: December 27, 2015. The place: Bataan.
Why Bataan? Because Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. Maybe it got too much media mileage. Heck, even I—who on a good week will spend an absolute maximum of 2 hours on the ol’ tube—chanced upon a feature. A show with Drew Arellano, if I remember correctly. That and the recommendation of some titas from the missus’ side of the family, and it was a go.
Simple: Waze the fuck it up. But okay, because people look up to me as a travel blogger (hihi), follow this: exit San Fernando, get past the Pampanga towns, then follow the signs. Seriously, it’s as easy as pie. What you need to know, though, is that the travel is pleasant and the roads are nice. Trust me. Bring your lowered car for crying out loud (wait, “stanced” na pala ngayon). All in all, the trip shouldn’t take you more than 4 hours.
Wait, commute ka lang? Ay, poor.
Let me tell you what this place is all about. It’s old houses from different parts of the country taken down, transported and rebuilt piece by piece in this rich businessman’s spare lupa. Imagine the lengths these people had to go through. Why they did it? Who knows, but it sure makes for a good and one-of-a-kind attraction.
There are 10 or so houses there, most without any significant historical importance except that they’re really old. The houses have been turned into makeshift museums (featuring more old stuff) and Bahay sa Balete-like hotels. Seriously, you can rent anything there from a room to a whole multiple-room mansion (enough for a small company outing). Prices range from medyo mahal to outrageously expensive. We heard rates going up to PHP 300,000 per night for the biggest ones. Truth.
When you get to the place, park your car at the designated parking area which is just before the main entrance. There you will also find a small, unpretty registration booth where you pay the entrance fee. It’s around 600 for a day pass and around 1,200 (I think) for a day pass with buffet (tanginang blogger ito hindi manlang iresearch ang tamang fees). I suggest you get the one without the buffet; all the foods we saw inside were overpriced so I fear for the buffet being not sulit.
By the way, all of this is under the assumption that you’re not going to sleep there.
Okay, once inside, the only logical thing left to do is join a guided tour. Guided tours are scheduled every couple of hours or so so there’s no rush, and there’s no extra charge. It is, however, entirely by foot (but you can ride the free service jeep going back to the starting point once done). The tour is nothing but a house-to-house. The guides speak of mildy- to semi-interesting facts about each house—where it was originally from, the family that owned it, the condition they found it in, yada yada—but they will not skimp on letting you know of its nightly rate, the amenities and/or special features (such as a full-time butler), and if it’s available or not.
Word of advice: wear easy-to-remove footwear. Shoes are not allowed inside any of the houses. There are 14 houses.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is one of those places wherein you can never take a bad picture. It’s kind of like Ilocos (or an old church). The houses are aliw to some extent, but most lack in historical significance to make you go “ooh”.
They have a small pool for the guests and the property is literally by the beach. The beach is okay, usable, and very long (both length and width), but is definitely not white. To my eyes they’re gray-brown.
Like I said, the snacks and drinks there are overpriced. Think Valkyrie prices. We did not get to try the buffet, but I’m quite happy (and relieved) with that decision.
A small tram that’s designed to go around the property is currently under development so that should be something to look forward to.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. We didn’t get to finish the guided tour. We also didn’t get to go inside all of the houses. The sun was super pasikat that day and for some reason, we all could not up our disposition to match the energy needed for all the walking, the removing of shoes, the wearing of shoes, the taking of pictures, etc. (well, except for my wife, maybe). Every time we’d encounter a big shaded tambayan, we’d stop for 10-20 minutes. Look, we’re not an old group; the aggregate current age of our group would probably fall in the mid-twenties. But it was so painfully gruesome. It’s like having all this magnificent architecture surrounding you but not having the energy to enjoy all of it. Weird.
It’s a good place. It’s a testament to one man’s love for old Filipino-Spanish architecture (as per research, a certain Gerry Acuzar). Being beside the ocean is a plus. The location is excellent; I love the fact that you have to reserve a day/road trip for it. Transforming it into a business is a necessity (for maintenance costs) but it takes away from the authenticity of the experience in a kind of “sellout” way, even though it is quite understandable.
P.S. By the way, you will not need an entire day for this. We were still able to visit another attraction—Mount Samat National Shrine—so watch out for that on the next post.
P.P.S. Shared Bataan gallery will be created when I finish the Mount Samat post.