Villa Escudero

Villa Escudero

Hacendero life begins riding a carabao-drawn multi-seater caritela while being serenaded by country folks in festive traditional costumes with this song by National Artists for Music Levi Celerio and Lucio San Pedro:

May pumukol sa pipit sa sanga ng isang kahoy
At nahagip ng bato ang pakpak ng munting ibon
Dahil sa sakit, di na nakaya pang lumipad
At ang nangyari ay nahulog, ngunit parang taong bumigkas,
“Mamang kay lupit, ang puso mo’y di na nahabag,
Pag pumanaw ang buhay ko, may isang pipit na iiyak.” 

Villa Escudero Mount Banahaw

Villa Escudero San Pablo

The landed Escudero family opened their 800-hectare coconut plantation to the public in the 1980s as Villa Escudero, a hacienda lifestyle resort.  When coming from Manila, Villa Escudero is located at the end of San Pablo City. It is situated on a land where the province of Laguna ends and Quezon Province begins.

With a majestic Mount Banahaw looming at a distance amidst an idyllic pastoral setting, Villa Escudero is reminiscent of old plantation life when the dons and doñas ruled over their hacienda.

Villa Escudero Ancestral House

Villa Escudero Ancestral houses

Hacienda Escudero property was bought by Don Placido Escudero and Doña Claudia Marasigan in 1872 and turn it into a sugar cane plantation. A historical marker in front of the pink Escudero ancestral house explains the hacienda’s historical significance.

Villa Escudero Katipuneros

In the years 1897 to 1901, the Escuderos sheltered the revolutionaries who fought against Spain and US. During the Japanese occupation, American and Filipino soldier took refuge in the hacienda as they retreated south to Bataan.

Villa Escudero Hydroelectric plant

Villa Escudero Lunch

In the 1900s, Don Placido’s son, Arsenio converted the plantation’s chief crop from sugar cane into coconut and did a lot of the modernization in the hacienda.

Natural spring water from Mount Banahaw fills the serene Labasin Lake that pours into a narrow gorge where Arsenio built the first hydroelectric dam.  A signature attraction in Villa Escudero today is the al fresco lunch set in the dam’s spillway where visitors enjoy a Filipino food buffet while their feet is soaked in about a foot-deep of running water.

Villa Escudero Museum

Villa Escudero museum collection

Five generations of Escuderos antiques and collection of Philippine treasures are housed and shared to the pubic in their private museum. The museum building is a replica of the San Francisco Church in Intramuros that was destroyed in 1945. At the time when Intramuros was being restored, the King of Spain gave to the Marcoses architectural drawings of the church because there were plans to reconstruct the San Francisco. As it turned out, the church was never rebuilt. The Escudero secured the drawings and erected the San Francisco in Villa Escudero.

Inside the museum, no space is spared. All 50 carrozas with its life-sized passengers  line-up the main floor. In between the unending selves of ancient pottery and ceramics are ecclesiastical and tribal art, stuff animals, and period furniture and objects. Every inch of a corner and space are filled with memorabilia from every historic period, travel souvenirs and curios, and war booty like a shrunken human head from the Amazon! And the eclectic collection spills outside the museum. In open fields are vintage fighter planes and World War II army tanks.

Villa Escudero Ifugao

Villa Escudero Singkil

As a special treat for weekend hacenderos, traditional dances are performed in the main pavillion. A voice over narration educates the crowd about the dances’ history and inspiration. From the tribal war dance of the Ifugao highlanders and agile dance of the lowland farmers popularly called the tinikling to the dance interpretation of the Maranao epic Darangen called the singkil all are fantastically performed.

Complete with costumes, props, and authentic musical instruments, the performances were researched and choreograph by National Artist for Dance Ramon Obusan.

-In celebration of the National Arts Month 2015

Published in: on February 12, 2015 at 12:47 pm  Comments (7)  

Batangas City


*This blog is dedicated to the Queen of Philippine Travel, the Ultimate Traveler on Foot, Ms. Susan Calo-Medina (1941-2014). 

The nippy January air is making us crave for a steaming bowl of bulalo. The rich flavor of this beefy soup comes from shanks of beef and marrow bones that are boiled for hours under low heat until the meat becomes tender and the fat melts into the broth.

With the coolness of the weather, the bulalo becomes the ultimate Filipino comfort food craving. So off we went to Batangas City, where according to tradition the original recipe for bulalo was invented.

Plaza Mabini

Mabini Plaza Batangas

Our first activity upon arriving in Batangas City is walking around the town plaza. Central to this landscaped park is an obelisk crowned by a bust of Apolinario Mabini. Known in Philippine history as the chief political adviser to President Emilio Aguinaldo, every proud town in Batangas have a monument or park dedicated to him.

Mabini wrote The True Decalogue to promote the needed patriotism of his time. His words are inscribed in Spanish and Tagalog at the back of this 1917 monument.  Seated at the foot of the monument is a woman with her legs crossed under the baro’t saya. While I’ve seen several monuments built during the American period with this kind of theme, I wonder who this woman is or what she represents. Marcela Agoncillo? Inang Bayan?

Batangas Basilica

Batangas City Basilica

Overlooking the Plaza is the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. Similar to churches built during the Spanish period, this church was damaged and rebuilt on several occasions since its founding in 1581.

Batangas Lomi

The walking got us hungry so we had Batangas Lomi. Like the bulalo we were originally craving for, Pancit Lomi is popular in Batangas. Lomi noodles are thicker than spaghetti. Its sauce is thickened with starch. Its flavor is from the sautéed garlic, pork meat and liver, soy sauce and calamansi juice mixture.

Lomi must be eaten while it’s steaming hot. But the challenge really is to be brave enough to finish up a bowl serving of lomi. It’s a carbo-loaded diet that kept us filled-up the rest of the day.

Pastor-Acosta House

Pastor-Acosta House Batangas City

A few walks from the lomihan shines a huge Christmas parol from the Pastor-Acosta Ancestral House. Built in 1883 by Gobernadorcillo Don Alejo Acosta, the house is maintained by fourth-generation members of the clan.

A story is told about a failed assassination of then US Governor-General William Howard Taft (Yes. Taft Avenue was named after him) when he went to Batangas City. The assassin’s bullet was found stuck inside the wooden door frame of the ancestral house’s sala.

Batangas Bulalo

For an entire day, we’ve experienced Batangas as Mabini, history, and Lomi. In the evening, we found our ultimate craving –the Batangas Bulalo.

Don Roman Santos Tahanan

Don Roman Santos Tahanan

When I was a kid, I would give my playmate friends a tour of my parent’s house as if it were a museum.  It was a house built in the 70s with dark wood varnished walls, crazy-cut marble and parquet flooring, heavy wall-to-wall curtain and customized upholstered furniture, and a main hallway that some of my friends call the ‘tunnel.’ The highlight of my ‘so-called tour’ is revealing a secret door that connects the servant quarter to the main hallway. The house was incredible for a kid.

I developed my fondness for old vintage and pre-loved objects when my parents sold the house. I became sentimental. Perhaps it is that same sentimentality why gentleman farmer and antique collector Vicente Roman ‘Mike’ Santos led an ambitious task of moving their 1917 ancestral house piece-by-piece from flood-stricken Navotas to a private subdivision high-up in the hills of Antipolo.

Don Roman Santos A House Reborn

Don Roman Santos House Antipolo

We first learned about the Don Roman Santos House from the book Tahanan, A House Reborn. The book tells stories about the house’s original dwellers, businessman Don Roman R. Santos and his family and the rich memories of the generations that lived in the house when it was still in Navotas.

And as the title suggest, the book documents the painstaking effort of uprooting and rebuilding the Santos ancestral house from Navotas to Antipolo.

Don Roman Santos sala

Don Roman Santos booksigned

The imposing Don Roman Santos House was built in 1917. It was the American Period. A time in our history when the fad in architecture was an eclectic mix of historic styles from tropical Baroque with stylized Art Nouveau elements to blending Neoclassical with Art Deco design. The Santos house has these elements.

The three-storied Santos ancestral house has parts of a traditional bahay-na-bato only made modern with the entrada principal that opens to the yard or solar instead to the main street.  The main staircase leads to the caida where Mike signed our copy of the book next to a smiling portrait of his great grandfather, Don Roman Santos.

Don Roman Santos Navotas House

Don Roman Santos Ancestral House

The furniture and furnishings in the sala mayor and comedor were a mix of recently acquired antiques and original heirloom pieces. There is a large bust of the patriarch commissioned by Guillermo Tolentino for the Don Roman Santos Building in Escolta, portraits by Fernando Amorsolo and a painting attributed to Juan Arceo, centuries-old Baliuag-style mesa altar and so many others that Mike fittingly displays to match the look and feel of living in the Santos house during the olden days.

Mike Santos Tahanan author

Don Roman Santos House tour

According to Mike, the house is much grander now compared to when it was in Navotas. The house was decaying in Navotas so instead of demolishing the house and salvaging its parts to refit into a totally new house, the family decided to rebuild it somewhere.

However, he laments that with the transfer of the house, it lost its sense of becoming part of its original community. ‘The Don Roman Santos Ancestral House belongs to a neighborhood in Navotas, ‘says a sentimental Mike Santos.

– Heritage Month 2014

Sta. Marta de Pateros Fiesta


Pateros is a small modern city in Metro Manila. It is traditionally known for its duck egg industry and for its folks who love their traditions.

The fiesta of Sta. Marta, held every second Sunday of February is a well-loved tradition in Pateros. It is a thanksgiving celebration to Sta. Marta for saving Pateros’ duck egg industry.


In the olden days, town fiestas are the most exciting time of the year. It was a time when the town plaza and the church patio are crowded with people playing games at the feria, watching roving bands of musicians and participating in church-led activities and religious processions.

There is no doubt that it was fiesta day in Pateros as we walked our way to the church from Pateros Bridge. The street leading to the church is crowded with people, peddlers and products.  Sold side by side with suman wrapped in leaves are folksy clay pots and red prayer candles, shaped in human form.

Sta. Marta Pateros Church

Sta. Marta Pateros

Under the sunny morning sky, devotees form a long line to have a chance to say their petitions and touch the image of Sta. Marta in the church patio.


Sta. Marta is patron of cooks, washerwoman and all motherly duties. In Pateros,  she is the patron of duck raising where her folksy image is shown as if crushing a crocodile with her dainty feet.

According to legend, Sta. Marta did away the crocodiles that were wreaking havoc in the town’s duck egg industry. Thanks to Sta. Marta, Pateros is known today as the balut capital.



After the high mass, a roving band of musicians began playing fandango music. The image of Sta. Marta is then carried outside the church by a group of fandango-dancing strong men. Everybody fell in a trance dancing the fandango while chanting the song for their patroness.

We almost got crushed while following the massive crowd into the street but the technique to survive the Sta. Marta procession is to sway the same direction the fandango dancers go.


Traditional festival have become modern and commercialized. It is very seldom to see today in urban Metro Manila an old-fashioned fiesta like the Sta. Marta de Pateros Fiesta.

-Feast of Sta. Marta 2014

Published in: on February 9, 2014 at 8:10 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , ,

Pista ng Santo Niño at San Beda

Pista ng Sto. Nino San Beda

Current and former students of San Beda College know that red is our color and the last Sunday of January is the Pista ng Santo Niño.

It has been a tradition that only at this time of year that the image of the Santo Niño de Praga is taken down from its niche high in the main altar of the Abbey of Our Lady of Monserrat in Mendiola. Devotees form a long line to have the chance to touch and kiss the carved image of the Holy Child before it is mounted to its silver carroza for a solemn procession around the San Miguel district of Manila.


Not too many people know that during the first Pista ng Sto. Niño in 1904, a framed picture of the Holy Child was taken to the procession in lieu of a carved statue. The exquisitely carved statue of the Santo Niño de Praga that we see today was commissioned by famous santero Máximo Vicente for the Benedictines of Mendiola.

The cult of the Holy Child in the country began four centuries ago.  The image of the Sto. Niño that arrived in the Philippines with Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, that was recovered  and re-enthroned by Miguel Lopez de Legazpi and enshirned today in the minor basilica in Cebu is the oldest Christian image in the country. The Sto. Niño de Cebu is believed to have been carved in Flanders in the 15th of century and was presented as a baptismal gift to the converted Queen Juana.


Pista ng Sto Nino San beda

The Benedictine monks began to spread the devotion to the Santo Niño de Praga in the Philippines only during the last turn-of- the-century. Its first devotees were the students from the Colegio de San Beda who establish the Confraternity of the Infant Jesus. The traditional procession of the Sto. Niño with the image made by Maximo Vicente as the focus of devotion was first held in January 20, 1905.

The solemn tradition lives on today with devotees forming a long line under the magnificent murals and paintings of the abbey. It is a moving scene to witness how the young and old have a quick moment to touch, kiss and say a prayer to the Santo Niño before it is taken to the procession.

Pista ng Sto. Nino San Beda Manila

Pista ng Sto. Nino

With the peeling of the church bells, the Santo Niño is brought to the silver carroza waiting by the church entrance. A huge crowd in red clothes cheers as the carroza bearing the Santo Niño is pulled and joins the procession.

Red is the color of San Beda College since its students are traditionally known as Red Lions. If this passionate and heroic color has any connection to the Santo Niño, it must be that red symbolizes the color of the General. Remember that when the Santo Niño was introduced in Cebu, he was given the title as El Capitan General.

Pista Santo Nino Procession San Beda

Pista ng Sto Nino procession

While most Sto. Niño festivals around the country are known for the mardi gras-type of parade, the Santo Niño procession led by the Benedictine community and San Beda College students and alumni is simple and sober. Joining the Santo Niño de Praga in the procession are images of Benedictine saints like St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Bede or popularly known as Venerable Bede and the patroness of the abbey, Our Lady of Monserrat.

As the procession inched its way around the San Miguel district, participants recite the rosary or exchange pleasantries as this event is also a reunion among the alumni of the college.  It is an important event that proud Bedans look forward to for us reconnect with our  brothers and reflect on the values that we’ve learned in school.

Published in: on January 27, 2014 at 12:49 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , ,

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 364 other followers