How time flies indeed. And to use another cliché, it seems only yesterday that I agreed into being a girlfriend and look now, we are already into our fourth year of togetherness. And what else should this type of feat deserve better than a day out of town, away from work, away from the everyday everybody that lulls our lives. So, off we went to Villa Escudero, thanks to Babe‘s suggestion. We made some last minute booking with the resort and come Friday, we were on our way to a new adventure.
Villa Escudero greeted us with welcome drinks in the form of gulaman in a plastic cup at the Reception Hall. Then we were carabao-carted off to the accommodations area. It was a cute ride because a couple of singers were there to serenade us with folk songs until we reached our stop. It was like having a live radio.
We availed the Gumamela room (P4970 per pax) because Moche wanted an air-conditioned unit. We were given Gumamela B and it’s composed of a veranda with a dining table, a bamboo hammock and a living room set. The veranda overlooks the river. The unit is air-conditioned with twin sharing beds, one extra bed with one pull out bed. The bathroom was okay with a slightly stained mirror but strong flush and hot water for shower.
The staff is very accommodating and friendly. The guy who showed us the room kept offering us to get the P100 fishing rod so we could fish in the river at night or during our bamboo rafting.
We headed off for lunch at the Labasin Waterfalls Restaurant where a truly unique dining experience awaited us. The dining tables and chairs are set on the river with the waterfalls providing a hypnotizing backdrop. It was a whole new experience, eating on the river itself, not by its banks, with your feet wet and cold the whole time (but not really caring at all since the food is just so great and the scenery is breathtaking).
After lunch, we headed to the Pavilion for the Philippine Experience Show. But before it started, I decided to try out the café’s Chocolate Macadamia Nut Ice-Blended Coffee (P120). I was really surprised that Villa Escudero has their own frap cup. It was so cool! And after we got over our excitement over the cup, we sampled our ice-blended coffee and it was so good! Later on in the afternoon, we found out that it was actually one of their bestsellers.
Then the cultural show started and we were really impressed with the showcase of the different Philippine traditional dances. We saw the famous ones like the Tinikling, the Maglalatik, Fandango and my favourite Singkil. But aside from those, we also saw some less popular ones like several courtship dances, a bird dance, a royal wedding dance, and a fishing type of dance. One thing I did recognize was the Jota Manileña: a Filipinized Spanish dance with castanets that we once did in high school! It was a real racket when we were the ones doing it back then. But onstage, the performers did a wonderful job! And this made perfect sense since according to Villa Escudero’s website, the dances were choreographed by the late National Artist for Dance Ramon Obusan of the cultural Center of the Philippines. Because of this, the dances were made more authentic than the more frequent ones we see today. Lastly, it is very important to note that the performers were none other than the resort’s staff!
After the show, we headed to the river to finally experience bamboo rafting! The rafts were narrow and just good enough for two people. It was another first for me and I enjoyed it tremendously.
Since the sun was still beating down on us while we were rafting, we soon ended our little activity and decided to go to the museum. It was a good thing that we finished earlier than planned because the museum closes at 5:00pm and we only had 30 minutes left for the tour. Before we were able to enter the museum, we had to deposit our camera in a locker as it was strictly no picture-taking inside. The key of the locker were given to us.
The AERA Memorial Museum boasts a great and multifarious collection. There were lots of Catholic-related statues and artwork. One that really made its mark is a “drawing” of the Virgin Mary, but upon closer look turns out to be the written New Testament from the Bible. Non-religious items include Spanish colonial era artifacts, old war weapons and the inaugural outfits of the Philippine presidents from Aguinaldo to Macapagal-Arroyo. It was really such a shame that we did not have more time to explore and to examine the items available in the museum. Anyway, the tour was great too because the tour guide had a very entertaining way of showing us the highlights.
Next came the time for us to practice our swimming skills. Moche and I agreed that we will dedicate some time to doing laps in the pool. And that we did. I think I was able to do 400m that evening and since I was really out of shape, my legs had been literally shaking by the time we left the pool. One peculiar thing I noticed about the pool was that the water felt “heavy”. It’s a bit difficult to keep myself afloat and when I tried to resurface from swimming “sisid”, I felt like I was seconds away from drowning. It took so long to reach the surface and my lungs were already screaming for air. It was a bit scary, but it was alright.
Halfway into our swim practice, one of the staff advised us that dinner was ready. And when we reached the Pavilion for our dinner, I was pleasantly surprised that it was only a quarter to seven when we were initially told that dinner is served from 7:00-9:00pm. The waiting staff was very nice and made sure we were comfortable and that we eat a lot! It was very lucky for us that we went on a Friday so it was less crowded.
After dinner was fishing time. We finally tried our luck with the very fragile-looking fishing rod that they sold us together with this camote-like ball for bait. Fishing was tough! And the fish at Villa Escudero were professionals! They nibbled at the bait, sometimes biting the hook, and swam away a little less hungry than before but completely far from being caught. About three times we were made to think that we already had a catch. But the clever fish would just let go of the hook and we were forced again to put bait. Our fishing became fish feeding! After a few hours I was already so sleepy (and a bit dejected from our failed fishing) from all the walking, rowing and swimming so it was lights out.
Morning meant breakfast. I swear, if I’d spend a week at that place I’d gain the pounds that I lost during my 21km run. The food selection was great. There were breakfast cereals, bread, rice and fish and meat dishes as well as fruits and a locally-made frozen yogurt. Their brewed coffee was delicious!
After breakfast we walked around a bit and discovered that there was a Jacuzzi by the pool! Too bad we were too busy free-styling so we were not able to take advantage of that. We went back to our room and Moche did some fishing. And he finally caught something!
After checking out, a kalesa was waiting to take us to the lobby of the resort. It was awesome since it was my first horse-drawn carriage ride!
Meanwhile, we were greeted by a horde of students at the Reception Hall. Seeing them all packed there made me feel really grateful that we went on a weekday. I was really relieved that we did not have to fight our way around the resort, the meals, the rafting and the pool during our stay.
Despite our utter lack of preparation for our fourth year anniversary celebration, I must say that our having chosen Villa Escudero was a real stroke of luck. We were able to enjoy ourselves tremendously, relax a bit and experience a lot of new things. Although the experience offered by Villa Escudero is on the provincial side, I would have to say that it was a better way of spending a special day. Kudos to everyone at Villa Escudero, for making our fourth anniversary a memorable one. ^___^Notes:
- To get to Villa Escudero from Alabang, take the Lucena/San Pablo bus at the Alabang Bus Terminal. P112 per person.
- Get off exactly at Villa Escudero. The resort is noted as exactly 1km from the main road. Tricycle fare is P50.
- Settle payment at the front desk. Credit card is accepted.