Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort
After two and a half hours of driving from Manila, my brother and I found ourselves making our way into an imposing gate that looked more like an entrance to some exclusive or posh housing subdivisions. And another 5 minutes and thru a concrete road with a view of the vast plantation and towering coconut trees that touch the sky, we made it to the quaint and historic Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort.
We took the Day Tour package for P1105/person that entitles a guest to a welcome drink, carabao cart rides, use of outdoor recreational facilities and lunch at the waterfalls. Cultural shows are held every Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays.
The day started off with some photo ops with Madonna and Pogi, the hardworking carabaos in the villa who gave us a cart ride while being serenaded with folk songs on our way to our lunch destination. The compound is littered with remnants of history like the trams and the horse-drawn carriage or karitelas from the Spanish era and also some pieces from World War II like the war planes, missile launchers, cannons and howitzers. My American officemate who was in the US navy commissioned in the Philippines years back was ecstatic about this story.
We had a buffet of native dishes – grilled tilapia, liempo, fried chicken, banana-q, saging na turon, etc… and kaldereta – and right there, I remembered Madonna and Pogi, this is probably where they will eventually end up with after retirement from the villa, when they become old and useless – served stewed at the buffet table!
The real come to mama moment for me was rowing at the Labasin lake. I didn’t know or understand the apprehensions from my brother whether because he doesn’t know how to swim or because he was imagining things or anacondas or Lochness monster coming out of the 30 feet deep lake but I still managed to convince him to join me in the end. As we slowly rowed thru the placid waters, I can’t help but see flashes or images of my life in the office, in the city or even in my own house. I felt the lake as my sanctuary. I stopped rowing and just allowed the soft breeze to drift us to nowhere, until I heard my elder brother, ‘Halika na bilisan natin, umahon na tayo.’
‘Grrr! Lekat talaga itong si utol! Matapos mong dalhan ng pasalubong e mamadaliin ka. Tama ba yon?’
But the moment was probably one of those that I will treasure the most in my vacation. As far as I can remember, It was the longest time my brother and I have bonded in our lives. I remember when we were young, he used to leave the house with a basketball to play with his barkadas while I stay wishful that someday we would play sports together. It didn’t happen. And I never learned to play basketball.
Close to the lake are the medium sized pools – nothing fancy, but they are clean. The shower rooms are also clean and newly repainted/renovated. Other facilities include the wedding center, chapel, bar, restaurants, videoke, basketball, tennis court and auditorium.
I regret that I didn’t explore the upper floors of the museum where they have a display of some artifacts and other treasured pieces from Philippine history. That would have completed the whole experience of travel back in time. The whole of first floor displays rosaries, religious statues and images – a lot of it – the most that you will ever see in your life – unfortunately, it also became the ho-hum moment for me so I lost the interest to check the rest upstairs.
The ride with a serenade on the carabao-drawn cart is sweet and nostalgic. And on to the man-made waterfall where lunch is served – the experience is unique. The food is adequate - not that great, not too many to choose from. I enjoyed rowing on the bamboo rafts exploring the lake – which is kind of small and short but i guess it’s good in a way because it diminishes the fear factor of the lake.
An overnight stay on the cottage by the lakeside would have been nice and relaxing.
I am not sure the young active adults would really enjoy the whole experience of old, rustic, peaceful and simple hacienda life. But this is what Villa Escudero is all about. It is also about travelling back in time. So is it worth coming back to the villa? Maybe not. But is it worth the experience? Absolutely!
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