Joyful Sacred – Kampo Juan Heritage House – Bukidnon

by Mary Lou Cunanan

Kampo Juan Eco-Adventure Farm and Heritage Resort | Contributed Photo

Mindanao Travelogue Series – Part II

Kampo Juan is a Philippine Heritage Museum/extreme eco-adventure situated in Manolo Fortich in Bukidnon. It opened its beautiful doors back in April 2011 and, like most tourist places, only recently opened because of the Covid lockdowns. They named Kampo Juan in honor of Dr. Juan Acosta, patriarch of the Acosta Family, a well-known scientist who pioneered engineering pineapple breeding in Bukidnon.

There is magic in finding beauty in the most obscure and hidden places. And when you do find it, the abundance of joy just simply overflows, providing happiness and beauty to its beholder.“

This place is just pure joy. Not only does it delight the senses, but it also provides nourishment for the parched souls. Kampo Juan offers easy access to joy, happiness, and self-love. The barriers are almost non-existent, and gratitude comes easily. Life feels light and provides a spring to every step.

We have all felt thirsty and hungry at one point or another for purpose, peace, and beauty. Follow what fills your being. Suspend all disbelief and indulge in believing. Believe that something good will come your way.

Come as you are, flaws and everything. Take off your masks and just BE. Whatever self-discovery you’ll find, always remember everything will be okay. You are okay. You are worthy of being here.

Shall we discover some more?

Sitting in the living room waiting for visitors old fashioned way. | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

After all the fun at Seven Seas, our next destination is The Heritage House in Kampo Juan Bukidnon, a 108-year-old house from Pangasinan that was about to be demolished. Still, the Acosta family decided to ship it to Bukidnon and rebuild it again, piece by beautiful piece, for everyone to enjoy its beauty and glamour on top of the mountains. Dr. Neric Acosta personally shared with us that you have to be a little bit mad to do this (I agree!), and this is also a classic example of kung gusto, may paraan.

Kampo Juan Heritage House | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

As you can see in the pictures, they have the house nestled and surrounded by beautiful trees, and you can imagine the cool fresh breeze and the birds chirping in the background. It reminds me of the vacations I used to have at my grandparents’ house in Nueva Ecija. The old houses have many rooms because they had many children then and because cuts of lots are pretty big. (Imagine reading this from your teeny tiny studio condo unit in the Metro, and you hear the sounds of cars even if you’re on the 20th floor). The moment we stepped out of the van, I thought I stepped out of my current reality into Narnia, where all dreams come true. And the prominent Acosta family did make their dreams come true to this place and have generously opened this home for visitors to welcome into their beautiful ancestral home.

Once you get inside, you see collections that feast for any art and Filipino Culture lover. They have collections from the Philippines and Asia and all over Europe, a family’s personal collection. Immediately at the entrance, you will see Bulul, the Ifugao rice god, believed to be a guard watching their crops.

More than a century-old wooden stair with paintings of Filipino Masters and heirloom pieces decorating the walls | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan
Portrait of Bukidnon Princess painted by none other than Fernando Amorsolo | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

Once you get to the second floor, you will see a portrait of a Philippine Princess wearing ethnic attire, an artwork of the world-famous Fernando Amorsolo himself!

They gave us a tour of the collections (they told me there are thousands inside the house), and like a kid in a candy shop, it is hard to know which one I’d like to pick out from the rest. The beautiful table where we had our first orientation is at least 250 years old and will continue to stand the test of time.

Two hundred fifty-year-old plus wooden table with some of the Acosta Family’s collections from decades of traveling. | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

The thing that really shimmered from the rest (sort of like an Aladdin moment when he was on top of mountains of treasures when he saw the genie’s lamp – yeah, that kind of moment) is an ORIGINAL COPY OF NOLI ME TANGERE’s last two copies (one is at National Museum) translated from Spanish to Filipino, and handwriting of Jose Rizal himself as his Mi Ultimo Adios. By this time, I am ready to introduce myself to Dr. Acosta and tell him, “Hello! I’m Mary Lou, your long-lost-baby-sister-who-do-not-look-like-you-at-all-but-let-me-try-you-with-a-telenovela-story-to-convince-you”.

Kampo Juan boasts of having one of the two original printed copies of Jose Rizal’s Obra Maestra Noli Me Tangere which was translated from Spanish to Filipino that triggered the awakening and revolution of Filipinos against Spaniards. | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan
Photo of a younger Jose P. Rizal | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

As we continued our house exploration, we got to see the rooms where people can actually book, stay and enjoy the very romantic feel of the house. If you want to feel like one of the Bridgertons Filipino Style, this would be it. The four-poster beds have mosquito nets hanging over the beds (beautifully styled, of course), and many very prominent figures have already stayed in the house, including Vice President Robredo. They named the eight rooms after the 8 Indigenous Tribes of Bukidnon. Now I know where Suyomano’s future R&R will be.

Old style bedroom back in the day with capiz (mother of pearl) windows and net to keep mosquitoes and other insects away while sleeping. | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

As we got acquainted with the living room, they told us of the age-old courtship tradition wherein the suitor sits on a very low chair. The girl sits on another — the whole army of the family watches in between — and this quiet choreography of lovers goes on. So far, detached from the current dating style of flipping through people as if you’re ordering from Amazon only for them to say Netflix and chill. Ugh. Cringe. Thousand times cringe.

The place also boasts of other outdoor activities such as biking up in the air, zip lines, hiking, etc. But really, the show’s star is the house itself and the thousands of stories they contain.

Dr. Neric Acosta is a very warm and most gracious host to us. He showed us his three newest collections, a chest box made out of Philippine Blue Sapphire with the picture of three women creating the original Philippine flag. The collection has no paint. The artists painstakingly grind precious stones of different colors to put on the images. This technique is tedious, takes a tremendous amount of time, and is ideally done only by women because of the patience, intricacy, and accuracy the technique requires. You can only find the precious stones in Mindanao, which makes these pieces extremely expensive (cha-ching!) and a marvel to look at. Dr. Acosta also mentioned that they make all these artworks possible because we have the most abundant sea in the entire world, specifically in Mindanao.

Treasure Chest is made out of Philippine Sapphire and precious stones mainly found in the Visayas with the image of 3 women sewing the Philippine flag. | Photo by Mary Lou Cunanan

Once the tour is over, I know for sure that I know VERY LITTLE of my own country, which makes me sad because our history and culture are fascinating and very well defined. We, at Suyomano, have a responsibility and duty to make sure that our identity and rich culture get shared with people like me and to everyone around the world.

Thank you, The Heritage House of Kampo Juan, for making me feel like a dainty, beautiful Filipina Princess who went back in time.

Mary Lou Cunanan is a regular Lifestyle columnist of the Philippine Daily Mirror. She is a writer, world traveler, and a Filipina who is very proud of her identity, whose life mission is always searching for covering stories of amazing Filipinos, events, organizations, and businesses globally to celebrate and champion what makes Filipinos amazing wherever they may be.

You may also like

Leave a Comment