Nengkoy wished that her 75th birthday be held and celebrated in the vast coconut plantation estate that was converted into a tourist destination located south of Metro Manila. True enough, her wish was made into a reality when Nengkoy, twenty seven crazy members of my family and I trooped to Villa Escudero Plantation & Resort on her birthday.
Every member of my family was treated with a 2-day glimpse of a typical life of rural Philippines. Upon arrival we were served with refreshing “gulaman” as a welcome drink. After which, the whole pack were led to the magnificent museum that houses the marvelous antique and unique collections of the Escuderos. There were all forms of Catholic statues and statuettes. We saw an overwhelming array of Filipino costumes, jars, vases, indigenous forest hunting gears, stuffed Pinoy-once-endemic fauna and other eclectic treasures made, found and discovered in the Philippines. I was particularly was astonished by the collection of authentic handwritten letters of Philippines’ National Hero Dr. Jose Rizal displayed in that marvelous museum.
After feasting our eyes to the overwhelming collections found in the museum, we were then taken for a ride on a carabao-drawn cart for a tour around the vast resort. Seated at the end of the cart were two resort staffs in traditional Filipino clothes. One played the guitar while the other sang traditional Filipino songs while the cart was being drawn to lead us to checked-in at our respective nipa-like villas built right at the edge of a serene lake. The villas were reminiscent of a traditional Filipino house called “Bahay Kubo”.
We then immediately proceeded to one of the highlights of our stay. The scrumptious buffet lunch served and eaten al fresco style few meters away from the base of a waterfall. Still typical of a Filipino dining set-up, we ate on native bamboo-craft-woven plates with banana leaf as its lining and our soup bowls were coconut shells! Breakable chinaware was non-existent! Flowing water on the ground touching and lashing our feet add up to the delicious dining experience.
An hour after lunch, we then headed to one of the resort’s pavilions where a Filipino cultural dance display is being held. The show featured various ethnic and colonially influenced Filipino dances performed by the employees of the resort. The costumes, the music, the colors, the graceful dance moves were all but a rewarding add-on during our stay in Villa Escudero.
After the show, we proceeded to our assigned villa for a short afternoon rest. The villa is not equipped with TV, sound system and not even an internet. All you got is the refreshingly beautiful scenery of what the old Philippines were plus the melodious sound of birds lurking around the area.
Later in the afternoon, majority of us lined up to get our respective paddles plus a life vest for we did a little of rowing at the pristine lake using an old-fashioned kayak in the form of a bamboo raft. While we do the rowing, other members of the family were busy trying to catch live fish from the lake or just busy lazing around. In the same afternoon, a number of employees of the resort serenaded Nengkoy at the villa singing a couple of Kundiman songs plus of course the classic birthday song in Tagalog version.
Dinner buffet was served inside an elegant pavilion. This is the moment when Nengkoy was greeted by the singers performing during dinner time and was surprised when a birthday cake was brought to her table for her to make a wish and blow the candle. After which, the rest of the night was spent bonding and chitchatting before everybody hit the sack with smiles on our faces.
Our stay and adventure in Villa Escudero to celebrate Nengkoy’s 75th birthday is no doubt one of my family’s memorable experiences! I actually don’t know how to end this writing. But one thing is for sure Villa Escudero is one authentic representation of Filipino pride, culture and extravaganza.
It made me want to dance the Tinikling as sang by the 50’s circa Pinay diva, Sylvia La Torre…
Nais kong umindak sa saya…