THE REPLICA of the Philippines’ first luxury hotel, the Hotel de Oriente Convention Centre, opened its doors for public tours this month at the heritage resort by the sea, Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar.

Resort guests may tour the new facility, which was based on the old Hotel de Oriente built in 1889 along Plaza Calderon de la Barca in Binondo, Manila. It was considered as the first premiere hotel in the country featuring the finest architecture of the Spanish era. The hotel was destroyed during World War II.

Guests may visit Hotel de Oriente Convention Centre for an additional P200 maintenance fee inclusive of tour, entry to a newly opened exhibit, and a specially handcrafted souvenir. Capping the tour is the screening of old documentaries featuring Manila’s past splendor.

The new convention hall is a three-storey building situated in between the resort’s river and the beach. While its façade was designed based on old Hotel de Oriente photos, its interiors are new, and uniquely fashioned to feature outstanding Filipino craftsmanship, floor to ceiling wood mosaics made of marquetry and parquetry, and hundreds of wooden sculptures. The convention hall’s centerpiece is a marquetry work based on the Spoliarium, Juan Luna’s gigantic painting which can be viewed at the National Museum in Manila. The ceiling features a wood mosaic series of the murals of National Artist Carlos “Botong” Francisco.

The convention center has two halls — Manila and Binondo — which can handle 1,000 persons each. The ceiling of the Binondo Hall at the ground floor features plaster of Paris cast works. The Manila Hall serves as the main venue, with a built-in stage and state-of-the-art sound system. Located at the second level, it features a hardwood parquet floor, a decorated ceiling, still life paintings, and carved decor along the columns and walls.

The third floor has four function rooms named after some of the famous streets of Manila — Azcarraga, Avenida, Blumentritt and Sta. Cruz. VIP boxes for the Manila Hall are located at this level.

At the Azcarraga Function Room is the Hotel de Oriente Convention Centre Exhibit, which explains how the center came to be, its history, its development, the art, and other significant details. Sample woodwork, plasterwork, sketches, and sculptures serve as tribute to the painters, wood carvers, marquetry artists, furniture makers, resin, plaster and terra cotta brick producers who make up the workshop team of the resort.

Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar is a 400-hectare resort filled with heritage houses, located in the town of Bagac in Bataan. It is a three-hour drive from Manila via NLEx and SCTEx. There is a shuttle service plying the Manila-Bataan route daily with New World Hotel Makati and Astoria Plaza as pickup and drop off points. For inquiries, call (63-2) 332-5338 and (63-2) 332-5286.