Villa Escudero: A ₱1,400 Deal
Whenever I have balikbayan friends and relatives visiting the Philippines, I always hear at least one person say, “I want to visit Villa Escudero!” The funny thing is, I had never visited this famous resort in Laguna until last month (April 2015). I had always thought that since it’s a tourist spot that’s so easy to visit, I could put it off until a more convenient time.
High time I went with my Australian friends Aprille and Max a few weeks ago. Villa Escudero often filled up my Facebook newsfeed under “places to visit,” “unbelievable waterfalls to see,” and other clickbait travel stories.
It’s best to arrive at around 10 a.m. After paying for your ₱1,400 day trip entrance fee (this DOES NOT include an overnight stay), keep your ticket stubs and sip your welcome drinks. The typical route is as follows:
1. Hop on the carabao ride.
2. One-hour visit to the Memorial Museum
3. Village tour
4. Waterfall restaurant for lunch
5. Cultural show at 2 p.m.
6. Bamboo rafting
7. Other recreational activities, like swimming at the pool or bird watching
If, like me, you prepped your mind to see a jaw-dropping gift from Mother Nature, then prepare for the hard truth. Villa Escudero’s waterfall is man-made. It was structured to blend with the plantation river, with the lunch area strategically placed next to the falls to allow visitors to enjoy eating while spring water flows under their feet.
I wouldn’t call it a disappointment, especially since the owners never actually gave false advertising about the waterfall. I find it ludicrous how many tourists unleashed their wrath at Trip Advisor for this. Relax, people. For the ₱1,400 all-in entrance fee, did you really expect to have an orgasmic Niagara Falls experience?
A few tips: Wear shorts because your legs will be submerged in water throughout lunch. Pack extra clothes and apply sunscreen because you will get tempted to just flop and bathe under the falls. Walk carefully to avoid slipping on the algae that naturally forms on the cement. Don’t be startled when you feel something slithering by your feet. They’re just fish.
Eat as much lunch as you want at the waterfall restaurant, but don’t expect a five-star luxury meal. Instead, open your mind to a typical Filipino salu-salo (get together or party) where you can eat rice and ulam (entrées) with your hands on a banana leaf plate. Bagoong (fermented shrimp paste), sliced green mangoes, sinigang (hot soup), inihaw na tilapia (smoked fish), and many other Filipino dishes are served on the native-style buffet table. For an extra fee, order fresh buko (coconut).
Ask your friends to take pictures of you having lunch with the cascading waters as your backdrop and a flowing stream of spring water under your feet. Man-made or otherwise, this experience is one for the books.
The Filipino experience
For tourists and foreigners, the 2 p.m. cultural show makes a great introduction to the Filipino culture. The dancers and musicians show off the country’s culture, customs, and brief colonial history with a series of performances narrated in English. The show covers the basics from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and it reminded me of the history lessons I learned back in grade school.
The cultural show happens only every Fridays to Sundays and on holidays, so if you’re taking tourists to see this show, make sure you book accordingly.
When you leave the show and walk around Villa Escudero, you’ll notice a lot of statues that depict Filipinos in traditional costumes reenacting Filipino customs such as pangliligaw or courtship. I had fun explaining to Aprille and Max what the statues represented. My grade 1 teachers would be proud!
Raft and explore
I skipped bird watching and swimming at the pool, but made sure I didn’t miss paddling down Lake Labasin on a bamboo raft. My friends had to leave early, so I stayed behind to walk around the resort and admire the Escudero clan’s collection of historical artifacts, including a rundown plane and World War tank.
But wait, there’s more!
If you’re still hopping like an Energizer Bunny by late afternoon, there’s a slew of sports activities you can do, like fishing, table tennis, hiking, and biking. Yes, they’re all still part of the ₱1,400 (about US $32) package.
Villa Escudero is located at Villa Escudero, Km 91, Tiaong, Quezon
Telephone numbers: +63 (02) 523-0392, +63 (02) 521-0830, +63 (02) 532-2944, +63 917-583-7727, +63 919-993-4744, and +63 923-741-0605
Date of visit: April 16, 2015