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Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a heritage community that is dedicated to bring the traditions that have shaped our culture in the past back to the consciousness of the modern Filipino.
Last 30 May 2017, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar opened an exhibit of Filipiniana gowns and ternos made by prestigious Filipino designers such as Francis Libiran, Renee Salud, Cary Santiago, Albert Andrada, Randy Ortiz, Edwin Uy, Dave Ocampo, Mikee Andrei, North Ortiz, Vince Sityar, Francis Calaquian, Maricis de la Pena, Marjorie Lee Gomabay, Dave Aguirre Lee, Jojo Alibio, and Patis Tesoro were included in the host of notable designers featured in the exhibit. This exhibit was inspired by Betty Lalana’s article entitled, “The Origin and Evolution of Filipino-Inspired Fashion.” Here, she discussed how the beautiful terno was able to evolve and withstand the test of time by saying, “What remains as a constant source of pride is the fact that the Philippine terno and barong were elevated to mean elegance and class. Today, these are worn in the most formal and grandest of occasions.”
The gowns on display were exquisite and beautifully-made with their rich details and creative wonder. The exhibit was truly a sight to behold as thirty one ternos and gowns graced the lobby of the resort’s Hotel de Oriente.
Alongside this, there was also a photo exhibit that celebrated the glorious days of the Manila Carnival Queens entitled, “The Fairest of a the Fair: Manila Carnival Queens from 1908 to 1939.” This exhibit pays homage to the Manila Carnival Queens who were the first lakambinis that brought beauty with substance to the forefront of pageants in the country. The photos and research for the exhibit came from Mr. Alex Castro’s extensive collection of this era. A crown from the 1934 Manila Carnival Queen, Clarita Villarica Tan Kiang, was on display in the exhibit. This crown is a rare find from the Manila Carnival Queen’s era that still exists at present.
The thirty-one gowns in the terno and Filipiniana exhibit represent the thirty-one years of the majestic Manila Carnivals and the queens who reigned during this era.
The opening of the exhibit was followed by one of the biggest events the resort has hosted: the Lakambini ng Las Casas pageant. This pageant is still a nod to the tradition of the Manila Carnival Queens. The pageant boasted the beauty of the 18 local Bataan lakambinis who walked gracefully and full of confidence on the stage of the grand ballroom of the resort’s premiere convention center, Hotel de Oriente.
“The Lakambini ng Las Casas aims to revive the glory and pride of the Manila Carnival Queens. The chosen queen from the pageant will be the Reyna Elena for the Grand Santacruzan,” is what Brand Marketing Director, Erwin Dona said about the said event.
The night’s festivities were graced by the presence of former beauty queens namely, Dang Cecilio (Bb. Pilipinas Universe 1979), Chiqui Brosas (4th runner-up, Ms. Universe 1975), Sharon Bediones (Bb. Pilipinas Young 1982), and Jenette Fernando Dizon (Bb. Pilipinas Tourism 1993), among others.
Out of the 18 candidates, there was one queen that was crowned that night. The first-ever Lakambini ng Las Casas is Diana Velasco from the town of Balanga. The Reina del Oriente (first runner-up) is Dianne April Pangilinan and the winner’s sister, Donna Velasco was crowned as the Reina del Occidente (second runner-up).
The candidates were judged by the following notable figures: Dr. Isagani Germar (President of Manuel L. Quezon University), Edwin Uy (owner and designer of Edwin Uy Fashion Design House), John Silva (Executive Director of the Ortigas Foundation Library), Nikki Rocha (Executive Vice-President of AsiaTravel.com), Cary Santiago (one of the country’s top couturiers), Mario Dumaual (ABS-CBN Senior Entertainment reporter), Carolina Uy Division Chief of Department of Tourism in Region 3), Janela Joy Cuaton (Mutya ng Pilipinas 2015 Tourism International).
Lakambini ng Las Casas, Diana Velasco, was crowned because of her poise, self-assurance, and wit. John Silva, one of the judges for the pageant and the Executive Director of the Ortigas Foundation Library, notes that Diana Velasco won the hearts of the judges through her answer about preserving Filipino heritage. He said, “…the candidate who won my highest score was – on a question about preserving our heritage – spoke naturally and authentically about researching and preserving old food recipes, food being emblematic of a national identity. This candidate also won the other judges’ votes so she was crowned Ms. Lakambini that evening.”
Special awards were also awarded that night. These are the following lakambinis who received special awards: Jaila Eunice Ragindin for Lakambini Belo (Best in Swimsuit), Patriz Anne Dabu for Lakambini Fotografia (Miss Photogenic), Daisy Renze Resultay for Lakambini Friendship (co-sponsored by Plains & Prints), and Diana Velasco for Lakambini Edwin Uy (Best in Filipiniana).
The following day, 31 May 2017, the community celebrated their own Grand Santacruzan. Before the sagala, the sunduan starts with the pagsundo of the reynas (Reyna Elena, Reyna Emperatriz, Reyna de las Flores) by the band and the people. They walked to Casa Byzantina where they gave the cross to the Hermana Mayor, Ms. Tess Acuzar.
A sagala was held in the morning as the Lakambini of Las Casas who was also presented as the Reyna Elena started her reign. She had her court to support her all throughout the _sagala _up to the Grand Santacruzan in the afternoon. There was a mass to pay tribute to the Blessed Mother and their parade commenced after. Fireworks lit up the sky as the Reyna Elena and her court exited the church and paraded along the cobble-stone streets of Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.
Santacruzan is celebrated in Bagac with great pride and honor to the Blessed Mother as a thanksgiving for an abundant harvest. In a span of nine nights, the Holy Cross is passed to families selected by the Hermana Mayor. The Reyna Elena brings the cross around the town proper every night for this period of time.
The most notable part of the Santacruzan celebrated in Bagac is the food-gathering (piging) which is celebrated the whole day on the ninth day. A procession starts in the morning where plenty of sagalas and little angels line up to go to the church. It is then followed by a Holy Mass. The Reyna Elena holds the cross during the procession. After the Mass the people gather in front of the Hermana Mayor’s residence.
The people of the town of Bagac believe that the chance of holding the Cross while they are dancing will heal any illness in the family.
The tradition of grandeur and beauty still lives on today. Grandeur is not just about lavishness, it is also a balance between beauty, grace, and withstanding the test of time. As the three events came to a close, the traditions celebrate will still remain as a part of our culture and memory.
Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is located at Bagac, Bataan. For more information, visit lascasasfilipinas.com. Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is part of the Conde Nast Johansens Luxury Global Collection and is a project of the New San Jose Builders, Inc. in consultancy with Asian Grand Legacy Hotels.