Point of View on Heritage Conservation (& Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar)
I stumbled on several features about Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar while I was checking youtube. This is now becoming a famous resort and not just any type or kind of resort, but it is a “Philippine heritage” resort. While some resorts are styled as Balinese or designed as American theme parks, this is Filipino themed because it features heritage houses (and not replicas mind you) that were uprooted from their original places and transplanted here in Bagac, Bataan and then reconstructed.
It has been featured on Urban Zone on ABS-CBN channel 2 and on Balitang America among others. It has also been featured on several local magazines and shows how popular the resort has become. It has even become a destination for employees who works for the Intramuros Administration, a heritage related government institution.
I managed to find a 3 part interview with Mr. Acuzar on youtube. The uploader was panicfreakxx, but it did not mention who was the interviewer. This is probably the longest interview that I have seen with Mr. Acuzar and in a more relaxed setting. Another interview and a shorter one was featured by Al Jazeera and was presented by Marga Ortigas.
(Credits to panicfreakxx, to the interviewer and to Al Jazeera. To abs-cbn, mangotoursandtravel, original uploaders and original copyright owners.)
Below is part 1 of the interview and the rest are links to part 2 and 3 on youtube.
I haven’t been to Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar (it has a nice ring to it), but I’ve seen photos and I must admit it looks very nice and what adds to the beauty of the place is the scenery, the view of the mountains and the sea. Definitely a must see on my list.
Mr. Acuzar’s resort is rather controversial with heritage workers and advocates. As it is deemed as an inappropriate way of saving and preserving Philippine heritage structures such as ancestral houses. Since the original structure is dismantled from where it is originally located and then transferred to Bagac piece by piece and finally re-assembled there. The house is taken out of its historical and social context and moved into a place that is something similar to a sterile environment. Making it like an artifact in a museum. There is also the question if it is still the same house in a sense, because being disassembled and re-assembled, is it not more of a new house than an old one? A new house built with old materials, as pointed out by one of the heritage advocates.
In the opinion of some heritage workers and advocates they would rather see the heritage structure rot and fall apart in situ or in place than be uprooted from where it originally stands. I guess hopefully (as the saying goes, hope springs eternal) this will give it time to be rescued by a civic group, the government or anyone who will act like a knight in shining armor. Being rescued and preserved in its original setting provided that it is done before it falls apart. But this has a downside. Obviously if no one comes and put in some serious money (as well as educate the public and information drive) into the effort of saving a structure and a long term plan put in place, nothing much will happen. Except the loss of it and sooner or later, to be replaced by a generic modern structure that possibly will not reflect the past or our heritage.
In both cases which I believe are both extremes, the community still loses. A heritage structure is still lost and the community left with nothing. But the difference is, with Mr. Acuzar’s resort, the house can still be seen. Definitely not 100% original but still much from the original materials and it is still recognizable in its former form. That is, if this is acceptable or even considered as a method of heritage conservation.
And with both extreme views, this made me ambivalent about Las Casas and with this method of conservation (if it is considered that) and the stand of some of the heritage advocates and workers wherein a heritage structure is better left to rot and fall upon itself than be transferred. To a certain degree, I am inclined to think that, if a community or town allow its heritage to be pillage or to fall into disrepair and the towns folk are apathetic to its existence, then maybe that community does not deserve to have it.
And as an example, still on Hidalgo St. in Quiapo is the Zamora house. The photos were taken last 2007 and here is a house that is still whole but not quite. We were given access to enter the house even if it was only the ground floor. This is an example of a house that is slowly rotting away and beginning to fall apart.
I’m not sure if this house was owned by Manuel Zamora who was said to have invented or formulated tiki-tiki which helped prevent and cure beri-beri. The house is still with the Zamora family as related to us by the caretaker. But the family has moved to San Juan, Metro Manila. Such is the case of most old houses in this district.
This house is not being rented out to tenants. If I remember it correctly, it was said to have been previously used at some point as a bodega or storage place.
The front portion and about half of the house is till standing, the back portion have collapsed as can be seen in the photos above and back then in 2007, a mini-jungle has sprang up (complete with ruins.) Possibly a set for Indiana Jones or Tomb Raider.
Part of the collapsed portion of the house which was probably part of the toilet (notice the white tiles on the right side.)
Although the proportion can’t be seen in the photo, this is one huge wooden beam that has rotted away which probably caused the collapsed of the second floor.
The courtyard and through the stone arch can be seen the collapsed portion of the house.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, both views are extreme. To transfer or not to transfer and see it fall apart. Transferring a heritage structure to another place and having it re-constructed or re-assembled I guess would be fine, if it is the last resort or there is no other way of saving the structure. Like what they did in Egypt when they transferred several historical monuments when the Aswan Dam was built. The disadvantage that I can see here if no such threat exist, is that a community loses part of its history and landmark. And the idea that it may be the only way to save and preserve heritage structures in the Philippines. It may become an accepted practice in restoration and conservation for it is not only Las Casas who is doing this, but other individuals also have taken into buying or collecting (truly the rich are different from you and I) ancestral houses and moving it somewhere else. And with the other view, seeing it decay and rot as opposed to being move somewhere else, really leaves us with nothing to see and appreciate. Probably what we will have are only memories of what once use to stand there or if historically important, historical markers attached to new structures or some wall as we can see with Katipunan related sites and with Intramuros structures where a marker shows what was once there (although much of Intramuros was destroyed in the war.)
Ideally and hopefully, heritage structures are preserved at the site itself. Spared from renovations (which for some passes as restoration and common with old colonial churches), neglect and apathy. A unified stand on what are accepted as proper conservation practices, an information drive to educate the Filipinos on the importance of his/her own heritage and the economic viability of such structures which has tourist drawing potentials.
Some related blogs to Las Casas de Acuzar-