Wednesday, June 13, 2012

VG Bonding and Pre-Independence Day Celebration at Villa Escudero

One Home. A thousand stories.
This copy from Villa Escudero’s poster ad placed outside its gate captured the poetic side of me on an instant. I believe it wasn’t only carefully written and thought of. More than the creative effort of that poster, what fascinated me the most is the honesty behind that advertisement.
The heritage, the customs, the services, the huge land, the guests,  the families living inside the prestigious plantation–it has indeed a thousand stories to tell.
I was blessed to be able to have a share of that Villa Escudero experience and be part of that thousand stories.
Post-Summer getaway with my victory group
After a laughter-filled meeting and voting for the best venue for our group’s summer getaway, Villa Escudero won by quite a hard decision since the group was torn on whether to go to the former or just do the Mt.Pinatubo hike.
We decided to just do a day tour since our individual schedules were a bit tight of late. We just so wanted to push through with the trip since it’s one of the ways we could bond more and spend crazy, happy times with each other.
Actually the trip just happened last Sunday, June 10, so it’s still fresh in my memory. And since I couldn’t get over with the carefree, happy moments of tat day, I decided to just blog it away:-)
The Villa Escudero experience
I think it only took us an hour or so to get to Villa Escudero from Malate. We left Manila a little close to 7am, had a not-so-quick breakfast at McDonald’s in SLEX, and arrived at the Villa around 9am.
From the outside and if it isn’t that popular, you wouldn’t think that Villa Escudero is such a huge, huge land with a piece of paradise inside. You might even just pass it by without knowing that it’s already the Villa , if not for the meek signage posted outside which only says: Villa Escudero, 1km away.
That 1 kilometer away from the main area was filled with tall coconut trees everywhere. It’s a coconut plantation, by the way:-)
When we arrived at the reception area, we were greeted with the sweet smiles from the receptionists wearing baro’t saya and a thirst-quenching glass ofgulaman. Haplessly, we didn’t have photos of the gulaman and the lady in baro’t saya who offered us the drinks.
We just arrived:-)
After some photo ops inside the reception area, a male attendant wearing Filipiniana costume as well, walked us into the villa’s museum where we saw life-sized religious statues, colonial religious art, plus the wide, ancient collection of Don Arsenio and DoÑa Roasario Escudero of oriental ceramics, natural history and ethnographic dioramas, household furnitures, costumes, weapons, and other items which interested the couple during their travels then.
the museum which is a replica of church which used to stand in Intramuros
Cameras are not allowed inside the museum and we had to leave our bag in the baggage counter situated at the museum’s entrance.
The carabao cart ride was also part of the package we availed so even if it pained me to see the carabaos looking so tired pulling the cart, I still gave in and just convinced myself that their job isn’t that hard since the carts already has 4 wheels to lighten the carabao’s burden as opposed to the cart they’re pulling in the field. Well I believe that Villa Escudero management is taking very good care of these carabaos’ welfare and that they’re giving them the right nutrition they need to keep them healthy and strong:-)
The carabao cart ride was made even more merry by the tandem of ‘ate and kuya’ who rendered their very own version of some Filipino folk songs while on the ride:-)
We also had a chance to experience their bamboo rafting activity which was sooo fun:-) I felt like a pro when we were able to go back to the waiting area after we paddled and sailed around Lake Labasin:-)
While waiting for our turn:-)
Cone and I paddling away:-)
And what could be a better way to have a full experience of Villa Escudero than to dine at their famous waterfalls restaurant:-)
It was like an old-time Filipino town fiesta with everything Filipino–the dishes, the outfits of the food attendants, and the warm, happy look on each guest’s face. It was indeed a wonderful, wonderful experience:-)
We also celebrated Laye and Kat’s birthday at the same time so we surprised them with mini-cakes and balloons and a happy birthday song:-) The surprise was made even more cheerful by the other guests lunching with us that time who joined us in singing the birthday song for the two celebrants:-)
After that sumptuous lunch, we were treated to an afternoon of reliving the old Filipino culture via the cultural show presented by the  multi-talented staff of Villa Escudero.
 We even sang Lupang Hinirang during the introduction of one of the performances. I felt so proud singing our national anthem and watching the cultural show alongside some foreigners inside the hall as part of the audience. I know that in one way or another, that show was able to exhibit the rich culture and world class excellence of the Filipinos:-)
I’ve always loved watching Philippine cultural shows and I love listening to old Filipino music. It never fails to make me yearn to go back in time and just enjoy the simplicity of the Filipino’s way of life then.
This cultural show is definitely a must-watch when you go to Villa Escudero:-) What made this even special is that the performers are also staff of the Villa–from the maintenance department, food and beverage, front office, etc.
After the show, the girls decided to have a quick dip at the man-made falls. The lazy-me didn’t want to bring home wet clothes so I just decided to take their pictures while playing Bejeweled in between.
the ‘prito’ girls: jhen, laye, criselle, cone and kat
It was one of those days which you wished didn’t have to end that fast. A fellowship like no other with some of the most beautiful ladies I’ve ever known. It’s one of the best dates I have with them and I’m very much looking forward to having more of these as we deepen our relationship with each other and with our King:-) Our seasons, our personalities and our stories might vary from each other but we were fatefully and faithfully put together in one group by one passion and a common love for the one true King of our lives:-)
So why a thousand stories?
It’s because inside the very huge and culture-rich Villa Escudero, are families who gratefully and happily serve the Escuderos, working enthusiastically day in and day out to provide the quality service to the guests of the hacienda to return the kindness of the Escuderos to all of them. According to the ‘manong’ whom we interviewed, the Escuderos were very nice and generous to them, even gave them piece of land for each family to build their homes inside the hacienda. Starting with only 6 workers during the establishment of the Escudero coconut plantation in 1880s, these workers grew to a number and is now over a hundred. These workers no longer left the Villa and in fact, some or most of them even found the love of their lives inside the Villa and started their own family there. Manong even informed us that they already have their own baranggay inside the Villa. They have a church, mini-stores, and an ATM machine inside.
One of the things that make me go back to a certain place is knowing that the owners are kind, generous, and considerate to their employees/workers. It’s really a 1million plus points for me. In this time when most business people only think of profits and gains, it is a  breath of fresh air to know that there are still some who have beautiful, unselfish and generous hearts, who wouldn’t mind giving away some of their money to provide a comfortable life to the people who’ve been working hard with them to keep their business up and moving. And according to Manong’s stories, the family behind Villa Escudero is that kind of people. Not only are they generous to their workers, they also promote the Philippines and its culture very well that is why this resort really deserves a high rating:-) Plus! Plus, their employees are all warm and accommodating, too–always ready to lend a helping hand:-)
Aside from the stories of each and every person working inside Villa Escudero, there are also individual stories from guests/visitors of the Villa. I’m glad to say that our group’s story is already part of that thousand stories founded, created, and woven together inside Villa Escudero:-)

Photo credits: Maricone and Jhen:-)

Villa Escudero day-tour rate: Php1400/head (weekend)
                                               Php 1200/head (weekdays)
Inclusive of:
Welcome drink, carabao cart rides, use of out door recreational facilities and lunch at the waterfalls.
By special arrangements with the AERA Memorial Foundation, the museum is open to resort guests.
Cultural Show at 2:00 – 3:15pm on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays & Holidays.
For more information, visit:

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Room Upstairs: Where Design Pieces and Cozy Dining Are In Perfect Harmony

Looking at furnitures is one of my addictions. The furniture section is my number 2 favorite spot in the mall, next to the bookstore.  I like looking at the different designs of tables and chairs and even beds and sofas while weaving fantasy stories in my mind. So when I found out about this hidden furniture cum cafê tucked inside the LRI Building in Makati, the inching to pay a visit and feel the hush of the place no longer leave me.
It was as if I was really meant to experience this cafê, my friend Paolo invited me for a Friday afternoon chill. We were actually supposed to go to Marikina to try another resto there but due to time constraint, I suggested we just try The Room Upstairs.
LRI Building in N.Garcia, Makati, is actually like the Cubao Expo of the south. When you enter the building, all you can see are a combination of intricate, voguish, and even quirky design pieces and contemporary artworks. If you don’t really know about The Room Upstairs or you didn’t go there on purpose of dining in the cafê, you might think that it’s just one of the furniture stores in LRI, except only that it has a menu standee placed outside.
I like the eccentric yet sophisticated mix-match of the furniture pieces inside. The place may look crowded and condensed but I like its abstract effect. The restaurant also serves as the owner’s design showroom so understandably, her masterpieces are also displayed inside. There are signs, however, for chairs or sofas which are restricted from the diners.
The food was yummy as well. Pao ordered the Spicy Asian Pasta which I also got to taste–and it was really a great discovery! It tasted sooo good! It’s a spicy chili spaghetti with herbed chicken and peanuts. It actually tasted sweet and spicy and further made tastier with the addition of peanuts:-)
Spicy Asian pasta, P200
Pao also had Kani Salad–kani sticks with cucumber and corn on fresh greens served with Japanese-inspired dressing.
Kani Salad, P200
Because desserts come first for me, I only ordered the Chocolate Truffle Mousse Cake, which really made me even happier:-)
My only regret was that I didn’t get to taste any of its coffee offering. I was too engrossed on devouring my Chocolate Truffle Mouse cake that I forgot that coffee was one of the main highlights of this restaurant. Oh well, there’s always a next time:-)
The Room Upstairs is like a sanctuary for writers for me. An afternoon visit to this place by yourself, especially if you’re experiencing a writer’s block, wouldn’t hurt. Ideas and inspirations will surely flow freely once you step inside this piece of sanctuary –well at least that’s what I felt when I entered this cafê.
I will definitely pay another visit to The Room Upstairs. Now I know where to go if I’m into a I-want-to-be-away-from-the-busy-ness-of-the-world moment:-)
All thanks to one of my super guy friends, Paolo, for the treat:-) Guy friends are great blessings I am forever grateful for:-)
With my good friend, Paolo:-)
The Room Upstairs
2/F, LRI Design Plaza, 210 N. Garcia St., Bel-Air 3
Makati City, Metro Manila
Telephone: +632 899-9318, 899-3593
Operating Hours: 9am-6pm
photo credits:

One Santorini-sh Summer Getaway at Thunderbird Resort Poropoint La Union

Not like most of the people I’ve talked to who include Santorini in Greece as one of their dream destinations outside of the Philippines,  I’m already contented on dreaming about walking on the streets of Seoul in South Korea. It is the undisputed number 1 in my dream destinations (again, outside of the Philippines because I love PI more than any country in the world).
One remarkable summer getaway with my highschool friends, however, made me experience a piece of Santorini right in the heart of the surfing haven of the Philippines, La Union. And I seriously consider that a wonderful blessing:-)
Lying on top of a cliff near a white sand beach, Thunderbird Resort in La Union proved true to its claim that it would make you feel like you are really in Santorini. I’m a fan of clean, white paints that I instantly fell in love with the facade of the resort. I love the melodramatic combination of white and blue on this Greek-like architecture.
the hallway:-)
You can also enjoy a walk along the bay while gazing at the beautiful sunset:-)
The lobby at night:-)
The staff were all nice and accommodating which made me appreciate the resort more. And I love their turquoise uniform:-) I also love that their welcome drinks tasted a little minty and they use a stem of a plant as a straw.
The rooms were also nice and big enough to accommodate a group of 4-6 pax. We got a good deal from AsiaTravel which was a total of  P10,976 nett for the two rooms inclusive of breakfast for 4. We were 7 in the group so we decided to just pay additional P1ooo/head for the other three so we could all enjoy the buffet breakfast. It was a nice deal since the normal price per room is P6000-7000, good for 2 pax. If you want to book a room at Thunderbird, I suggest you book at asiatravel or agoda for bigger discounts:-)
The comfort room is nice and clean, too!
 The Food
Since the rooms were pricey enough, we decided to just have our lunch at Jollibee which is located 10 minutes away from the resort.  It’s a good technique especially since the prices of the food inside the resort were a bit pricey as well.
But for dinner, we decided to have a taste of the resort’s very own dishes. We dined at Vegas Cafe which is also approximately 5-10 minutes away from the main lobby. We needed to ride the resort’s van just to go to Vegas Cafe.
But it was worth it! We really had a full, sumptuous dinner:-) Char and Eric surprised us by paying the bill–another wonderful blessing!
The next day, we were also treated to a yummy buffet breakfast at Olive’s Restaurant.
I love that they have iced choco drink, strawberry spread, Hungarian sausage, and Nestle Fruit Selection Yogurt in the buffet.
Having breakfast with a really nice view on the side:-)
It was a happy and satisfying experience all in all. The place was amazing enough, but the experience was made even remarkable because I got to spend it with my “friends for keeps.”  It was indeed a happy summer once again:-)
Thunderbird Resorts: Poro Point
VOA Compound, Pennsylvania Avenue
San Fernando City, La Union
Philippines 2500
T: (+63 72) 888 7777