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Acres of Ancestry

Entering Villa Escudero is akin to traveling back in time to the Philippine Colonial Era as it holds treasures dating back to 1875. Four generations have lived in and enjoyed this ancestral home that houses pieces steeped in history from different cultures. For Zee Lifestyle columnist Mayenne Carmona, nostalgia kicked in as she realizes it’s not the first time she had visited nor would it be her last.

Entering Villa Escudero is akin to traveling back in time to the Philippine Colonial Era as it holds treasures dating back to 1875. Four generations have lived in and enjoyed this ancestral home that houses pieces steeped in history from different cultures. For Zee Lifestyle columnist Mayenne Carmona, nostalgia kicked in as she realizes it’s not the first time she had visited nor would it be her last.

Refreshing and addicting iced tea with gulaman was served as welcome drinks when we arrived at Villa Escudero Plantation and Resort in San Pablo, Laguna one lazy afternoon. The present patriarch of the Escudero clan, Conrado Escudero, greeted us at the reception area the moment we arrived. Ado, as he is fondly called, already had an itinerary set for us.

The tour highlighted the magnificent Escudero ancestral house, a turn-of the-20th-century family residence that has been lived in and enjoyed by four generations. The house was built from 1929 to 1932 by Ado’s parents, Arsenio Marasigan Escudero and Rosario Averion Adap. The Escudero brood of seven, Consuelo, Caridad, Placido, Rosita, Conrado, Arsenio Jr., and Rosalia grew up in the palatial home. The couple hired Antonio Toledo, a well-known architect of that era known for designing majestic public buildings like the Manila City Hall, the twin buildings at the Agrifina Circle in Manila, the San Pablo Municipal Hall, and the Cebu and Iloilo provincial capitols. Other than the Escudero residence, the only other house Toledo was known to have designed was his own.

To keep the house cool even during the summer months, steel vents were installed in between the narra paneled walls. The ponds in the front and at the back of the house serve the purpose of cooling the interiors as water passes underneath through concrete channels absorbing the heat.

As I was touring the different rooms with Ado, I experienced déjà vu and wondered why. Then as we crossed the threshold of the screened veranda with its Machuca-tile flooring, furnished with pre-war, wrought-iron furniture and a collection of antique hanging lamps, I realized that it was not my first time in this place. When I was barely 18, I, along with other models, had a photo shoot in Villa Escudero for a well-known Filipino couturier.

Now more ‘au courant’ with art, I was able to better appreciate the numerous noteworthy pieces and details there. “Table of the Sphinxes” by Filipino master carver Isabelo Tampingco is a magnificent “table de gibier” (hunting table) with six beautifully articulated Egyptian sphinxes on plinths supporting a thick and long single slab of white Carrara marble. Ado’s grandparents, Placido Escudero and Claudia Marasigan, had purchased the turn-of-the-century piece that sits under a Bohemian chandelier from the Calle Hidalgo Atelier of Tampingco.

The rare oil portraits of the couple by 19th century Filipino master painter Felix Martinez prominently adorn the living room walls. A pair of tall, post-war, gilded mirrors with matching low consoles was purchased from a Spanish family that lived in a splendid French-style mansion in Vito Cruz.

The formal dining area has a marble table that Arsenio Escudero discovered in the 1920s with the help of a Chinese dealer from Binondo. The crystal chandelier that hangs above it was acquired from San Augustin Church in Intramuros before the renovation in 1875. The tapestry is from Real Fabrica de Tapices and features a pastoral drawing by Francisco Goya y Lucientes. On a postwar visit to Madrid, Arsenio Escudero acquired this along with other treasures from Countess Maria de las Mercedes de Borbon Dos Sicilias y Orleans of Barcelona, mother of the present King Juan Carlos.

A pair of traditional “vajillera” cabinets is certified to have come from the hands of the late 19th century Chinese master Ah Tay whose works are now much sought after by antique collectors. Rosario Escudero and her husband Arsenio had purchased these cabinets directly from Ah Tay himself in the mid-twenties during the early days of their marriage. The dining room opens to an enclosed veranda, which serves as the breakfast nook. The area is decorated with Ming dynasty porcelains and antique ceramic plates from Europe.

There is an elegant Beaux Arts-style narra staircase that leads to the bedrooms on the second floor. A collection of pre-war genre paintings that have fascinated collectors and scholars of Philippine art line the walls of the staircase. Off the stairway is a whimsical oriental room containing a collection of Chinese and Japanese art that, according to Ado, had been purchased from another family in Manila after the war. A scroll from the Sung Dynasty and a brass Ming vase with articulated branches and leaves stand out among other objects in the room.

There are four rooms on this floor but my favorite is the master’s bedroom which has two four-poster beds: an Ah Tay matrimonial bed and a small Ah Tay child’s bed which originally belonged to the national artist Juan Luna.

A myriad of precious collectors’ items are found in every nook and cranny of the house that is grandiose in every way. As lavish as it may be, it is also a well-planned and well-loved residence for a large clan. It is where the Escuderos celebrate their milestones and entertain significant people. It is where Ado holds his fantasy-themed parties and fiestas and, more importantly, events of philanthropic pursuits. Four generations of the Escudero clan take pride in their heritage and the magnificent and historical Villa Escudero immortalizes this.

  • by Mayenne Carmona
  • photography Valentino Ley

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This is How the M.I.C.E. Alliance Initiative will Lift Boracay to New Heights

Leveling up Boracay in more ways than one

by Ryan Daniel R. Dablo

Saying the name “Boracay” instantly casts a spell, taking the listener to a daydream of immaculate, pale beaches, swaying palm trees, the music of breaking waves, and the vacation of a lifetime. The tropical island Eden is storied and renowned – a difficult enchantment to lift from any wayward tourist’s mind. But what if we were to tell you that Boracay is so much more? Can you build upon perfection? Yes, and this, ladies and gentlemen, is how. 

One is never too far away from the beach! BNCC is only a stone’s throw away from the Boracay Newcoast Beach front.

Boracay Newcoast Convention Center (BNCC), located at the heart of Boracay Newcoast will soon host the biggest conventions, exhibitions and other large-scale events in the island starting second quarter of 2022.

After the difficulties of the past few years, the stage is finally set for a massive Boracay reboot. The creative gears turn once more, and this time they will catapult our favorite beach capital to new heights. The cornerstone of this renaissance is the M.I.C.E. Alliance initiative, short for meetings, incentives, conferences and conventions, and events and exhibitions. The establishment of the Boracay M.I.C.E. Alliance will allow focused efforts in creating sustainable and eco-sensitive tourism development projects while synergizing with stakeholders to create long-term solutions and opportunities for all partners. The alliance is set to drive awareness, readiness, and expansion of product offerings that will be crucial in making the island competitive with other M.I.C.E. destinations. Working closely with the Department of Tourism Region VI and the Tourism Promotions Board, the alliance is primed to provide support to the areas that are involved in this major undertaking.

Cleofe Albiso, Boracay M.I.C.E Alliance Chairperson

BNCC enjoys state-of-the-art facilities and can accommodate about a thousand guests depending on set-up and conduct multiple events at a time.

No one is more emphatic than M.I.C.E. Alliance chairperson Cleofe Albiso in describing how the different sectors of Boracay are pivoting from tourism to tourism plus. In brief, Boracay is challenging its own boundaries to become not just the pre-eminent tourist destination but also a corporate and business mecca. Turns out, if a venue is grand enough to host a wedding, wouldn’t it be just as grand to host a white-collar conference? Sky’s the limit for possibilities like this. At this moment, the island is abuzz with networking and making connections, training and empowering the hospitality services, polishing the infrastructure, revving up the transportation facilities, and all-around gearing up to go toe-to-toe with other M.I.C.E. hubs and be worthy of the tagline, “the best place for M.I.C.E. in a tropical paradise.” All hands are on deck and – after the extended global hiatus thanks to the pandemic – everyone is ready, nay, eager to meet and greet the guests. And, of course, we would be remiss not to point out that Boracay is more than halfway through completing such a tall order. The island is as well-oiled a machine as it could be, boasting 294 DOT-accredited hotels and resort, a staggering 4,500 seating capacity for meetings and conventions, and 12,400 room keys available in the island. Talk about volume! Plus, Boracay is already postcard-perfect, the very stuff that vacation dreams are made of. Why not turn the dial up to eleven and let it become a compass point for more than a summer getaway? This is the logical next step in realizing its vision of being not just a place to be, but the place to be.

Savoy Hotel Boracay like Belmont Hotel, and the soon to open Chancellor Hotel is also walking distance away from BNCC making it an ideal spot for both business and leisure trips.

So, yes, by all means think of the idyllic strolls on the beach, the luxurious caress of the ocean as you free-dive, the sheer delight of sand and surf while island-hopping, the adrenaline rush of aquasports, parasailing, cycling, or driving an ATV up Boracay’s foothills, the psychedelic glow of fire-dancing and party lights at night, the breathtaking sunsets, the larger-than-life adventures, or the hundred other ways it can lavish or reinvigorate your soul. Think of all of that, and then some. Because Boracay has its eyes on something greater: it is poised to become the premier starting point and last stop for tourism, entertainment, corporate gatherings, exhibits, and any other event the imagination can dream of. 

Paradise Garden’s Mabuhay Convention Center can fit 850 guests at a time.

For corporate set-ups, a 60 person function room is also available at the Isla Function Room of Paradise Garden.

Think of your company meeting. Now, think of your company meeting and the fun that’ll ensue right after. Picture that in the most scenic of vacation spots. Tempted already? Who wouldn’t be? You’re already in paradise. With business here and leisure literally just a stone’s throw away – heaven on earth, wouldn’t you say? 

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For Our Next Travel Destination, We Dream About Koh Samui in Thailand

Impressive views of the Gulf of Thailand welcome you at the Arrival Sala

Silent Sanctuaries

Mayenne Carmona discovers the Four Seasons Resort in Koh Samui is a quiet oasis to recharge and rejuvenate…

What does one expect from a Four Seasons Resort? Everything! Firstly, it will definitely be ranked no less than a five-star hotel or resort. Most importantly, it would not fall short of all your expectations: excellent cuisine, topnotch comfort at your fingertips in a well-appointed villa, courteous staff who offer impeccable service, and every other detail you could possibly need—down to the last cotton bud. After all, a Four Seasons Resort is always designed by a top-rated architectural team and interior designers.

The moment I stepped into the Four Seasons Resort at Koh Samui, I felt all my cares washed away by the soft waves of the bluest sea. The fresh air cleared my sinuses in no time, and the gentle breeze was a much needed caress to a tired mind and body. It was truly paradise regained for me and my friends. We were a motley group of career-oriented people who needed a much-awaited break from work, and this was the perfect choice for us.

Each Villa has a butler to cater to the guests’ every whim. The afternoon we arrived, we requested a sunset dinner by the beach, and much like a genie, our butler whipped up a romantically set candlelit dinner for six. A five-course delicious Thai dinner was prepared by their well-trained chef.

Our days were spent languishing by the beach, having daily massages, attending yoga classes, doing water sports and enjoying every bite of Thai cuisine. Golf carts transported us wherever we wanted to go within the resort. This vacation brought all my senses to another realm, and restored a weary soul to perfection. 

Four Seasons Koh Samui, I look forward to seeing you again!

Koh Samui is the third largest island of Thailand in the scenic Gulf of Siam. It is a 45 minute flight from Bangkok. Sandy beaches, coral reefs, coconut trees and abundant tourist resources make it a popular holiday destination.

For more information on Four Seasons Resort, visit their website at https://www.fourseasons.com/kohsamui/

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s March 2016 Travel Issue, “Silent Sanctuaries” written by our columnist Mayenne Carmona for La Vie En Rose on pages 32-33.)

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Get Lost in this Not-so-distant Island Safari Paradise

LOST IN PARADISE

Tao Philippines Crusoe-style deserted island camp paradise is perfect for those who understand the luxury of simplicity and disconnection.

by Melo E. Esguerra photography by Scott Sporleder

Just when you think Palawan is fast becoming a second Boracay, where congestion of concrete buildings and human bodies have begun to define the island experience more than the pristine beaches of white powdery sand, the Lostboys of Tao Philippines came up with a new island project that guarantees an escape to paradise. They call the island Camp Ngey Ngey.

The Lostboys have taken over the abandoned resort of Manguengey in Busuanga, a remote island in Palawan. They have kept the ruins from the typhoon and built their signature bamboo Tuka huts around the main beach of the island, which serves as the camp area. Just a short walk away you’ll find jungle trails that lead to three other wild beaches, preserved reefs and windswept cliffs encompassed by crystal blue waters. And on certain days, when the winds are strong, one side of the island becomes a good site for surfing.

 


Eddie Brock, one of the founders of Tao Philippines, explains how this concept of an island safari came about. “When we took over Manguengey Resort, we were stuck with the idea of how to run it. We do not know how to cater to resort guests, the individual choices and needs, and menus,” he admits. “Tao’s expertise is to show travelers something new, something more raw and adventurous. We decided that we will not worry about things we don’t understand, and stick to what we do best. One of the best aspects of a Tao trip is creating an atmosphere of connecting with other travelers, disconnected from digital clot—without the worry of planning, wallets and keeping a status. Five days out in the remoteness with the islanders in control leads to a positive attitude: guards down, inhibition is off and open to meet new friends.”

The camp is accessible through the three day/two night boat safari from Coron, with beach and reef stops en route the camp and back. Guests will be joining other travelers, staying in individual Tuka huts dotted along the beach. There are lounges, a dining and kitchen area, and open hang-out places. Currently, the big mansion from the old resort is being restored into a villa that can accommodate a family or group of friends.

The island can be reserved for big events like weddings, parties and other meaningful gatherings.

In the island, there is no room service, no menus, no WiFi. You will arrive as strangers, you will eat together, swim together, laugh together, drink together, and get to know each other offline. Become part of the magic of Tao, and see what happens!

For more information on how the trip to Camp Ngey Ngey works, log on to www.taophilippines.com

 

(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s June 2017 Men’s Issue, “Lost in Paradise” on pages 110-113.)

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