It was one of those spontaneous weekends. We decided to drive all the way to San Pablo to check out Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort on a Saturday morning. Except for images of carabao-drawn carts, coconut trees and rural folks dressed in native costumes, Villa Escudero has always been just a vast hacienda of coconut trees I pass by whenever I go home to Bicol. We made an impromptu reservation while we were on our way to the resort and fortunately we were put on the waiting list despite it being a busy weekend for the resort.
It was almost 1pm when we finally reached the resort and finalized our reservation for an overnight stay. We were warmly welcomed by staff dressed in traditional Filipino costumes baro at saya and transported leisurely by a carabao-drawn cart around the resort (walking is a faster option). The lunch at the Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant was a pleasant surprise. We were treated to a feast of local dishes (the grilled seafood and ensaladas were mouth watering) served on bamboo dining tables located in the middle of a fresh forest steam. Dining with the sparkling man-made waterfall backdrop and refreshing spring water running over our feet made it even more interesting.
The Philippine Experience Show was already starting by the time we finished our lunch. The hall was already packed, mostly with day trippers, balikbayans and buses of excursionists on field trip. The show reminded me of the Rose Garden Show in Bangkok where you get to experience the cultural legacy of the country in one entertaining presentation. Local customs like cockfighting, courtship, and fiestas were creatively interspersed with the ethnic dances and musical performances. The repertoire of the dances was so impressive and even more the performers who were also the staff and employees of the resort. It was like a déjà vu of my student days seeing them dance Pandango sa Ilaw, Maglalatik, Carinosa, Itik- Itik, Tinikling and many more, representing the regions from North to South of the Philippines.
After the show, there was still no available room for us so we decided to rent a bike and explore the rural village first. It was a bit amusing to see the villagers wearing the traditional clothes even away from the main resort – it’s like their way of life already. We found a house filled to the rafters with religious and native artifacts and sculptures. At first we thought it was a museum, however it turned out to be one of the residential houses of the owner (oops). (Hey, it was open with two boisterous parrots to welcome us and we knocked many times naman. Lucky they didn’t have a guard dog!).
Around 5pm, we finally checked- in to our room then went back to the show hall for dinner, which had been converted to an immense dining hall. It was another sumptuous buffet while being serenaded by the resort’s rondalla musicians. After dinner, we opted to use the resort’s pool since Charlie wasn’t in the mood for videoke, and it was too late to go paddling on the lake in the bamboo raft.
A mere two hour drive from Manila, Villa Escudero is a unique experience of Philippine country life. It offers a glimpse into the Philippines’ rich cultural heritage, and visitors are treated to a unique blend of the country’s cuisine, customs, dresses and cultural dances set in a serene pastoral atmosphere. This place may not be the usual adventure packed getaway but it was worth visiting for a laid-back and unique countryside experience.
Recharged after a relaxing day at Villa Escudero, the next day we rose early for my next adventure – trekking Taal Volcano!
How to get to Villa Escudero
Take the South superhighway and exit at 50A (Lucena, Legaspi, Batangas exit). Turn left at the Sto. Tomas junction. Head straight, by-passing the town of Alaminos and San Pablo City proper. Slow down upon seeing Quezon arch and turn left immediately after. From the main road, you will pass a long and narrow dirt road that abounds with acres of coconut trees leading to the resort itself.
Attractions, Amenities and Activities
Philippine Experience Show
Rural Village Tour
Sports and Recreation Facilities
Our Package: Overnight Stay that includes three meals
Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort
San Pablo City, PhilippinesManila Office
1059 Estrada Street, Malate 1004 Metro ManilaTelephone Nos.
(632) 523-2944E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Provincial Mailing Address
P.O. Box 4 San Pablo City 400, Philippines
See rates and accommodation on its official website.