In Tagalog, estero is an old word for a canal, a channel of water which is usually used for transport. However in modern times, the word kanal has developed more… unsavory connotations. When I showed a preview picture to friends on Facebook, the Manila dwellers in particular were shocked.
“Estero de Binondo? Bakit ang linis?” (why is it clean?)
Indeed the Las Casas version of the Estero de Binondo is clean: a sparkling deep blue-green, mirroring the skies above.
Since the boatman steering the balsa picked us up near the Hotel de Oriente, our route first took us under the bridge. The sun is quite hot, but there are large blue umbrellas available for use on every craft.
There is an interesting bit of trivia in that a balsa means a raft, which would mean rowing. However all of Las Casas’ balsas are equipped with motors, which makes them… not rafts, in the typical sense. Our boatman admitted that it was because few people would be willing to row all the way, especially in such placid waters.
I totally agree. Even someone with arms like the Hulk might have had difficulty.
The next feature of interest is the Sanctuario de San Jose. It is not yet completed, but apparently already hosts Sunday services. The boatman said that the owner, Mr. Acuzar, is planning to make the church even more beautiful than the Hotel de Oriente: if such a man makes up his mind, the result would surely be jaw-dropping!
We went under another bridge, and then got another look at the Casa Biñan where the La Bella Teodora restaurant is located.
The Maranao houses are a little beyond this point: but my pictures of them didn’t turn out properly, shooting against the light. The blogger It’s me Bluedreamer has several pictures on his blog, however.
We passed several other houses; there were so many on either side of us, that I could barely keep up with the boatman as he told us their history. There were many construction workers in evidence on many of the structures in this area.
Again, the walls and floors were rich in art. The mosaic and the stonework tiles were lovely.
Shortly after this, we went under another arch, and entered a narrow channel with houses built right next to the water.
At that moment, between these large houses, there was no sound except the quiet chirping of birds, and the lapping water. It is these moments of tranquility I especially enjoy when visiting a new place, when everything feels utterly at peace.
Casually, the boatman then mentioned that these houses near the water were also available for rent. The most expensive rooms are in the Casa Byzantina, as mentioned in pt.2, but it goes without saying that these waterside houses are expensissimo for a family stay-cation. The boatman confirmed that these houses were more suited for corporate outings.
The aged wood and brick used in the houses gave them an air of quiet mystery. We sailed along the channel, and then the sun came out from behind the clouds, and these last pictures are my favorite from our trip.
There’s been some dispute regarding the historical repercussions of removing these heritage houses from their original locations and transplanting them to an expensive resort in Bataan.
What I personally feel is that it would be the greatest crime to let these houses fall to ruin where they were. There is no guarantee the descendants inhabiting the house will have the money or inclination to care for it, as in the case of the Casa Biñan, where the greater part of the house was destroyed by Typhoon Ondoy. The legend of the beautiful Hotel de Oriente would have been forgotten completely, if it had not been recreated with love and dedication in Las Casas.
It would be nice if the government stepped in to maintain these houses, yes. But the money needed to maintain these houses in pristine condition is immense. The Mabini and Baldomero Aguinaldo Shrines are heritage houses which the government has turned into museums- fully repainted in an ugly mint green gloss and bubblegum blue, respectively.
I don’t care who you are, you don’t paint heritage houses pastel!! Those colors belong on cotton candy, not on buildings hundreds of years old.
Thank you for reading to the very end of the series. Till next time!