My first time in Villa Escudero was almost two decades ago, when I was turning 13. The second time was in 2014, when I turned 30.
Here’s where my father’s sister, the beautiful Tita Cora, married a gentleman from the Escobar family (I was maid of honor). Our stay seemed to have left quite an impression on me as it was one of the few times, if not the first time, that I stayed in a lovely accommodation surrounded by outdoor activities and countryside scenery. The experience must have taught me the many ways of having quiet fun.
I was leaving childhood back then and becoming an awkward teenager, with no body form to speak of or an ambition except to enter UPLB, the University of my dreams, because I learned in science books that many local scientists came from UPLB. Science has fascinated me since I could remember – Grade 2, to be precise.
Villa Escudero has seen better days. That was the 90s. Some of the facilities now give one a feel that those generations that have been there have moved on to other more popular forms of entertainment. When we went there one weekday, I sensed the place has been forgotten and only existed that day because I wanted to see it.
The hacienda has survived though – great news – and renovations were underway last September. When I saw the famous waterfalls buffet pictures in social media last year, I was pleased to know that a place from the past is just there waiting to be visited again.
My travel buddy booked us a Day Tour. We left Makati at about 7am and reached the end of San Pablo, Laguna and the beginning of Quezon at 9am (Villa Escudero is in both provinces). From the national highway, we passed by a kilometer of coconut trees. After parking the car, we checked in at the reception, where we were served cold gulaman. We took pictures, then had our carabao ride to the heart of the place. That carabao ride. It’s one of the best parts of visiting Villa Escudero. A woman and a guitar man serenade the guests with Filipino folk songs. Simply romantic.
Villa Escudero is almost always thought of as the place for Filipino buffet beside an artificial waterfalls, but one can also fish in an enchanted looking river, swim in the pool, bird watch, drink beer.
In the buffet area, guests have to remove shoes and slippers because the tables are set in the middle of flowing water. Food consists of soup in coconut shell bowls, meat and vegetable viands, and dessert.
We started lunch with a few people around, but left the place teeming with foreign tourists (mostly Koreans), families, barkada, and balikbayan, but not all tables were occupied.
After lunch, we took the steep steps back to the riverside where we borrowed a bamboo raft (no fee, but the vests were so smelly I removed them and tried not to drown). Mike only paid for the worms that the Kuyas dug. It was his first time to hook such poor, squiggly baits. We spent probably two hours paddling around and resting once in a while or napping even for a minute because the trees and water seem to be protected by the goddess of serenity.
After the museum tour, buffet, and fishing, we still had a lot of time so we walked around while I pointed to Mike nostalgic places such as the rooms where we stayed, the reception hall, the swimming pool where I was banned because I wasn’t wearing a proper swimming attire, which I didn’t have because I didn’t have any confidence to wear one.
Nobody was swimming except two women and their girls, and I thought of stripping down to my bikinis just to take vengeance for the injustice of being kicked out of the pool 17 years ago, but thought: what’s the point. So I just slept by the pool until sundown.
[box] Day Tour Packages
Mondays to Thursday
Adults : P1,250 Half rate : P625 (Children below 4 feet)
Fridays to Sundays & Holidays Adults : P1,400 Half rate : P700 (Children below 4 feet)
Welcome drink, carabao cart rides, use of out door recreational facilities and lunch at the waterfalls. By special arrangements with the AERA Memorial Foundation, the museum is open to resort guess. Cultural Show at 2:00 – 3:15pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays.
(from Villa Escudero’s website)