It is a long weekend and we took the chance to visit Villa Escudero where a vast coconut plantation estate has been converted into a tourist destination south of Manila. Left Manila 6:30am and reached this hacienda well before 9am. A welcome drink of “gulaman” , a local drink made of diced gelatine and sugared water was most refreshing.
Day Tour Inclusions
Country life, then and now, is what Villa Escudero is all about. Our kids, aged 12 and 9, accustomed to urban living, would do well to have this ‘introduction’ to provincial life. The adults? Well, we can all do with this break. And country air is definitely something of a luxury these days, despite the heat. The day tour costs 1,250 pesos or nearly US$30. Included in this package is a Museum tour of the owner Ado Escudero’s antique collections housed in a church which has now been converted into a Museum. Nearby, another museum is under construction. Guess that means that Mr. Escudero must have accummulated more collections to warrant another structure. That gives us a good reason to return to this place. Also included in the package are: buffet lunch, carabao-driven cart rides, swimming, rafting in the lake, and a cultural show. Not bad. The elder child, aged 12 turning 13 soon, said she thought it would be some laid-back plantation visit with not much to do. She and her 9 year old brother were pleasantly surprised with the set up in this “real FARMVILLE” . (For those of you who play Farmville on Facebook , you know what I mean. ) Both kids and adults tried everything.
No photos inside. But this church turned Museum has quite a collection of “floats” used in religious processions, and many many religious statues. The antique altar, sculpture of the Last Supper, collectors’ items such as Philippine currency/money, local costumes, Spanish-inspired furniture, paintings, handwritten letters of the national hero Dr. Jose Rizal, paintings, stuffed animals from the Philippines and other places like Africa and neighboring Asian countries, butterfly collections, etc. Tells us that this Escudero family is most surely a family of collectors. And they have the money to indulge in this passion! I pointed out to the kids the local alphabet —- which is non-existent, if not “not known at all” to many Filipinos. Oh yes Virginia, we had our own alphabet way before the Spaniards came to rule our country for nearly 400 years. We have to thank the Escuderos for this, as well as the other collections for many like our kids to appreciate.
Estate Park and a “Private Property”
The Museum has a plaza where one finds a sculpture of the Escudero ancestors, another Museum under construction, and various World War II mementos like cannons , tanks, etc. All around, there were also sculptures of typical Filipino scenes. I like these, as i found it easier to explain to the kids how country life was in the olden days. Like those sculptures of a man “courting” this lady. No eye contact, while the man tries to offer a gift to his lady love. The lady, in turn, acts coyly as women then were expected to behave. Then there was this scene of a little boy riding a carabao, a person “picking trees” with this long pole, a little boy feeding piglets. The premier spot in this plaza belongs to the Mansion where the Escuderos presumably lived then, perhaps till now. The pink Mansion sits in this prime spot fronting the plaza , with Mount Cristobal in the background. On a clear day, it is a beautiful sight……matched only by the serenity of the estate lake trimmed by cottages and trees.
Lunch and A Cultural Show
In between swimming, we succeeded in dragging our 9year old back to an area where lunch is served. The place has a man-made waterfalls with water flowing underneath several tables and benches. We took our lunch while our feet enjoyed the cool waters. I even caught sight of small black fish in the 6 inch waters while enjoying my lunch. Lunch was a typical Filipino and Fil-Spanish cuisine. Oh , and some Chinoy or Fil-Chinese additions too like the vegetable rolls. I had a lot of these rolls , in between bites of diced pork chops (over-grilled though, if you ask me) and grilled tilapia fish. The peanut sauce was good for some of the freshly sliced cucumber and other veggies. The pumpkin sauce , the beef caldereta , and desserts like banana cue and tapioca balls complete the lunch.
After lunch, we trooped back to the Coconut Pavilion and waited for the 2pm cultural show. There were dances from Northern , Central and Southern Philippines. As with many dance performances, the finale is the “singkil” dance from Southern Philippines. The costumes, the colors, the graceful dancers, and the sequence of tribal and national dance numbers made up for a good show.
Time for Some Rowing
I made the good decision not to join the group who took turns rafting. The lake is not so big nor wide. But my arms would do me in, for sure, and so I opted out. Watching them row out, then back, I could tell their arms tired out rowing . Of course, one end of the lake is the waterfalls where we earlier enjoyed our lunch. If Martin wins hands down enjoying all the pools and playing in the waterfalls area, Anna Patricia gets a trophy for rafting. She rowed well in between laughter as her aunts alternated to be her partner rower in the same raft. I didn’t think I’d have the energy to row back to safety. A pair of tourists probably felt the same way AFTER one of them dropped into the lake as she tried to disembark from the raft. She was all ready with one of her legs out to step off the raft into waiting hands . But the raft MOVED. So she goes straight into the lake. Oh oh.
The Carabao-Driven Cart
We left the plantation (yes, it still is a working coconut plantation) nearly 5pm, and took the same carabao-driven cart back to the parking area. Can’t end this blog without mentioning these: 1. When taking this ride, be sure NEVER EVER TOUCHING THE ROPE tied to the carabao. One of us did, and the carabao took that to mean we were ready to go. 2. If you have kids with you, don’t try singing along with the kundiman singers riding the cart. (Kundiman is local songs sang way way back by our forefathers. Not unless you don’t care if you are embarassing them or not. In our case, I think I embarassed our kids enough. So there, we spent a good holiday in Villa Escudero. Just 2 1/2 hours south of Manila. If driving, take the Southern Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and exit at 50 (Lucena, Legazpi and Batangas exit). Turn left at the Sto. Tomas junction and left again at Tanauan-Sto. Tomas junction. Head straight down, bypassing towns like Alaminos and San Pablo City Proper. Slow down upon seeing Quezon arch and turn left immediately. Villa Escudero is at the boundary of San Pablo City and Quezon province.
More photos in my TravelBlog site.