We are proud to be Filipinos and we love showing our guests and friends around the city and, if possible, even in the provinces. I guess what more can we ask for when we have a country that, more than just the Pinoy personalities that has gone popular internationally, gives us a lot of reasons that definitely make us proud to be Filipinos. Our diverse and colourful culture of our country were molded from our rich history marked by strong influences from the Malays, Chinese, and Spanish. There are a lot of amazing Philippine destinations that are considered to be the best in the world.
If you are up for a quick daytrip to explore a destination where you get to see and feel the pride of being Filipino, Villa Escudero is definitely THE place to go. Tucked between the boundaries of Laguna and Quezon, Villa Escudero is an 800-hectare private plantation or "hacienda" in San Pablo City that was developed into a village resort where you get a glimpse of provincial life in the Philippines. The plantation was originally a sugarcane plantation founded by Don Placido and Dona Claudia Escudero in 1872. It was later on converted to produce coconut products by the couple's son, Arsenio, in the 1900s.
It was only in 1981 that the plantation was opened to the public to give its visitors a glimpse of plantation life by letting guests immerse into the simple life of the province. It is definitely a great place to go to experience Pinoy rural life. Walk with me as I show you around Villa Escudero and enjoy five moments that will make you proud to be Pinoy.
1. Re-live Philippine and World History
The hacienda was established at a time when the Philippine revolution was starting and is a mute witness to the beauty and harsh realities of the Philippine Revolution and World War 2. It served as a refuge for brave Filipino fighters during these times.
The lavish lifestyle of hacienderos can be seen as you enter Villa Escudero with its manicured lawns highlighted by the family’s “bahay-na-bato” and the church that are both painted in pink. Why pink? I am still trying to research on the owner’s penchant for the color pink.
The pink mansion is reminiscent of the Spanish Colonial house where two grand staircases lead up to “balkonahe” on the second floor. Intricate wood designs don the house. Guests are only allowed up to the balcony where guests are treated with an amazing view of the hacienda’s beautifully landscaped lawns.
On one side of the lawn is a small church that is a replica of the San Francisco Church, one of Intramuros churches destroyed during World War 2. The church/museum houses the eclectic collection of the family that covers part of Philippine history and their souvenirs from their trips overseas. These collections include religious ornaments, preserved animals, historical artifacts, a collection of clothes worn by former Presidents of the country, and personal stuff of the Escudero family. On display are the letters written by Jose Rizal to his sister and a picture of Jesus Christ artistically drawn by a Korean artist using the verses of New Testament. Taking pictures inside the museum is not allowed though.
Not far from the small church are the larger collections of World War 2 memorabilia on display along the lawn of Villa Escudero. On this side, one can enjoy taking pictures of these exhibits while you can touch and feel it. The flagpole bearing the Philippine Flag stands at the center of the area with the words of the Naional Anthem are written in three languages – Filipino, English, and Spanish.
Our rich history will definitely make you a Proud Pinoy!
2. Feel the Rural Vibe of the Philippines through Visuals and Music.
Villa Escudero showcases the provincial vibe of the Philippines. The serene atmosphere of the hacienda and the greens that surround guests make you experience the simple life of the province.
The experience starts aboard a carabao-drawn sled where guests are brought to the “dining area” of the resort from the museum area. Guests are serenaded with local songs as you enjoy a slow and laid back tour of the resort. You will enjoy the amazing views of the plantation. Statues depicting the simple Filipino life and the Filipino games that we all played during our younger years.
Interestingly, the plantation also gave birth the creation of a community from the families who have been faithfully serving the Escudero family. Kuya Tony took pride in showing us around their community. The Escudero family had rewarded their farmhands by giving them their own houses within the plantation that gave way to the birth of their community. Interestingly, the members of the community have a direct involvement to the daily operations of Villa Escudero.
Filipinos penchant love for life, gratitude, and music will definitely make you a Proud Pinoy!
Dining at Villa Escudero is probably the most talked about experience in the resort. Who wouldn’t be enthralled by the experience of having to enjoy a sumptuous lunch while your feet gets relaxed by the cold waters of Labasin Lake?
The dining area of the resorts sits at the base of the spillway of Labasin Dam – the very first working hydroelectric dam of the country. The Don Placido Escudero Dam had undergone a lot of reconstruction since the time of its first construction in 1872 but it was the son of Don Escudero, Arsenio, who rebuilt the dam in 1937. The reconstruction paved the way for the development of an improved irrigation system and a hydro-electric plant that supplies power to the cooperative and the resort.
The dam, which is also recognized by the National Historical Institute for its historical value, has naturally become an attraction as guests are treated to a Filipino buffet lunch at the base of its man-made falls during their visits. Buffets tables, dining tables, and chairs are set up to give guests a different dining experience. Imagine having to enjoy great Filipino dishes and fruits the Filipino way – magkamay or eating with your bare hands. All these while getting a relaxing cold foot soak.
I must say that the food selection was definitely one that represents Filipino cuisine and the fruits of the season for desserts are to die for. One wouldn’t mind throwing off their diets just to enjoy a great meal at the resort.
Our wide array of Filipino cuisine is an experience in itself and will always make you a Proud Pinoy!
4. Be enchanted with Villa Escudero’s natural beauty.
More than the manicured lawns and beautiful man-made structures of Villa Escudero, let us not forget that the resort/plantation sits on the beautiful countryside of Laguna where the vibrant Labasin River flows.
The serene atmosphere of Lake Labasin is a welcome comfort for city dwellers. The resort have managed to keep the balance between its man-made structures and Laguna’s natural beauty. Mount Banahaw is the water source of the river. It is best enjoyed aboard a bamboo raft where two people can paddle their way easily to enjoy the scene and the fresh air.
The river, with a depth of 30 feet, is also a good breeding ground for Tilapia. The resort actually serves these fresh Tilapia on its dining table during lunch. The resort allows guests to try their hand on fishing by the river for a minimal fee. Be reminded though that fishing is not for the impatient. Chances are you will go home empty handed or, with a little luck, catch a small fry. Nevertheless, Villa Escudero allows you to bring home your bamboo-made fishing rod to remind you of the experience.
The Philippines is blessed with nature’s bounty and Villa Escudero gives you a nice peek on our country’s beauty that will make you a Proud Pinoy!
5. Embrace Philippine’s Colorful Diversity.
The Philippines is a country with 7, 000 islands with a collection of diverse culture. The myriad of colors and creativity can be attributed to the various cultural influences that we got from the first residents of the archipelago to the foreign conquistadors who colonized the Philippines.
This rich diversity is mirrored by the cultural presentations by the staff of the resort choreographed by National Artist Ramon Obusan. The presentations are done in its main hall after lunch so make sure that you proceed straight to the hall after making yourself full. These Filipino dances are a reflection of our diversity as a nation. From the highlands of the Cordilleras to the colourful traditions of our Muslim brothers, every Filipino is well represented during the afternoon show. The whole experience is enhanced by the live “rondalla” music and other indigenous Pinoy musical instruments.
Our diversity and sheer talent will definitely make you a Proud Pinoy!
Post Travel Notes
Villa Escudero is a great destination if you are looking for a quick day escape and you are looking for that countryside vibe. It is an escape that will also make you feel that Filipino pride as it showcases the beauty of our country, culture, history, and its people. It will make you love and appreciate being Filipino. I highly recommend it for foreign tourists and “balikbayans” who are pressed for time but wants to feel that Filipino hospitality in an actual provincial setting.
Again, we are proud Pinoys and every Philippine destination uniquely mirrors the pride that we bring as a nation. Villa Escudero is no exception. It tries to give you a quick peek to what the Philippines is all about. In fact, you leave the place with a smile on your face and that your day was well-spent… the Filipino way.
Getting There: Going to Villa Escudero is easy. For those taking public transport, you can take a bus from Manila going Lucena. Ask the driver to drop you off at Villa Escudero as they are very familiar with the place. Tricycles are available at the waiting shed to bring you to the plantation resort’s receiving hall.
For those taking their private vehicles, you take the South Luzon Express Way from Manila, all the way to Santo Tomas exit. You then take the national road towards Lucena. Villa Escudero is just right after the Laguna-Quezon Boundary Arch.
You can check out the website of Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort for day and overnight rates and for reservations.
“Daddy, can we go faster.”
Asher quipped as we zoomed our way to the viewing deck of Maria Cristina Falls aboard a “habal-habal” – a motorcycle used as public transport in the provinces where three adults, and a little girl in our case, are made to fit on it. It is not the safest way to get around but definitely it is an exciting and faster mode of travel. We were able to cover our one day Iligan itinerary to only half a day.
The decision to just go to Iligan City from Cagayan de Oro was a spur of the moment decision after our initial plan was scrapped. Rather than getting stuck in the city for a day, I decided to just bring Asher and Weng to an afternoon of discovery in Iligan.
Welcome to Iligan City!
The City of Iligan is known as City of Majestic Waterfalls as it has a total of 24 waterfalls within the city. The thriving metropolis of Lanao del Norte form the other component of the Cagayan de Oro – Iligan economic development area for Northen Mindanao. The city’s economy thrives on industries that made Iligan its home and the tourist attractions of the city.
Having 24 waterfalls within its jurisdiction, our “habal-habal” driver confirmed that one can visit all 24 in 2 days. Some roads are rough but all waterfalls were accessible using a motorcycle. Our itinerary for the trip, due to time constraints, was limited to the three most visited falls in the city that forms its tourism triangle – Maria Cristina Falls, Mimbalut Falls, and Tinago Falls with a short visit to the Macapagal Ancestral House.
Maria Cristina Falls – Elegantly Majestic
Maria Cristina Falls is the poster image of Iligan City and, without a doubt, deserves the title. It prides itself with its twin falls because the flow of water is divided at the top by a huge rock. Water falls from a height of 320 meters and the force that it generates is harvested by the Agus VI Hydroelectric Plant and serves as an electric power source in the region.
Maria Cristina Falls looked elegant and majestic from the view deck. The sound of her mighty “roar” showed that she was definitely a force to be reckoned with. You can really feel the sheer force that she releases from the deck and by watching the strong flow of water heading downstream. You wouldn’t want to be in the middle of the water crashing down. Nevertheless, she was a real beauty to admire.
Since Maria Cristina Falls is under the jurisdiction of the hydroelectric plant, the firm has managed to develop its area to include a mini-zoo, viewing decks, and even a small shop to cater to its guests. Guests get to see these sites within the compound as part of its tour for a very minimal fee.
The Macapagal Ancestral Home - Two Presidents and A Home
Comfortably nestled along the national highway is the home of two Philippine Presidents – the Macaraeg-Macapagal Ancestral House. The house was declared a heritage house in 2002 and served as the first house where two Philippine Presidents lived, the late President Diosdado Macapagal and, his daughter, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The quaint 2-floor house sits on a sprawling lawn. On one area is the playhouse of former President Gloria when she was a young girl. The miniature house is complete with a bedroom, a kitchen, and a porch. You can reckon that little Gloria probably had so much fun running around the lawn and retiring inside her miniature house.
The house was probably one of the grandest in the city during earlier days. It has a small office where the former Presidents probably received guests. The first floor had the receiving and dining area while the second floor houses the rooms of the family. On display are the personal heirlooms and effects of the family. Interestingly, a painting of the young Gloria is one of the highlights of the house which gives you the impression that she was probably the family's baby.
Mimbalut Falls - Chilling By The Falls
Just a few minutes from the Macapagal Ancestral House is a waterfall where chilling is the way to go. Mimbalut Falls is known for its rock surface where water cascades down to its base. Its water source is the same as that of Maria Cristina Falls. The falls is open to the public however one area is prvately owned and access to this part will require additional fees.
Mimbalut Falls is definitely tamer than Maria Cristina Falls. It allows guests to enjoy its waters along its surface where water cascades. You can climb onto its rocks where you can enjoy the gentle flow of its cold waters. It is a great way to relax from the heat of riding on a “habal-habal” under the afternoon sun.
Tinago Falls – The Beauty in Hiding
Around 20 minutes through paved inland roads of Baranggay Ditaculan is the drop off point of Iligan’s hidden beauty. The Tinago Falls experience is highlighted by a short trek through a 500-step that leads down to the base of the falls. The falls is located in a deep ravine of the city where water cascades beautifully from height of 73 meters onto a blue lagoon. It is a beauty that is well-hidden hence the name “tinago” or hidden.
As you embark on the trek, you would notice abandoned structures along the way. Apparently, a resort was once built in the area to cater to guests and tourists. Unfortunately, the resort got bankrupt and was forced to abandon its concrete structures. Locals have said that there are efforts to revive the resort but they are still waiting for actual plans to start rolling.
Tinago Falls is my personal favorite among the three falls. Its elegant beauty just simply captivated me. It was soothing to watch water cascading like rain on its rock surfaces covered with greens. It looked and sounded like rain failing onto the lagoon complete with mist rising from its base. It was surreal to just watch the beauty of Tinago Falls on the sidelines.
One can enjoy a cool dip in the lagoon. You can also hop on a raft that will bring you at the base of the falls where you can enjoy a soft massage from its cascading waters. You can also climb onto a small cave found at its base where you can enjoy the thunderous sound of water falling.
Tinago Falls is definitely a great way to end our half-day adventure of chasing waterfalls in Iligan.
Post Travel Notes
Our half-day tour of Iligan City has given us a glimpse of the city’s natural beauty. It was a totally new experience for me and Asher. It was actually our first time to enjoy getting drenched by the cool waters of a waterfall and to hop on a habal-habal and enjoy the views of the city, the unconventional way. The three waterfalls, Maria Cristina, Mimbalut, and Tinago, are definitely a good way to start your exploration of Iligan City as it will leave you in awe. There is a taste of history in Iligan as evidenced by the Macapagal Ancestral House. The city still has a lot to offer and it piqued my curiosity to plan out a more exciting trip to the city. This time I think I should try conquering all 24 waterfalls. Anyone up for a challenge?
You should try to do something new and different when you travel. It gives you that extra thrill and excitement. It will also enhance your travel experience. That something new can leave you with a bigger smile after the trip. In our case, it now falls under our “habal-habal” journals.
Getting There: The gateway of Iligan City by air is Laguindingan Airport. Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific Air have direct flights to Cagayan de Oro daily from Manila and from major cities of the country. From Laguindingan Airport, you can then hop on a van to bring you to Iligan City which is about 45 minutes from the airport.
You can also take boat ferries that will bring you directly to Iligan City.
Marc del Rosario
I believe in education, entrepreneurship, and caring for the environment.