Travel

Heritage within the heart of the city – Casa Juico

This post is part of a series of posts on Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar. For the other posts in the series, see A Trip Back in Time (pt.1),  Hotel de Oriente (pt.2), and Estero de Binondo (pt.3)

Las Casas de Acuzar in Bataan is marvelous, but it is at least a couple hours’ drive from Manila. So I was quite surprised to find that they now have a place within the city- Quezon City, to be exact.

The outside of the property is not immediately obvious. There is a long white wall, but it doesn’t scream ‘heritage building.’ There is a guardhouse and a cobblestone path leading up to a fountain and garden, as well as the stairs to the second level.

The house itself was designed by National Artist for Architecture Pablo Antonio in the ’60s. While beautiful in its own right, I had a moment of doubt. The white paint and brown stone seemed a long way from the beautiful old woodwork prominent in Bataan.

The fountain was the biggest indicator that we were in the right place. Just like in Bataan, the humanoid faces integrated into the structure are great fun, but also a little creepy.

I wonder if these lamps are functional, and if the faces change with the light?

Maybe it’s just me, but one of the heads seems to have a wider mouth than the others. Probably just uneven wear… probably.

The moment we entered the main building, all my doubts vanished. Every surface is ablaze in detail- woodwork, stucco ceilings, and rich mosaics. We arrived around lunchtime, so we placed our orders with the restaurant before wandering around the building.

One wall of the restaurant area features a beautiful mosaic, combining the most famous attractions of the Bataan property.

I went right up to the wall for this, and even ventured to touch the tiles (very gently!) I have no experience in mosaic work, so it was fascinating to see how the arcs and shapes made up the whole picture. I also noted that the wooden buildings were created with curved-edge shapes, and greater variations in color; the area featuring the Sanctuario de San Jose, which is stone and brick in real life, was made from straight-edged pieces. There is a little bit of shine visible in the pictures, but the pieces were quite matte; possibly plastic.

As if covering one entire wall in mosaic wasn’t enough, the other walls also feature mosaic work interspersed among columns of wood. However, these are done in more traditional glossy tiles.

Let’s go see what’s on the second floor!

The staircase has the same treatment as those in the recreated Hotel de Oriente, with the difference being in the metal handrail, which I believe is part of the original house. The woodwork on the stairs deserves a close-up!

On my way up, I spotted something through the windows that made me do a double-take. Is that… Klimt?

It is Klimt; to be exact, there are two pieces, done in relief. On the left is The Three Ages of Woman, and on the right is The Kiss. I have to admit – I went wild over these, because it is just so fitting that an artist who worked with color and texture (and gold) as Klimt, should have his work be recreated in a medium with such depth.

True, the design has been simplified; but the added light and shadow inherent in sculpture in relief has a pleasing effect on the eye.

The lighter panels are elaborately decorated, but the colors are subtle.

The first room on the left is also the largest on the second floor: the Quezon Hall.

  • Maximum capacity: 49 pax
  • Rate: P40,000- for 4 hours, consumable
  • in-house catering only (provided by Chef Margarita Fores)
  • speaker setup included, includes both fixed and free-standing airconditioning units
  • client is responsible for any damage to the property/furnishings

The Frisco 1 and 2 rooms can be rented in parts or the divider can be removed to rent the whole space.

Frisco 1

  • Maximum capacity: 20 pax
  • Rate: P10,000- for 4 hours, consumable
  • in-house catering only (provided by Chef Margarita Fores)

Frisco 2

  • Maximum capacity: 15 pax
  • Rate: P10,000- for 4 hours, consumable
  • in-house catering only (provided by Chef Margarita Fores)

Frisco 1 & 2

  • Maximum capacity: 40 pax
  • Rate: P16,000- for 4 hours, consumable
  • in-house catering only (provided by Chef Margarita Fores)

Since the rooms are divided by wooden partitions, it is possible to rent out all three and combine them, too. As for bathrooms, there are two on the second floor (one each for men and women)

No, the bathrooms are not Art Deco, sadly. Standard tiles and porcelain.

On our way back down, I stopped to take another shot of the staircase. I really love the detail put into the woodwork.

‘Servum et Preservum, Las Casas’.

It’s a great slogan, and one that I believe suits them very well. Although the floors are smooth and polished, for small pieces like this, the wood is left unvarnished for a rustic effect.

Las Casas by Margarita Fores is, after all, a restaurant!… the potato chips were complimentary, after a slight mishap with our order. We had the Beef Tenderloin SalpicaoP650 (excellent flavor and aroma, tender beef. Perfectly cooked, down to the mushrooms) CallosP450 (more watery than expected) and Spaghetti con MariscosP275 (which I forgot to take a picture of; rather heavy and oily, could use more seafood). For dessert, we had the TorrijaP350 (very light, delicate but appreciable flavor)

After our meal, we went right back to exploring. This room is not currently open to the public, but it’s still fascinating. The art on the wall is probably a point of contention for art history buffs, but Acuzar as a whole is not meant to represent a particular time period only.

The back of the property is a hub of activity. There are several new buildings being built; but unlike the houses in the Bataan Acuzar, these seem to have been built following a template, instead of old buildings that have been restored. If this is going to be a purely commercial space with plenty of foot traffic, it makes sense- modern engineering and materials would probably be easier to maintain.

The garden space is also available for parties, if ever you want an outdoor ambiance. This space does not provide the stage and sound equipment, but for those of us who live in heels, you will be glad to know that the turf is not real grass; you will not be picking soil off your stilettos afterwards.

The garden has another feature of interest; I’d assumed these seated figures were of the original owners. But when I looked closely, that cigar was unmistakable.

For those not familiar with our history, a cigar is the trademark of former (12th) President Fidel V. Ramos. During his period in office it was as much a part of his body as his nose and mouth, although in recent years it appears he’s quit the habit. The other President – which I do not have a picture of, sadly – is supposedly former (6th) President Elpidio Quirino.

The other side of the terrace has two more figures. The one on the left is former (2nd) President Manuel Quezon (personally, not a great likeness; former Pres Quezon also appears on our P20 bill, and governing aside is famously remembered for his looks). The figure on the right however is immediately recognizable.

Emilio Aguinaldo is recognized in history as the first President of the Philippines, during the turbulent years of the struggle between Spain and America for power over our little country. His portrayal in media has not been kind; in recent years, movies have been quick to paint him as two-faced and greedy, but I don’t think it’s that simple. There were very many people around the popular figures of Andres Bonifacio and Antonio Luna, and it is not right to be so judgemental to their descendants (or even the actors behind the roles) based on the little that we know.

We’re not done yet! We came back in from the garden, to visit one last room. This is the Amorsolo room, which is accessible only at certain (off-peak) times.

This room is simply breathtaking. The rest of the property is rich in ornamentation, but in this room it is turned up to eleven. The overhead lighting lends a warm glow to the woodwork, and even the air-conditioning units are beautifully covered up.

At Las Casas Bataan, the mode elaborate woodwork in the Hotel de Oriente was set high up, where you couldn’t reach it. Here, the ornamentation is at ground level, so it’s possible to appreciate the details close up.

This huge portrait of Mrs. Juico was painted by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo. The date in the corner is 1957; I was frankly stunned that the original painting was just hanging there. True, it is not in direct sunlight, but at the same time my inner Chicken Little is shrieking at how this old and exceedingly precious piece of art is protected by a single rope barrier.

In fact, it’s amazing that this painting is even here at all. A fire broke out on the property in 2016 (link), and it was through the efforts of the firefighters that this and at least fifty other works were saved. Many of the works on display in the Amorsolo room today are replicas, but this and the portrait of Mr. Juico high up on the wall are originals.

By the way… it seems super random, but I couldn’t think of where else to put this picture:

There is a pool right outside the Amorsolo room. Pools are a common feature of the larger family homes, but somehow the chlorine blue is such a stark contrast to the rest of the home, that I can’t quite wrap my head around it.


Thank you for reading to the very end of the series. These posts take a great deal of time to put together, but I am delighted whenever I meet people who tell me they enjoy the journey through pictures.

‘Till the next adventure!

Las Casas Quezon City

Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. I go around the city using my own money, with friends and/or family. Photos are my own unless otherwise indicated. Kindly do not repost or use them without my express permission.

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