I am from the Generation X. We were those kids whose teen years were spent during the 1980s. We were sometimes aptly called the “Baby Busters” because we are the children of the “Baby Boomers” and “The Silent Generation.”
The present Y2K generation may have not experienced playing in the streets with other kids like we did back then. While most kids nowadays are hooked in video games and computers and interacting with other gamers online, we get rough and tumble on the riveting games like “patintero,” “siyato,” and “tumbang preso,” to name a few, and we occupy the entire street whenever we play. I got bumps and bruises every now and then; but I have to admit that I was remarkably good at those team games.
Sadly, seldom do I see much of the Filipiana settings nowadays except on stage. Hence, when I went to Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort in San Pablo, Laguna, I was charmed by the way the owners preserved the rich legacy of the Filipino traditions.
Let me identify several high-points of my overnight stay as I reveled in every bit of the Filipino culture.
Arriving after an almost two-hour drive from Las Pinas City with my niece, we were welcomed by the staff wearing the traditional “kimonas” and “camisa de chinos” – we looked outmoded with the clothes we were wearing compared to them.
After being welcomed with drinks upon registration we were ushered to where our carabao ride was stationed to transport us over to the Labasin Waterfalls for our all-Filipino buffet lunch. The ride was upscale with wheels now, chauffeured by a carabao named “Sexy” and entertained with live folk guitar-accompanied music by their resident singers. It was a reminiscent from the old movies, as far as I can remember, where farmers joyfully sing their way to the countryside we call “bukid.”
The popular Waterfalls Restaurant was one of a kind. This is the very first time I ever experienced dining IN the waterfalls – stepping on the cool river and getting your feet wet as you gather your food from the buffet table and walk to your seat. The buffet food selection was aplenty and a variety to choose from. If you wish, you can keep coming back for as long as your belly can contain. Later on as I talked to the caretakers, I learned that they also grow their cuisine ingredients and even get the fish from Balakin River which flows through Villa Escudero.
After lunch, it was time to check-in our earlier reserved unit they call Long Houses, an apartment type. The nipa hut was very cozy and clean when we entered.
It was equipped with a canopy bed and a mezzanine to accommodate up to 6 more guests. It has a very high ceiling and the breezy air was circulating comfortably with a fan. They provided the toiletries for our use as well – toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and lotion.
To a much bigger group, they also offer the River Units with the balcony facing the placid river. Other rooms have air-conditioning but why spoil the fresh air and the smell of the grass when you can benefit from natural rejuvenation.
Getting around, we came upon Indigo Café which is situated overlooking the serene river (check my header photo on this page to see what I am referring to) and ordered caramel and peppermint latte. They serve really good coffee and the view was fantastic. It was a Thursday-Friday stay-cation and there were not too many guests at that time; we felt like we own the resort. Every once in a while, we meet other guests on the pathways and say ‘hi.’ It was indeed a pure relaxed setting.
Exploring the plaza area, we graced Aera Memorial Museum where the Escudero family displayed most of their historical collections and artifacts ranging from religious relics, war pieces to clay jars, gold jewelries, coins, dolls, love letters and various trinkets. No photography is allowed so I only took a picture of the “pink” facade of the museum which was constructed to look like a replica of a church. The color pink noticeably abounds everywhere.
At around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, I noticed that most of the staff was heading towards one direction and I was wondering if they were going home as if their own homes are just within the property. Since it was not closing time yet, I asked the shuttle driver where workers are heading to. And sure enough, the Heritage Village is where some 500 + workers were allocated a portion of land by the Escudero Family to have their homes built there respectively. I was told that most of the workers now are already the third generation of family members since the plantation started back in 1929.
We were taken to the Church of the Ascension, Wedding and Conference Center as well; stopping by and appreciating the time to explore the sizable venue available for rent for swanky celebrations. Heading back to our unit, our driver was really kind enough to exclusively show us around and gave us snippets of history including popular celebrities who celebrated their special occasions in the resort.
Back in our nipa hut, we freshened up and took a short nap only to be awakened by a duet singing with a guitar outside our porch – it’s a “harana,” a Filipino folk serenade. I have not been serenaded like this before so I came out to acknowledge them. After their last song, they informed us that dinner is already being served. The dining room was at the Coconut Pavilion and meals are served in another buffet-style.
The evening was crisp and starry. We decided to head to the Recreation Center and try the videoke. There was an extra fee of PHP 10 per song and we spent a budget of PHP 100 for the night. Another group who were in the pavilion also decided to come over after their dinner. It was a good evening spending time with fellow Filipinos who enjoy singing at their best until it was time to retire and rest.
In the morning, going back to the pavilion for breakfast, we had a very sumptuous one. The attending waiter kept on serving us more portions we could not resist. We have wanted to try their halo-halo but never had the chance to order because we were always full up to our necks. I guess there will always be a next time.
Just in time after breakfast, the bamboo rafting port was now open. And yes, we could not let pass this one. We strapped on our life vests and on we went gliding on the water, sightseeing with no stress at all. It was only a 2-seater raft and although it was long, it was easy to maneuver as we soaked ourselves with the awesomeness of views surrounding us. We have the entire morning to enjoy this. Again, we were the only ones on the river – another great feeling of ownership. While on the river, we oftentimes paused under the canopy of trees – it felt so whimsical and fairy-like. I was able to capture great pictures from our perspective. It was definitely picturesque with Mount Banahaw as the backdrop.
When we checked-out from our room at 11 am, we were still allowed to roam around and use the ground facilities for the rest of the day.
With our nourishing 2 day visit, I do recommend the overnight stay to anyone as you would get your money’s worth with everything the resort has to offer. I have a disclaimer though that the swimming pool was not available at the time we were there for a face-lift. It would be for the succeeding guests to enjoy it once it is complete. But I should say that we had our discounted rate because of the renovation which was fair enough for us.
When you are in Manila, enjoy a day tour or overnight stay and enjoy the Filipino culture at Villa Escudero – you will never regret it. After all, it is only about a 2-hour drive from south of Manila.
On the side note, before we went back home, we had a bonus experience exploring Hacienda Escudero – a Filipino-inspired, residential resort-plantation community development located in Tianong, Quezon, developed by Landco. The agent showed us several lots that are still available to own for families who desire to live very close to nature. You may request a tripping schedule in the Reception Hall on your way home.
With the rise of contemporary and luxurious hotels everywhere, would you still consider to go and enjoy a traditional accommodation rich in features native to your country? Please feel free to leave a comment.