Monday, September 3, 2007
Villa Escudero: A Piece of Filipino Heaven
I can honestly say that Villa Escudero is one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited. Situated in the stately coconut groves of the province of Laguna in southern Luzon, Villa Escudero is a resort that not only revives the body and spirit, but also preserves and prospers the richness of Filipino culture.
The Escudero family developed their extensive estate as a refuge for tourists and Balikbayans (i.e., Filipinos returning to visit their homeland) alike. The grounds are meticulously landscaped to feature the lush, exotic plantlife of the Philippine countryside. Uniformed landscape artists and gardeners are out early every morning maintaining the gardens around the guest cottages, chapel, and conference center. The architecture features the exquisite work of Filipino craftsmen, utilizing native materials, such as bamboo, ebony and nara, and various grass weaving techniques to decorate interior walls and ceilings.
Room amenities in our cottage included full bath, a loft sleeping area, and a lovely front porch, close to the swimming pool. No airconditioning, but ample screened windows and fans kept tropical breezes moving into and out of our room. No TV, which allowed us to fully engage the beauty all around us.
A long driveway through a thick coconut grove brings guests to the Escudero hacienda. Hospitality staff, donning bright native garb uniforms, are there to greet guests with cups of native fruit juices. After checking in, a passenger tram, pulled by a water buffalo, brings guests from the front desk area to their cottages. A guitarist and singer sit in the back of each flower-bedecked tram to serendate guests with Filipino folk songs. A museum, curated by the Escudero family, features an extensive and eclectic collection of objects on Philippine history and culture. Each Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, a special dance and music show is presented. The performance, in travelogue form, traces the rich history of the Philippines through various dances and songs. The show is mounted in the beautiful open-air dining room, adjacent to the river which is fed by a volcanic spring. The large volcano Mount Banahaw presides over the scenic river landscape.
Needless to say, our two days and one night were a feast for the senses. Our stay included not only the show and overnight accommodations, but also a delicious supper of roast fish, pork, and native vegetables, and traditional Filipino breakfast, all wonderfully prepared and presented.
I left Villa Escudero (reluctlantly), feeling revived, inspired, and proud of my Filipino heritage I am only now coming to learn and appreciate.
Thanks for reading all of this. Just a few more days with my good relatives, then I move to the Ateneo de Manila to start my Jesuit tertianship program. More on that in future posts!