Part 1 of the Bataan Series
January 2014–With a grand Pinatubo tour closing the year, the first trip for the new year couldn’t be less fab. The choice was to head a little north to a land nestled in the waters of the South China Sea and Manila Bay, the breathtaking Bataan. Initially planned for two days and a night, the trip was cut short to a day tour. It was a tiring transfer from buses to jeepneys, but the experience was unforgettable. It was a breather from the stressful city life.
The hobbit left Manila past 7 AM and arrived at the Bataan Terminal about past 10 AM. The trip was long enough (rather too long) for a nap. The jeepney had to wait for passengers, so there was ample time to grab some boiled corn from one of the stores. The cold breeze blew and in no time, the hot corn on a cob was colder.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar (The Philippine Houses of Acuzar), a sprawling resort in Bagac, Bataan, is filled with restored Spanish mansions. The 400-hectare park was built starting 2003 by property developer New San Jose Builders owned by Jose “Gerry” Acuzar. Acuzar himself chose some 30 old houses and colonial buildings based on their historical, cultural and architectural value from various areas in the Philippines which were transplanted into the Bagac development. It was opened to the public in 2010.
At the entrance, there’s a registration area, a bahay kubo where the ladies are dressed in Filipino costumes. Payments can be made in cash or credit card. The ladies will give you instructions and a map. At Casa Mexico, you will present the receipt and you’ll get some refreshment (sago’t gulaman). You can go upstairs and chat with the tour guides, and of course, take some photos. This is also where the tour starts.
A day tour costs P685. That already includes an hour of walking tour, a map, cold towel, free drinks, and access to the whole Las Casas (including the beach). They also have a buffet package for 30 persons. Because the tour starts at 1:30PM, you may want to explore the sprawling property ahead of the group of tourists. If walking around at noon doesn’t look interesting to you, you can rent bikes to add to the fun!
Of the many buildings, PASEO DE ESCOLTA is an eye-catcher. Perhaps because it’s more vibrant and less spooky compared to the others. The architecture, too, was adorable. The columns bring to mind not only images of Spanish houses, but that of the historic halls of Greece. The building, which houses a number of shops on the first floor and hotel rooms on the higher floors, is a replica of 1900 commercial buildings in Escolta, Manila.
All over the place are fine sculptures. In the middle of the cobbled grounds is a sculpture of a farmer and his carabao finding refreshment in the sprinklers. Nearby is a scultpure of children playing “sipa”, a traditional Filipino game. Another masterpiece is the “Palo Sebo”, a game usually played in town fiestas where the players have to climb a greased pole to win the prize. Beside Casa Unisan, there is also a lovely fountain with big statues of three Filipino women in their traditional costumes.
HOW TO GET THERE
1. If taking the bus, take Bataan Transit from Cubao in Quezon City or Avenida in Manila. The fare is about P200 and the trip may take 3 to 4 hours.
2. From the terminal of Bataan Transit, take a short walk to the Bataan Transport Terminal.
3. Take a jeepney to Bagac. The fare is about P50 and the trip takes about 45 to 60 minutes. Tell the driver to drop you off Las Casas.
4. From the highway, take a tricycle to the site. The fare is P10, and the short trip takes less than 5 minutes.
To be continued…