Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Archive for September, 2017

Breathing Adventure: Travelling Back In Time At Las Casas (Bataan, Philippines)

I think I have fallen in love. No, not with some Prince Charming or some knight in shining armor. I have found basking myself in the glory of history. It’s a place where the past is immortalized through houses of grandeur, their stories resonating in my pure, Filipina soul. By the time I have stepped back into reality, I was never the same again. I think I have just left a piece of my heart in Las Casas.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan is a place owned by Jerry Acuzar, one of the most succesful and richest men in the province. It was built in 2010 but it is continually being developed until today. 

To get there, one has to take a three to four-hour bus ride from the Genesis bus station in Cubao going to Balanga (that would be Php200) and about an hour’s jeepney ride from Balanga to Bagac (Php50). Then, take a Php50 tricycle ride to the very site. I recommend you to leave at around 7 am even if the check-in time is at 2 pm. We were very lucky because our jeepney driver had agreed to take us straight to the resort while charging us only Php80 per person.

Stepping through the gates of Las Casas is like stepping back in time. It embodies everything Filipino, right from the building structures, the camiso de chino and the baro’t saya the staff are wearing to the true blue Pinoy values they are exemplefying. Their friendliness and hospitality are very welcoming for us. I even felt a little embarrassed when they have asked us to carry our bags to our room.

I couldn’t contain my excitement because everything is overwhelmingly IG-worthy. By the time we have entered our overnight abode, I screamed. With that, I was ready with my OOTD. I have to make sure I’d jive well with the place.

A jeep would carry us from the reception, to our quarters and to the little village where las casas (yes, the place literally means “the houses” in Spanish) stand. All houses, which were restored or remodeled, have story to tell. Some of them are linked to our national heroes, some had horror stories but others will just simply bring childhood memories of your old grandma’s house where the smell of burning leaves waft in the morning air. I assure you one day is not enough for all of these tours and activities.

One of the tour guides demonstrating some of the most curious things that could be found in an old house.

A room full of curiosities

Many statues like these playing children are placed in the village

Murals that replicate the works of great Filipino artists in one of the houses.

It would be good if you spend an overnight stay on the weekend because they have cultural shows on Saturdays and special activities on Sundays. One of them was the carabao race, which we have missed unfortunately. Still, we were able to watch a play at the end of the tour, which is about the value of the Filipino.

The carabao parade! We should have followed them to see them race. 🙂

Nighttime at Las Casas is very romantic. I don’t mind not having a date because the sound of the singing violin from afar is enough to melt my heart. If you’re wondering where that sound came from, that was from the open Italian restaurant in the village.

I warn you the food in this place is quite pricey but I can also assure you it won’t disappoint you. You just have to choose whether you like Filipino or Italian cuisine. We have chosen Filipino food because it is good for sharing (one viand costs around Php300-Php500 but a cup of rice is Php50). It is very fulfilling because it is tasty and it is really heavy in the stomach.

Ginataang langka

Liempo

Breakfast is just as good as dinner. Oh, the breakfast buffet is part of our overnight package so we can have as much bread and coffee as we want. I would say again the food is satisfying and superb. It’s enough to keep us going through the rest of the day.

That’s daing na bangus with eggs and fried rice, paired with lomi, fruits and coffee, along woth bread and jam. Who says we’ll be hungry the whole day?

The sea was not swimmable because the waves were dangerously strong. Don’t worry, there’s a small pool near the beach where you can waddle for a morning swim. 

Even after check-out, we can still tour the place in the afternoon. We did not miss the kalesa ride (about Php75 per person) but we were not able to take the balsa ride (which should have been at Php250) because it was beginning to drizzle. We’d rather horse around the rest of the day.

Meet Makisig, the strongest horse in town. I couldn’t imagine him carrying six ladies around town. 🙂

As always, we took a visit at the souvenir shop. I would have loved to take a picture while wearing a traditional Filipino dress at their Photography studio but the minimum price is Php800 to Php900! Nah, forget it. It’s not my pre-nup yet. 

Surprisingly, we only remembered to take a bite at around 3 pm (I told you the breakfast is superb!). Let me remind you that puto (rice cakes) at their snack bar costs at around Php110 for every five, small pieces. Kikiam (a type of Filipino dumpling) costs at around Php90! Oh well, we’d be willing to try it for the sake of experiencing them.

We ended the tour (and the picture taking) past 5 pm. If you don’t plan to bring a car at Las Casas, advise you not to leave the place around that time because there would be no more jeepney going to Balanga. The last jeepney trip would be around 4 or 5pm. The tricycles did take us to Balanga but it’s a bit expensive. 

The gateway to the beach.

We all had our hangovers when we had left the place. If only we could stay longer. The place and the experience Las Casas offers are very satisfying. I’d recommend you to take a room for six if you’re going with a large group because that only costs Php10,800 or Php1800 per person during the weekdays (rates are more expensive on weekends). It would be great to visit the place with your best travel buddies.

From the left Tina, myself, Lans, Ross and Ritz…all aboard to new adventures.

What I love most of all in Las Casas is its tag, “Pride in the past, hope for the future”. Such houses are rarely found in the cities. It is sad many modern Filipinos do not have a sense of history. I admire Mr. Acuzar for keeping the Filipino spirit alive by rebuilding these houses. I hope it is not only the experience the visitors would bring home. I hope everyone who visits Las Casas would also carry the vision Mr. Acuzar has in preserving the Filipino heritage.

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Rebooting decisions

I’ve come to a point where I’ve been harboring regrets over the choices I’ve made. There are days when I wonder if I have been richer after taking up psychology or IT instead of Mass Communication. There are also nights when I mourn my decision to leave BPO to pursue the media industry. I could have been at odds with my former co-workers, performing as a manager like them instead of festering my wounds in my failure to become a famous reporter. The 30-year mark in my life (add it with two more years) is another milestone to look back and evaluate myself. What I’ve found was disappointing as I have failed my dreams, my ambitions and myself.

I had shifted from dream to dream as a child. I’ve wanted to become a teacher, a world-renown writer and illustrator, a TV reporter, an advertiser and then a filmmaker. That’s how I’ve ended up in Mass Communication. All I had was passion. I did not realize my college course would never define my final niche. 

I went from job to job. I was given a chance to work as a TV reporter and a segment producer in a small TV station. I attempted going up the ladder by getting into a bigger and more popular station but I did not survive its toxicity. I went back to the corporate world, still not knowing where I should be. Here’s where I’ve recognized the importance of practicality over passion. If I had forseen this twenty years ago, I might have been a richer and a more successful person by now.

But success cannot be found in money or position.

Isn’t it comforting to know that despite of all these circles I have been through, God has this promise imbeded in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I will never forget that peace that washed me like a cool river when I have made my full decision to leave the media industry. God confirmed it even more through other people. It struck me hard when I heard Kris Valloton saay in his teaching (which I will paraphrase) “It dosen’t matter whether we have failed our foremost plans because God still has plan B, C and so on…what matters is His purpose for us.”

I believe I am yet on my way for my purpose to be fulfilled as I continue jumping from crossroad after crossroad. Despite of disappointments, I keep on picking up gems of wisdom. In the end, it is not fame or position that will make me a better person. All these lessons I’ve learned in life will help me find my niche in this life, as well as guiding me to take up the right pathway to my destiny. 

Stirring Up the Sleeping Palette

I kept on dreaming colors. They swirl around me like icing on a cupcake that makes me hungry for more. I mix and mold them together until they become trees, mountains, a sunny landscape and a smiling me. I was so inlove with them, I buried them in the secret cupboard in my psyche. But here they are, giggling before the partly opened door after a long hibernation.

It’s been ten years since I messed my fingers and my brush with watercolor. I stared at the newly-bought acrylic tubes with a bit of consternation. However, my excitement was tingled even more by the warm, afternoon sun. It’s like releasing the joy of childhood again. It’s awakening the magic from within.

I thought art was a childish hobby to play along. But I did not realize art is actually a part of my soul. Art is an expression for me. I could do art in Microsoft Paint, Photoshop or in the PicsArt app. But I realized digital media cannot take away the power of art in physical form, particularly paintings.

Just as I love the smell of books, I love the enigma paintings can bring. They carry emotions and nostalgia. They also carry the soul of the artist who made them. That’s the reason I’m always fascinated with the artworks at museums at Ben Cab Museum, the National Museum and the Irish Museum of Modern Art. They are channeling us deep into one’s heart and insights, as well as in another time and space.

As for me, I just love stroking my brush as I try to replicate landscapes and childhood memories. This one is one of my favorites. And it was born about fifteen years ago.

That artistic silence was cut off when I needed it to heal me from a traumatic event months ago. That day, I stupidly sank my smartphone in beachwater while it was sitting in the pocket of my shorts. I could not enjoy my beachside trip in Marinduque because I had no gadget to play around with. I was so attached with my phone, I felt I have lost a loved one. I know that sounds stupid, but think of the hardwork I have done just to own a smartphone – for the first time! For a month without one, I then focused my attention on scrapbooking.

I did that for a few friends who were leaving the company. I gathered our other friends who unleashed their artistic creativity on paper. I searched for old colored pencils, brushes and art set. They need to be replaced. I need a new set of color tubes.

I was compelled to buy acrylic paint because I something to mark my newfound cane at Mt. Ulap. Months after, I was encouraged to go beyond this because of a friend.

For now, I would not reveal this part of the story. I just could not contain the joy of mixing colors and painting again. All I could think for now is to give away all my artworks because I believe art is for sharing. I hope my paintings would never serve a selfish purpose but it would bring encouragement and joy to many people.

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