Experience the Old times at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a 400 hectare heritage park that features over 27 Spanish colonial mansions and buildings. Acuzar, the owner of the park bought old Filipino houses, in form of bahay na bato, which are in the state of neglect from its owners, dismantled brick by brick and transported in Bagac, Bataan to reassemble and restore. The park was opened to public in 2010. The park has one Italian restaurant, one Filipino-Spanish restaurant, beach, swimming pool and rooms for accommodation.

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Replica of the old Escolta

Sancutaryo de San Jose

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Hotel de Oriente. Dubbed as the first luxury hotel in the islands. Built in 1889 in Binondo, Mnaila, It had three (3) floors with eighty-three rooms. It was recently transported and rebuilt at Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar and finished in time for Bataan leg of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in 2015.

Below are Old Houses and Mansions facing the beach.

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The only “NAY” in this heritage park. Foods are expensive both in their Italian and Filipino-Spanish restaurants. This Bolognese good for one costs over Five Hundred Bucks.

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Casa Ladrillo. Everyone’s favorite for its eye-catching appearance. This red bricked “instagrammable” mansion is facing the beach.

How to get to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar?

By Car:
(Via NLEX) From Manila, Bagac is a 3-hour drive via the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX). Exit at San Fernando. Take the westbound side of Jose Abad Santos Avenue (Gapan-Olongapo Road), heading towards the towns of Bacolor, Guagua, and Lubao in Pamgpanga. Upon reaching Dinalupihan, turn left at Roman Superhighway. Once in Balanga City, turn right at Gov. J.J. Linao National Road. Drive along the scenic route at the foot of Mt. Samat (where you can see the Dambana ng Kagitingan) until you reach the town of Bagac. Follow the road markers that point to Las Casas.
(Via SCTEX) If you’re coming from northern/central Luzon, take the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX) and exit at Dinalupihan. Turn right at Roman Superhighway and follow the directions above.
But in case of doubt, WAZE is always there to help you out! LOL.

By Public Transport:
You can either ride a Bataan Transit or Genesis Bus heading to Mariveles. We chose Genesis in Pasay since it is nearer to our place. Tell the driver to drop you off at Balanga terminal. That’s roughly 3-4 hour ride from Pasay, depending on the time of departure. Landmark will be Jolibee on your left side. You won’t see the terminal from the drop off point because you have to ride a tricycle. Heading to Balanga terminal, you’ll pass by the bus terminal heading back to Manila so take note of the place. Before, it was mini-bus that takes tourist to Las Casas. When we went at the terminal last March, , there are no mini-buses but jeepneys to take you inside the premise of the heritage park. It is roughly 45 minutes to 1 hour ride from Balanga terminal.
Going back, you have to coordinate with their receptionist so that they find you a tricycle. The tricycle will only take you to the jeepney terminal heading to Balanga terminal.

Breakdown of Expenses:

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Rates:

For lodging, you can check their website and book accordingly. We went there for a day tour package. Their new effective rates are as follows:

Package A. PHP 1,999/pax (minimum of 5 persons to avail)- Inlcusive of welcome drink, one and a half guided walking tour, buffet lunch, free use of pool and beach, cold towel and access to cultural show.
Package B. PHP 1,500/pax- Inclusions are same as package A however without buffet lunch.

The Verdict:

VERDICT

Tips:

a. Catch the earlier trips heading to Balanga as much as possible. First trip in Pasay terminal is 4:00 am.
b. If you have a student companion, remind him/her to bring school ID for student discount (fare).
c. Bring food if possible or buy in the nearest fast food from Balanga terminal to spare you from the over-priced meals inside.
d. You can leave your belongings in the reception area in exchange of stub for claiming purpose. Reception area is quite far from the center of the park however there are shuttles inside which can take you back and forth to reception area for free.
e. The last trip of jeepneys going back to Balanga terminal is 8 in the evening while the last trip of Bus heading back to Manila is 9 in the evening so make sure you’ll leave the park not later than 6:00 pm to catch those trips.
f. Summer isn’t the best season to visit the place. The scorching heat of the place might discourage you to join the guided heritage walk.
g. Make sure your cameras and smartphones are fully-charged because the entire park is picturesque and instagram worthy.

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On Lake Time: Cruising the Caliraya Lake at Aquascape

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If I may to quote a saying, “Not all lakes dream to be an ocean.” That’s true. Lakes are as beautiful as the ocean and sea. They all have chops. They all have foamies at the shore. More importantly, they all bring inner peace, soothing and tranquil vibes to complete a perfect vacation.
Good news, you can experience your dream lake time at Aquascape by Cottages and more- which is  few hours away from the Metro.

I discovered this place while browsing on my Instragram. I fell in love with the place right at the moment I saw my friend’s post. I searched more about  it and other photos to verify the beauty of the place. After I got the approval and consolidated the free time of my chosen companions, I sent reservation to their email and booked their floating cottage. It was November of 2016 that time and the only available weekend for their floating cottage is last week of January 2017. What can we do if that’s the earliest possible time for our desire but to book according to the available date. LOL.

Clearing the decks.

I’m certain that as you do you your research about the place, these questions will eventually pop out of your mind and will confuse you. What is Eco Saddle? What is Aquascape and what is Mt. Carmel? What should I pin to my Waze?
To clarify things out. The owner of the Aquascape is now currently renting a portion of now called Mt. Carmel formerly known as Eco Saddle. This portion is now a haven for nature lovers. You can still find Eco Saddle pinned in either google maps or waze, but there are no signs of Eco Saddle along the way.

We rented their floating cottage for PHP 5,000/night (good for 4). Additional 500 if you’ll maximize it to 5 persons. But as of March 2017, their new published rate for this floating cottage is PHP 6,000.00/night. Still, reasonable for me. I heard they now have  a new and bigger floating cottage that can accommodate for 6 pax for PHP 12,000/night. Check in is 2:00 in the afternoon and check out is 12:00 in the afternoon of the next day. Something to pray over with- if there is no booking placed next to your lodging date, you are allowed to stay a little bit longer. 

Aside from these floating cottages, they have other rooms to rent a follows:

Left: Mahjong Room. PHP 3,000/night (4 persons only)
Right:Villa 8. PHP 5,000/nigh (maximum of 10 pesons)

Left: Tree House. PHP 5,000/night (7 persons only)
Right. Karaoke Room. PHP 4,000/night (4 persons only)

Left: Villa Terrace. PHP 4,500/night (4 persons only)
Right: Villa 4. PHP 3,000/night (4 persons only)

The Floating Cottage Experience

Our stay is inclusive of 1 hour cruise at Caliraya lake and access to free amenities such as fish spa and Jacuzzi. Since the resort is not a fully commercialized one, it doesn’t have food to offer inside. But our room is fully equipped with utensils and stove. We were advised ahead of time to bring our own food- free of corkage fee. Thanks to Nica Set , my colleague- for her cooking skills and Ate Salve, the caretaker of the resort, for being so accommodating in attending all your needs. There is no refrigerator inside our cottage so she offered her their common ref to us. She also helped us in grilling our food for dinner. And thanks to those folks who were lodged facing our cottage for offering their “gaas”. If not to them and to Ate Salve, we might even checked out with our liempo uncooked. LOL. 
Cruising time depends on your preferred time, we chose 3:00 in the afternoon. Weather is a battling drizzle and sunshine plus strong winds. Good thing the cruise went smoothly with no disturbing waves.

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Grilled Liempo

Our official model, Mavi!

They offer fun water activities. Initially, we availed their ATV ride when we booked. However we were informed on the day of our visit that they no longer offer the ATV ride since the field is already planted with crops. So the owner decided to give us a jet ski ride instead, without any additional fee.  Their ATV ride per 15 mins costs PHP 600/2 persons, while Jet ski costs PHP 4,000/hr of ride for 2 persons.  Who cares about the disappointment of not riding the ATV? HAHAHA

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Stars are visible in the least busy place. Lights off!

We checked out past 12:00 in the afternoon of Sunday, due to increment weather condition. Without our side trips, we might arrive at Cavite around 3:00 in the afternoon. Thanks for a fun and safe ride Ray!

How to go Aquascape?

By Public Transport:
From the bus terminal of either Buendia or Cubao, take the Sta.Cruz Laguna bound route and get off at Sta. Cruz Laguna (PHP160). Take a jeep going to Lumot, Caliraya and get off at Mt. Carmel aka Eco Saddle/Aquascape (PHP30).By Service:
Eco Saddle/Aquascape offers a hi-ace van for rent  at PHP6,000 roundtrip inclusive of driver’s fee and gas. Pick-up and drop-off points can be discussed.

By  Car:
Search for Eco-Saddle Park in Waze.
Travel time is 3-4 hours from Manila.
There is an PHP80/person entrance fee for an overnight stay, charged by the local barangay.

Breakdown of Expenses:

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The Verdict:

RATE CALIRAYA

Tips:

a. As per the caretaker, best season to visit the place is March to June.
b. Since the floating cottage has no solid base, you might experience motion sickness so please bring medicine in case.
c. Make sure your cameras and smartphones are fully charged to capture awesome and instagrammable moments.