This 800-hectare (2,000 acres) working coconut plantation and hacienda-turned resort is actually located in Laguna and Quezon provinces where its area partly situated in one provincial city and two municipalities in two provinces of San Pablo City in Laguna province and the municipalities of Tiaong and Dolores of the Quezon province. In fact, the entrance to the resort is located just a few feet from the Laguna and Quezon boundary arch.
It is quite a different experience to visit this destination as it really showcases the rich colonial culture of the Philippines which you will find inside its museum, during the cultural show and the resort itself is a living testimony of Philippine culture and history in a beautiful rural setting. Taking pictures inside the museum is strictly prohibited.
As a background, Villa Escudero Plantations was founded in 1872 by Don Plácido Escudero and his wife Doña Claudia Marasigan. Originally a sugar cane plantation, the crop was converted to coconut by their son, Don Arsenio Escudero in the early 1900s. A pioneering agriculture industrialist, he built the country’s first working hydroelectric plant - Labasin Dam - to supply his desiccated coconut factory and the Escudero Plantation house, which he and his wife Doña Rosario Adap built in 1929.
It was only in 1981 that this plantation was opened to the public as it was turned into a resort offering village tours, museum tour, food and accommodations. It gradually earned a worldwide reputation of giving its guests the experience of how Philippine culture is depicted and visibly presents the very rich history of the Philippines through its museum, cultural show and the word-of-mouth of the staff who work inside the resort.
A day tour costing P1,400 per head will give the guests the following activities to enjoy: (1) waterfalls restaurant serving buffet lunch as part of the package, (2) museum tour, (3) Philippine cultural show, (4) bamboo rafting, (5) rural village tour, (6) bird watching, and (7) sports & recreational activities which include swimming, fishing, biking and the like. Pre-nuptial and nature photography are both perfect when done at Villa Escudero.
Guests have the option to have an overnight tour which charges P2,200 with the provision of native cottages by the lake served with all meals from breakfast, lunch and dinner. Discounts are given for group tours both in day and overnight tour packages.
Guests will feel at home as aside from a gulaman welcome drink, the staff are very accommodating and they all treat the guests with genuine hospitality giving assistance from one activity to another.
Guests should keep their ticket as it is composed of stubs where each part is torn down for every activity and attraction he/she may opt to go and do. It is highly suggested that a museum tour will be done first. What will you really see in the museum? Well, it houses the private collections of the family from their local travels and around the world. It was started by Arsenio and Rosario Escudero and passed on to the living generations of the family. The assorted collections include, among others, religious artifacts, Chinese porcelain, antique furniture, ethnic clothing, relics from Second World War, clothes of Philippine presidents, butterfly collections, up to Jose Rizal's letters in his slumbook. In 1987, the extensive collection was moved and showcased in the church of the plantation. A trip of the museum is a must to Philippine history enthusiasts and is included with the admission.
I have visited a number of museums in the Philippines and I find the Villa Escudero museum to have an extensive collection which are all very enriching in terms of Philippine history.I was not really expecting much from its museum but it turned out to be extensively educational.
After the museum tour, one may opt to have village tour if you still have ample time. But thinking that the buffet lunch is served starting at 11:00 A.M., then guests may have the option to go down to the water falls to enjoy the buffet in Al Fresco Restaurant till 2:00 P.M. where the dining tables are situated below the spillway of the hydroelectric dam (or the cascading'Labasin waterfalls') while diners enjoy their lunch dipped in the flowing calf-deep water. The water falls is actually a dam coming from the narrow lake of Labasin where this dam can generate electricity to the whole plantation and resort. Buco fruit is not a part of the tour package but you can order them at the Al Fresco Restaurant for P40 per piece.
It would be advisable to do the bamboo rafting by pair. And if you want to have good shots while on board the bamboo raft, you may ask some of your companions to get the shots for you. You may wonder where is the water source of Labasin Lake. Well, it comes from Mount Banahaw.
Labasin Lake with a depth of 30 feet also offers a perfect twin-rider bamboo rafting with the provision of life vest or jacket for the safety of the guests who do not know how to swim. The guests can freely paddle even up to the farthest point of the lake where no casualty incident has been recorded yet in this recreational activity.
The lake also is the breeding place of fat tilapias where these are served also in the buffet lunch. Since these tilapia are countless in number, guests are given the opportunity to enjoy fishing while on board the bamboo rafts and whatever catch they may have are free of charge.
Ideally, bamboo rafting can be done after lunch though riders may bring with them some covering if it is hot to protect their skin from the scourging heat of the sun. However, those who stay for overnight may have more time for bamboo rafting even after breakfast or late in the afternoon.
Just close to the activity hall where a restaurant and stage for a cultural show is normally performed are swimming pools which vary from kiddie and two adult pools where one is equipped with a giant slide and a jacuzzi.
The kiddie pool is located in a very accessible place where kids can be watched while others are having a swim in two adjacent adult pools or guests are in queue in the pier for bamboo rafting.
The activity hall which was erected fronting the tranquil Labasin Lake is spacious enough to accommodate wedding receptions, conferences, seminars and workshops, team building activities and other social functions. This is the place where cultural shows are held every weekend. Guests can dine-in while watching the show but any food and drinks order is for the guests' account.
Guests will really be entertained with the live cultural presentation showcasing a variety of dance numbers which depicts the culture of the provinces and ethnic groups of the Philippines where the late Ramon Obusan, a national artist and closely identified icon of the Cultural Center of the Philippines has been its choreographer and artistic director.
Singkil is derived from a story in the Darangen, the Maranao interpretation of the ancient Indian epic, the Ramayana. The name of the dance itself means "to entangle the feet with disturbing objects such as vines or anything in your path". It is a popular dance performed during celebrations and other festive entertainment. Originally only women, particularly royalty, danced the Singkíl, which serves as either a conscious or unconscious advertisement to potential suitors. (Wikipedia)
This ensemble is consist of the resort employees who work either in the kitchen, dining operation, garden and landscaping maintenance and in some other department and they were trained to render the guests with authentic Filipino music by the late national artist Ramon Obusan.
From 17th century France, this Rigodon dance caught on and moved to Spain. It was then exported to the Philippines in the 19th century, but over the years it has developed in its own way and the Caviteňos present it in their Rigodon Real way.
La Jota Cagayana was performed by the Filipino Chinese in the Philippines show the fashion styles which was influenced by the European at the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 in Cagayan Valley province. The tempo of the jota makes it similar to the waltz. It comes from the 16th century courtship dance, Canaries, which is said to be the "parent of the Jota." As one of the adapted Philippine folk dance, the Jota was brought by the Spaniards from Southern Spain found its way into many places in the Philippines. One such jota is named after the valley it adapted. Though Filipinized in many ways that one, Jota Cagayana still displays the fire and fury of its European origin. (www.likha.org)
The Jota Cavitena is among the popular versions of the Spanish jota. This jota came from the Spanish-speaking town in Cavite named Ternate. The dance is characterized by brisk and snobbish posture of the male dancers and the flowing elegance of lady dancers. Spanish footworks called zapateado are used as well as pairs of elongated buho castanets for each hand. The staccato rhythm provided by the castanets is sweeping. The music that accompanies this "baile y canto criollo tradicional" is a funny Chabacano Ermitense song entitled Chiqui,Chiqui. It is a mix of fast and raucous part accentuated by the clicking of the castanets and a slow, melancholic music played as a romantic interlude. (WikiPilipinas)
Pandanggo is a Philippine folk dance which has become popular in the rural areas of the Philippines. The dance evolved from Fandango, a Spanish folk dance, which arrived in the Philippines during the Hispanic period. This dance, together with the Jota, became popular among the illustrados or the upper class and later adapted among the local communities. In the early 18th century, any dance that is considered jovial and lively was called Pandanggo. There are many versions of this dance and each locality has its own version. Local dancers have many ways of doing the Pandanggo, but there is one thing in common between different versions: they have gay and sprightly figures. It may be danced at any social gathering and is usually accompanied by clapping. In some places, the musicians do not stop playing until four to five couples have danced, one after the other. When one couple tires, another takes its place until there are no more who want to dance. The musicians play faster and faster after each repetition until the dancers are exhausted.(Wikipedia)
During the Spanish regime, the present barrios of Loma and Zapote of Biñan, Laguna, were separated. With coconut shells as implements the people of these two barrios danced the Maglalatik, or Magbabao, a war dance depicting a fight between the Moros and the Christians over the latik (residue left after the coconut milk has been boiled). The first two parts of the dance, the Palipasan and the Baligtaran show the heated encounter between the two groups. The last two parts, the Paseo and the Sayaw Escaramusa show the reconciliation between the two groups. According to the legend the Moros came out victorious, thus getting the coveted latik. The Christians, not contented with the result of the war, sent an envoy to the Moros to offer peace and to baptize them. The best Maglalatik dancers are found in Zapote. In the daytime during the town fiesta of Biñan, the Maglalatik dancers go from house to house performing this dance for money or a gift. In the evening they dance Maglalatik in the religious procession as it moves along the streets. They perform the dance as an offering to the patron saint of the farmers, San Isidro de Labrador. (www.likha.org)
Sayaw ed Tapew na Bangko (dance on top of a bench), is a dance which originates from Pangasinan and researched by Jovita Sison. It is performed by a couple on a narrow bench, inching and hopping from one end to another. Dancer show skill in staying up the bench as they exchange places by moving their way around or the girl thrown in the air while boy moves to the other end. They do not compete but rather complement each other so that no one falls. It is usually performed during town fiestas.(www.likha.org)
This is a famous Visayan Dance where it depicts the scene of cockfighting. Sabong or cockfighting was first mentioned in Pigafetta’s First Voyage Around the World. Dating back to pre-Spanish times, sabong is played out in public squares on Sundays immediately after church. Heavy bets are made and are paid to the owners of the winning birds. When the public has already placed its bets, the duel is about to begin. Held by the handlers, the gamecocks are brought together head to head and are allowed to peck and infuriate each other. Then they are placed on the ground at a certain distance from each other and left alone. Both birds now enraged from the previous pecking, their hackles rising, go at it with abandon, flying up and down, delivering multiple blows with their slashers against each other. The match ends when one rooster is either killed or turns tail. The winning gamecock, however, must peck the slain opponent twice to declare the victory official. Should the winner, however, run from the slain foe, the match is called a draw. (This was taken from the blog of Filipino Deltiologist).
In what the blogger saw, what was depicted was not really a dance showdown but rather, there were two characters of the dance, a couple maybe, whose wife was hesitant to give a bet for the cockfight but the husband was so insistent that finally she gave in. However, the sad thing is, they lost on their bet and so the wife was mad at her husband. So, as the dance continues, the husband continued to persuade his wife to be reconciled with him. Finally, the wife gave in, and the dance ended that way.
The tinikling dance is one of the most popular and well-known of traditional Philippine dances. The tinikling is a pre-Spanish dance from the Philippines that involves two people beating, tapping, and sliding bamboo poles on the ground and against each other in coordination with one or more dancers who step over and in between the poles in a dance. The name is a reference to birds locally known as tikling, which can be any of a number of rail species; the term tinikling literally means "tikling-like." The dance originated in Leyte among the Visayan islands in the central Philippines as an imitation of the tikling bird dodging bamboo traps set by rice farmers. The dance imitates the movement of the tikling birds as they walk between grass stems, run over tree branches, or dodge bamboo traps set by rice farmers. Dancers imitate the tikling bird's legendary grace and speed by skillfully maneuvering between large bamboo poles. (Wikipedia)
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