RRB in the Philippines | Villa Escudero


villa escudero, philippines, familyThe second full day of our trip to the Philippines, my family took us to Villa Escudero, formerly a private estate founded in the late 19th century  as a sugarcane and coconut plantation and later converted into a public resort. It’s about a two- to three-hour drive from Manila, depending on traffic.philippines, villa escudero, volcano, carabao cartVilla Escudero has a ton of activities that are perfect for a day trip. There are also riverside cottages for overnight stays. Our visit started with tour of the plantation museum, filled with the vast collections of the Escudero family, ranging from preserved butterflies to stuffed animals (animals as in game, not toys), silver, clothing and lots of other things. (Photos were not allowed inside the museum.)villa escudero, philippines, familyWe then embarked on a short carabao (Philippine water buffalo) cart tour of the estate. It was quite hot so the ride was a welcome respite from walking in the heat. The tour took us to what was, for me, the highlight of our visit to Villa Escudero: lunch by the waterfall. (Are you surprised it is food-related?)villa escudero, philippines, family, waterfall lunch, kamayanThere is a freshwater stream that flows from the nearby mountains to a manmade waterfall that powers the estate. Visitors remove their shoes before stepping into the shallow stream at the base of the waterfall, where lunch is served. Eating with your feet in the water is a great way to stay cool.villa escudero, philippines, family, waterfall lunch, kamayanLunch is served kamayan style, meaning you eat with your hands (there were also chopsticks provided which I used some of the time). For a place where a couple hundred people were eating with their hands, bare feet in the water, it was surprisingly clean. There were sinks with fresh water and soap to wash your hands, and no trash or food being littered into the water or on the ground.villa escudero, philippines, family, waterfall lunch, kamayanThere was quite a spread: white rice, pancit (Philippine noodle dish), grilled fish, kaldereta (Philippine beef stew), grilled pork, lumpia (Philippine spring rolls), soup and an assortment of fresh vegetables and condiments.villa escudero, philippines, family, waterfall lunch, kamayanLumpia. Nom nom.After eating, we took some photos at the base of the waterfall, then it was time to dry off for the Philippine cultural show. The estate staff — everyone from the receptionists to landscaping crew to lunchtime servers — participate in a luau-like cultural show demonstrating different period costumes, music and dance throughout Philippine history.villa escudero, philippines, family, philippine cultural showIt was neat to see how different countries and cultures have influenced the Philippines, from indigenous tribes to Spanish colonization to Islam. I also enjoyed seeing how multitalented the estate staff are. Many of the workers are from families who were granted titles to land by the original estate owners. They have continued to live and work on the estate for more than a century.villa escudero, philippines, family, kayaking, bamboo kayakAfter the cultural show (and some halo-halo dessert), we took a bamboo kayak for a spin on the river, one of the many other activities offered at Villa Escudero. The bamboo kayaks are definitely harder to navigate than a regular kayak so we didn’t journey very far.villa escudero, philippines, family, kayaking, bamboo kayakI also felt like a large part of our kayak was submerged in water (perhaps owing to one too many halo-halos on this trip). We didn’t sink!Kail and I really enjoyed Villa Escudero. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of Manila, and we appreciated the chance to just be outdoors in green space and near water (something we do not get to enjoy in Kabul). It’s an easy day trip from the capital (although we were not the ones driving and navigating traffic — grateful to my Tito Alex for doing so!).Do you like kayaking?See more photos from Villa Escudero.

Published by La Vie Overseas

I'm Natasha -- writer, runner and wife to a Foreign Service Officer with USAID. Current location: Frankfurt, Germany.

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