I never had much chance to travel while studying, at least not as much compared to the time when I was already working. Villa Escudero is one of the exceptions, a place I first visited at the height of the bar exams review.
Situated down south, Villa Escudero is less than 3 hours from Metro Manila. Just follow the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX), get out through the Batangas exit at the end of the SLEX, go through Sto. Tomas (Batangas), then pass by San Pablo City. There are at least 3 forked roads, so, guys, swallow your pride and ask for directions once in a while, just to make sure you’re on the right road. Or you could simply check the Villa Escudero website.
I always enjoy the view after leaving Sto. Tomas, where my eyes are welcomed by the sight of green (or, depending on the time of the year, brown) grass and plants hugging the rolling hills, a scene that never fails to remind me of home. With the windows rolled down, the cool fresh air gently caresses my face and messes my hair. It’s one of the few exceptions to the mess-with-my-life-but-not-with-my-hair rule, which is something I learned ever since my hair declared a mutiny and decided to slowly desert my scalp.
Anyway, Villa Escudero is to your left if you’re driving from Manila. About a hundred meters from the national highway is the reception area, where you’re going to wait for the carabao-pulled cart that will bring you to your cottage or wherever you’re heading. If you haven’t seen a carabao, this is your chance to see one up close and personal. The ride is far from boring, as you’re serenaded by a guitarist-singer duo belting out folk songs. Folk song-intolerant visitors could request for more recent songs, depending on how good the dynamic duo are.
Lunch is special, not only because of the delicious Pinoy food, but also because it’s served on (or is it IN?) the flowing river, right below the “waterfalls” (it’s basically water cascading down the hydroelectric dam). It’s an eat-all-you-can buffet, by the way, although I don’t know if eating while your feet are soaked in running freshwater makes you eat more. After eating, you could take a tour in the private museum, full of religious and other historical artifacts. You could also lazily paddle a raft on the man-made river or splash in the swimmning pool to burn off the calories. If you want to just sit down and relax, you could watch the folk dance performances (I believe it’s only on weekends).
The thing I enjoy the most, however, is much more simple. It’s the peace and quite while lying on the hammock, swinging at the cottage balcony overlooking the river. While enjoying the fresh cool dawn breeze, as you patiently wait for the sun to rise from the treeline, you can hear yourself whispering a word of appreciation to the great Creator of life’s beautiful things. As the Desiderata goes, with all its shams, drudgeries, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.