I’ll tell you a 33-year old secret.
There’s a portal somewhere in Tiaong Quezon that can transport you the the bygone days where you can experience the best of rural countryside living during the Spanish era. From the vast coconut plantation, to the man-made lake, museum, carabao-driven carts with matching singing attendants, from the authentic Filipino feast beside the water slide and right on top of a flowing brook to the top-notch cultural presentations, nothing more can make you feel like a real hacienderos and hacienderas than this place, a place tucked between Laguna and Quezon where you can experience hacienda living at its best (even for just a day or two)
Villa Escudero was founded in 1872 by the couple Don Placido Escudero and his wife Doña Claudia Marasigan of Tayabas Quezon. The estate was originally built as a sugarcane plantation, but in the early 1900s, it was eventually converted into a coconut plantation by their son Don Arsenio Escudero. A pioneer agro-industrialist, who had built the first hydroelectric plant in the country to supply his dessicated coconut factory and hacienda, where he and his wife Doña Rosario Adap had built in 1929
Eventually, their children decided to open the estate to the public in 1981. From its humble beginnings, the resort has become a prime tourist destination in the area for locals, Filipino OFWs, balikbayans and a wide array of foreigners who visits the country. The place had gained a worldwide reputation as an exemplary showcase of Philippines’ rich cultural heritage, offering a beguiling glimpse of its history, arts, cuisine, dress, customs and natural beauty just a mere two hours away from the metropolis. This 800-hectare plantation resort encompasses three municipalities in two provinces: San Pablo City in Laguna and the towns of Tiaong, and Dolores in Quezon province.
Growing up in Laguna I would always hear curious things about the place so I have it in my bucket list for as long as I can remember. So one Thursday morning as summer was about to end, me and my travel buddies decided to hit the road to check the place and do a day trip. For commuters you will not find it difficult to reach the place since Villa Escudero is just right beside the national road going to Quezon province, but do not confuse Villa Escudero from “Hacienda Escudero” – a residential farm estate that is beside the resort. The entrance to the resort is the one closest to the stone arch between the boundary of Laguna and Quezon.
We arrived early as everything and everyone had just stirred up about to begin their day. Sago’t gulaman as welcome refreshments greeted us at the reception hall that also houses the souvenir shop of the resort. Here were pay for day trip tour (As of October 2014, day trip fee is 1,250.00php on weekdays and 1,400.00php on weekends and holidays) That is inclusive of a buffet lunch, museum entrance, complete use of amenities within the resort and the admission to the cultural show (in case you go there on a weekend)
Lunch is being served 11 o’clock – that gives us plenty of time to roam around the plantation. There’s a lawn where life-size models of airplanes are parked, you will notice that the structures within the resort premises follows a very distinct color scheme- white and carnation pink. From the iron railings to the church like museum and the summer residence of the owner to the carabao driven carts – everything is painted white and pink. The garden is well-kept. You could imagine this is how the way it was since the place was built in the 1900s until now.
Lunch is definitely one of the highlight of the trip. The treat starts when we rode the carabao driven cart with matching singers serenading us on our way to the man-made Labasin Lake where lunch is being served. Imagine a curtain of gushing water as your backdrop while it flows right through your feet that runs along the entire venue of the buffet area. The food is actually not bad (watch out for those yummy caramelized bananas for dessert – to die for!)
Eating with your bare hands is encouraged. There’s something really nice about the experience having lunch al fresco right beside Lake Labasin. It may be the food, the ambience, the singing cooks and waiters serenading you while you’re having your sumptuous meal, or the birdwatching as the colorful kingfishers catching their meal for the day or the free-flowing water at your feet. If you haven’t had lunch here at one point, you are actually missing out something.
Right after lunch, you can head to the main function hall just beside the hydroelectric power plant where cultural presentation are held every Fridays, Saturdays and Holidays. Unfortunately we went there on a Wednesday. Philippine Experience Show is where the country’s rich culture comes to life, from its ethnic diversity to its colonial legacy. The dances and other presentations were painstakingly choreographed and recreated by the late National Artist for Dance Ramon Obusan of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Mr. Obusan’s insistence on authenticity sets this show, performed by resort employees and accompanied by the resort’s own musicians and rondalla ensemble apart from the usual cultural presentations.
Right after the cultural presentation and you’re still itching to go out and explore the area, try paddling those long bamboo rafts and check the other side of Lake Labasin. Paddle to your heart’s content on the lake. You can also try fishing for tilapia if you like.
Right after lunch everyone is in siesta mode, I decided to walk around and check other places within the villa.
You can also rent one of those cabanas in front of the lake for an overnight stay or two. The place is also perfect for corporate events, seminars and team building activities. For its day tour rate and its close proximity to Manila, this is a must place for a quick retreat to experience the rural countryside living.
Getting there and Away
Head down south and go right at the very end of South Luzon Expressway (SLEX). Take the very last exit toll – Exit 50 (Calamba Exit) then take another tollway – Star Tollway the goes to Sto.Tomas Batangas. Drive past the towns of Alaminos and San Pablo until you reach the boundary of Laguna and Quezon, demarcated by the “Quezon Arch”. Right after passing the arch, you will find the entrance to Villa Escudero immediately to your left with the sign “Villa Escudero 1km” follow the road until you reach the parking lot.
JAC Liner bus have daily trips from Manila to Lucena, Quezon. Travel time is 2 1/2 hours. You can take the bus going south in this two locations:
LRT – BUENDIA STATION
2052 Donada Street corner
Buendia Street, Pasay City
Metro Manila, Philippines
Tel. No: +63 2 404 2073
Trip Schedule: 1st trip is 5am, last trip is at 10pm, every 30 minutes.
2 Mapagmahal Street
Baranggay Pinyahan, Kamias
Quezon City, Philippines
Tel. No.: +63 2 927 6139
Trip Schedule: 1st trip is 2am, last trip is at 9pm, every 20 minutes.
FARE: P178.00, air-conditioned bus from Kamias or Buendia to Lucena
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