Tag Archives: bagac

Transplanted Bahay-na-Batos in Las Casas of Acuzar

Before visiting Bataan, my stand on relocating heritage houses is that of a purist advocate.  Keep them where they were constructed. If the town and the inheritors choose not to care for them then let them die nobly in situ.

Physically moving them is violating the very meaning of heritage conservation.

But after seeing Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar I’ve had a change of heart—not a radical departure from my original opinion but a change none the less. I still believe that we should avoid the “relocation” of bahay-na-batos but this option should not be out of the table.

Projects like the Las Casas of Acuzar do serve some good. In a time where even historically popular heritage houses are not spared from ruin, such projects has become necessary evils.

The fear that Acuzar’s out to get every single bahay-na-bato in the country is baseless. He handpicks them based on historical, architectural and cultural merits. Bad news for those who wants to dispose their ancestral houses in exchange for some cash. Although I heard that the resort plans to add around 20 more houses.

To be honest, I don’t like the idea of collectors plucking heritage houses away from where they were originally built but people like Acuzar would not invest on acquiring heritage houses if it weren’t for the negligence of our historic town’s people and government.

But if there’s anything we can learn from this strange project (who would have thought that you can transport an entire baha-na-bato?) it is that it can be done. Acuzar even laid out the plan how to make them tourist attractions!

If our heritage agencies would think outside the box for a moment, maybe they should do an Acuzar, salvage threatened Spanish-Filipino colonial houses then put them in an area where they can be viewed by Filipinos.

The reality is that our laws are not going to protect our tangible heritage. If you believe that it can, well, you must be in la-la land. Look, never in my life that I imagined the Alberto house of Biñan would end the way it did. Go to Biñan and see for yourself, if you’re feeling more adventurous, go to San Nicolas Manila, even in our provinces that are fast developing. We’re losing so many, so fast!

The misconception in Biñan is that because Acuzar came to the owner to buy the house he then decided to get rid of it. The truth was that the house was decaying for decades—no funds, no assistance from both local and national government. Only when it was literally gradually caving in that the present owner sought the help of Acuzar.

When a group of construction workers started dismantling the house it caught the mainstream and social media’s attention. As I expected, just like in FPJ movies when cops shows up after the gunfight is over, everyone became fanatical heritage advocates especially the local politicos.

In Bagac I heard some interesting stories behind the houses and how they end up in all places, a coastal resort.

The Casa Mexico, a sophisticated bahay-na-bato with delicate barandillas, a graceful front staircase (imagine ascending to the piso principal, the main sala today, what sight that must have been), stylistic balustrades, creative carvings all over—and this you better believe, the entire house was retrieved from a junk shop. Sold like worthless scrapings.

The neglect some of our people have towards our tangible heritage is just so infuriating. But this mirrors how we value ourselves as a people, and this utter disrespect for the past is an expression of how we lost our identity as Filipinos.

What’s even more absurd is that the very people, family members that shares direct lineage to the people who built these houses are the ones who gives these houses up so easy.

Like the house from Lubao, built by the sugar planter Don Valentin Arrastia in the early 1900’s. It’s a delightful example of Capampangan wealthy living in the countryside. The elaborate ceilings, its elegant chandeliers and its solid wooden floors—it is so elegant. A few years ago it was faithfully reconstructed using the same materials from the house here in Bagac—this one’s very eclectic—and historic, to say the least.

Why did President Macapagal Arroyo, a Lubao native, did not help restore this house escapes me. Her father was helped by the Arrastia’s in his early education. It was a house his father must have adored.

An article I found in one of the printed guides in Las Casas has this moving story as recalled by a granddaughter of the Don Valentin. In it she narrates her family’s memorable experiences around the house. The kind of stories you hear from people who had a great childhood. Then much to her surprise, during a recent visit to Lubao she found an empty lot.

I’m surprised that she was surprise the house is gone. I think for a precious physical connection you share with your ancestors you should check the house they built for the family from time to time?

But what do I know, these are their stories. At least they can still visit their abuelos home in Bagac and perhaps swim in the nearby beach. Leave town and not worry about the house.

If my memory serves me right, Don Valentin’s house in Lubao was still there when I saw the town for the first time in 1998.

When I visited Unisan a few years ago, my friend Pepe Alas, toured me around his hometown. He showed me where the Maxino house once stood. Pepe recalls how it used to look like inside and out, how he and his childhood pals would rent computer games in its ground floor.

The Maxino’s were murdered during a house break in. Of course the house is rumored to be haunted. I’m sure it was but I doubt it if the ghosts of Don Antonio’s family relocated to Bagac after the transfer.

After that holiday in Unisan, I tried to look up pictures of the house on line and in some of my books, found some references but no pictures. So I gave up and just left everything to my imagination.

Well, this visit to Las Casas was the opportunity I have been waiting for. Here I finally saw the house that left Unisan.

It is the first bahay-na-bato in Unisan-and most likely the first in the province of Tayabas (now Quezon, tomorrow who knows?) to have been uprooted and transplanted.

The house now is Café Marivent in Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

Casa Bizantina on the background

Of course a visit to Las Casas is not complete without dropping by the Casa Bizantina, originally from San Nicolas Manila.

How this massive historical house that stood for more than a century in Calle Madrid ended up in Bagac is somewhat shady. It was uprooted and transferred without the local government contesting it?

We’re talking about Manila here; they’re the worst in protecting heritage structures—I think I just answered my question.

I have visited Casa Bizantina numerous time. One time, I went inside. I’ll never forget the pitiable tenants leasing small bed spaces and jam-packed rooms in the massive bahay-na-bato. A lady I spoke with told me that there are more than 20 families living in the casa!

Those people knew little of the house’s history but I remember hearing from one of them that the “City Hall” has sent people to tell them that the house would soon be taken down. If this is true then, no, I’m sure this is true, It’s not surprising that historic district is losing century old houses.

We have mad people running the asylum.

Casa Bizantina used to house the Instituto de Manila, now the University of Manila, before it transferred to Sampaloc. One day I hope someone from that school would write a complete history of this splendid mansion.

Due the popularity of the movie Heneral Luna, the Casa Luna was a hit among the visitors.

There was a tour of the house when I passed by so I decided to join. It was informative and entertaining. I was observing those in attendance and it was satisfying to see that these people has travaled quite a distance just to learn and see these glorious treasures of our past.

The house was built by the wealthy Novicio’s in the mid-1800’s in Namacpacan, La Union. Local politicians would later rename the town Luna after the prominent patriotic family. Ironically, they forgot to conserve the house of the family they named their town after.

My suggestion is for them to get their old name back, drop Luna, they don’t deserve it.

Transferring building materials was actually a practice before. The idea is not new and has actually been recorded in the past. In some cases, entire house were relocated piece by piece. True to the spirit of “bayanihan” where townsfolk lifted bahay-kubos to new locations, Filipinos also did the same with bahay-na-bato.

An example of this is Casa Meycauyan, which was originally from San Fernando Pampanga before it was brought to Bulacan. It must hold the record of being the only bahay-na-bato that has been transplanted twice in two different centuries!

This activity, although not widespread back in the day, goes to show how good the materials were. As they call it then and now, materiales Fuertes—built to last forever.

The green painted Casa San Miguel

Casa Bizantina again, this time with Korean tourists who seem to be all over the place.

The houses from Jaen and Mexico, not the country, the Capampangan town.

They call this area Paseo de Escolta. Recreation of a portion of the old Spanish Escolta in Manila.

Rails are being laid down for the tramvia.

Casa Mexico. The house that they found in a junk shop. Faithfully rebuilt based on the original.

The Casa Novicio (Luna) tour. The film, Heneral Luna, must have inspired them to come here. Some scenes from that film was actually shot here.

Good to see these kids getting interested in our history. Their facebook after this for sure would be flooded with their selfies with the houses as backdrop!

Another house from Jaen. I think those folks from Nueva Ecija doesn’t give a rat’s ass about their heritage

A Spanish Filipino house from Candaba

The Casa that Don Maxino built in Unisan


The Alberto House of Bagac, Formerly of Biñan

There she is, the Alberto Mansion, now in her new home, 150 kms north of Manila, Bagac!

When I heard that the Alberto House was rebuilt in a coastal resort in Bagac a few years ago I knew I had to go and see it. They say it’s a “replica” but I immediately recognized some parts of the house. How much of the house came from the original Biñan house must be in the low percentile; Gerry Acuzar stop acquiring parts from the Spanish era mansion after protests from the local government and some NGO’s in Biñan.

Gerry Alberto, the last owner, decided to donate (some claims he sold it) the house to Acuzar after typhoon “Ondoy” smashed parts of the roof and wall; water sip in damaging the house’s interior. I know this because I visited the house after the storm has passed and spoke with the owner. He knew it was time to give it up before the entire house collapses.

The politicians of Biñan who hugged the lime light when the news about the transfer was all over the place are silent now. While what remains of the house in Biñan are rotting under the elements.

I am against transplanting heritage houses but we should use it when everything fails. In Biñan’s case, the local and national government failed to salvage the house until the owner decided to dismantle it before it caves in. It was not in good shape even before that terrible typhoon. It was crumbling for years and no one came with a plan to rescue it!

A councilor commented on this site that his efforts to get the local government to act was “overtaken” by elections. They were too busy with politics as usual.

The Alberto House is gone and it ain’t coming back. Biñan’s energy is better spent looking after their other heritage sites in the city.

From the looks of it, Acuzar no longer needs the invaluable scraps from Biñan. Perhaps, now, the city of Biñan can reconstruct the Alberto mansion somewhere in town.

Early this year I visited an aunt’s property in Biñan, near the Carmona boundary, I was surprised to see the city’s vast open lands. You don’t get to see this when you’re in the crowded downtown.

If Las Casas de Acuzar recreated an Alberto House in Bataan, why not within the prosperous city where there’s still plenty of open space?

I believe there are government officials there that genuinely cares about the city’s heritage but their voices were sadly never heard. The only way they can correct this wrong is to recreate the Alberto mansion and use it to educate Biñenses.

The Alberto House in Bagac was oddly familiar. This bahay-na-bato stands as the one that I visited the most (and blogged about too). It was a twilight-zonish moment to know that it stood for hundreds of years in Biñan but is now in Bagac. But seeing it felt like reconnecting with a friend you have not seen for awhile.

It was the first house that I entered in the Las Casas. It’s located near the bridge going to the Sanctuario de San Jose. The portion that was rented out to moviehaus operators in Biñan is there, now an Italian restaurant. This is the only part of the original house that I have not seen before. At least here in Bagac the Alberto House is complete, it’s clean; I walked in every room and was satisfied to see how this “replica” turned out.

So many local tourist was impressed by the house. I overheard teenagers talking about how wealthy Rizal’s grandparents must have been. “Even wealthy people now don’t build houses like this,” one of them said.

Well, the Filipinos from that epoch built houses to showcase their religiosity, culture and identity.

Rich Filipinos now just build to impress—their houses, in exotic Mediterranean style and Bali inspired themes. They’re proud to show the history of another nation except their own as if they’re ashamed of it.

As I walked around the Alberto house I imagined how Consul John Bowring described it in his book “A Visit to the Philippine Islands”. It was that important back in the day, when an official comes to Biñan they make a courtesy call to the mansion.

I have seen countless bahay-na-batos in the country and for me the Alberto house stands out as the grandest, the most impressive—not to mention its colorful history.

Biñan lost a great deal in this one.

A few weeks ago, a lightning struck the head of the Rizal monument in Biñan’s plaza. This is right in front where the house once stood.

Call me superstitious but I take that as an ominous sign.

Some materials, like this dirigkalin post, made it all the way here. Some of the paintings too. In this house, Rizal’s sister-in-law was said to have been held. The incident caused Teodora her liberty. She was accused of poisoning her sister-in-law.

The windows that’s close to me personally. The times that I visited this house in Binan I would look out out from these windows and see the church and the municipio. These windows used to open up to the Presidencia, the town hall in Binan. My avatar since I started this blog are these capiz windows, I think they managed to salvage the frames but the capiz shells appears to be new.

Here I get to experience the spacious court yard as it was during the prime years of the house. Just look at how princely it is. Beautiful. It’s a Spanish-Filipino colonial mansion like no other I tell you. Listen, they don’t make them like they used to!

Related Posts:

puto biñan and an alberto house-less biñan

The Fight for the Alberto House of Binan

Update on the Alberto House of Binan

The Alberto of Biñan and the Vigan Wife

Calls to Save Casa Alberto of Biñan…Too Late the Hero

The Alberto’s and Binan

Discovering Rizal’s Chapel of Our Lady of Peace


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