Saturday, January 17, 2015

Philippines Day 7: Villa Escudero

Day 7: December 28, 2014 - Villa Escudero
One of our tourist excusions of the trip was to travel the 2+ hours (each way) to Villa Escudero south of San Pablo in the province of Laguna. Villa Escudero is a working coconut plantation but it's also a tourist spot, complete with a museum of artifacts collected by the Escudero family, beautiful grounds, waterfalls and a lake.
The views were beautiful and we lucked out on a gorgeous day, not too hot or too humid with brilliant blue skies. When we arrived, we checked in at the reception lounge, paid the entrance fee and began the day tour with the AERA Memorial Museum. Posted signs asked guests to refrain from taking pictures inside the museum so I have nothing to show but it was packed with a myriad of religious statues, clay and stone pots, vintage clothing, international currency throughout the decades, and even a shrunken head picked up by the family at some point in their travels. It's the first time I've been in a place that encapsulated a lot of Philippine history although it encompassed more cultures than that and it was interesting to experience.

After the self-guided, self-paced museum tour, we went on a carabao ride to the waterfalls where lunch was served. I have to say, carabaos are tremendously strong "workhorses". A number of us tourists (at least a dozen) boarded a wheeled trolley car, accompanied by the driver, a guitar player and a singer who serenaded us during the brief ride and the carabao pulled us all. I felt sorry for him but he didn't seem unduly burdened and wasn't even that slow for his size.

Fortunately it was a short ride along the path from the museum and reception area to the Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant was located. Lunch was a buffet and literally at the falls. The picnic tables were set in the water so guests removed their shoes and walked barefoot or with tsinelas to seat themselves. You do have to navigate carefully and watch your step but there were only a few slippery spots. And you couldn't beat the view or the ambiance.

Let me tell you the food was pretty good too. For people who enjoy eating outdoors with a beautiful view, this was a great place for lunch. It'll go down in my memory as the place that also served the best potatoes I've ever had. That honor had previously belonged to China for the best caramelized sweet potatoes I've ever had but Villa Escudero just broke that 16-year record. I don't know how they made it but it was covered in a crunchy brown sugar coating, almost like a sweet, crunchy breading but it wasn't a breading but more like a crunchy sweet glaze. It's hard to describe but it was freakin' delicious.
Best Potato Ever
So good I had to take another picture of it

After lunch, we had some time to kill before the show of native dances so we walked around a bit. My niece had fun clowning around with some of the decorative statues sprinkled through the grounds, depicting typical courtship poses in courting young couples back in the day. Ha, there's that Filipino humor again.

There was also a lake where guests/tourists can go paddle boating in old-school style with bamboo rafts.  One of my nieces used to be on the dragon boat team for UCLA so she dragged her twin onto the lake, promising she would "do all the work". Yep, her twin fell for it. But they still had a good time.

All in all, a fun excursion and it was really nice to experience such a beautiful resort in the Philippines. We don't usually venture too far out from our hometown so this made for a nice change and it was great to see another side of the Philippines.

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