A long overdue trip brought us to a vast property straddling San Pablo, Laguna and Tiaong, Quezon known as Villa Escudero. I have been there some 30 years ago and though I did not expect it to be as I knew it, I was totally awed by the experience.
The morning buffet was, as expected, deliciously filling. My brother- in-law and my nephew both looked forward to lunch at the waterfalls, where diners wade through cold ankle-deep flowing water to get the food and the picnic tables.
The cultural presentation was fascinating—not surprisingly, because no less than the late National Artist for Dance Ramon Obusan choreographed the dances. The performers are homegrown talents. We were told that they did double-duty as they are also regular employees who manned the front desk, did repair and maintenance work as well as ensure the guests’ satisfaction.
A mid-afternoon merienda of pancit canton with loads of vegetables, prawns and pieces of pork matched with crispy, fried chicken tails and halo-halo—comfort food for me—brought me back to my childhood.
The brief tour around the entire property made me want to celebrate a milestone there so it becomes part of my life. But the highlight of the day was a chat with no less than Don Ado, whose simple but very elegant taste was evident in the layout and décor of the reception areas and his fierce nationalism in the trivia he shared as well as the contents of the family museum.
They had begun cleaning the images and the carriages that will be used during the Holy Week procession. Noteworthy was the Santo Entierro, the image of Christ interred composed of over four thousand pieces, which Don Ado himself said was the “star” of the procession.
At first, I felt no attachment at all to that place, except for the Executive Chef, Cocoy Ventura, whom I met around two years ago but has become family to me. He was our guide and source of information on Villa Escudero. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is one place tourists—local and foreign—can experience authentic Filipino life— the elegance and opulence of the wealthy and the malasakit and pakiki-isa (literally, care and self-identification) characteristic of Filipino relationships.
Indeed, it is not what I visited thirty years ago, but what I found was more than just a resort, it is a repository of artifacts, flora and fauna, as well as the Filipino way of life, both of the wealthy and those who work for them. My political science background has been prompting me to say “feudal relationship” but if I must, I would have to say that it holds little of the text book definition we are all familiar with.
Villa Escudero is slice of Filipino life, sentiments, values and sense of community. In many ways, it is prime example Filipino hospitality.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.