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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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Travel

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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Travel

THROWBACK THURSDAY. Our Stylish Voyage on a Boat with Loida and Richard

FOR SAIL

With hosts Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau, we take entertaining to the high seas.

by Shari Quimbo photography Steffen Billhardt

The sky was decidedly gloomy on the Sunday afternoon Loida Montesclaros and Richard Forteau invited a small group of us for a sail, the clouds getting darker as I make my way to Porter’s Marina, where the Blue Planet was docked.

“Richard built the boat himself in Cebu,” Loida explains, going on to share that he was the former honorary French consul in Cebu. “It was built here, and I designed the interiors.”

All that work certainly paid off—Loida and Richard would often sail the boat out to different Philippine destinations such as El Nido, Siargao, Boracay and the Gigantes Islands in Iloilo. These could mean days-long journeys that sometimes meant dealing with some rough seas. Quick day trips, much like the one we were about to embark on, were also a regular past time.

Loida gives me a quick tour of the boat then shows off her tropical spread. With its bright blue and white floral seating, the cabin’s dining area is already a pretty festive site. “I wanted to keep it simple,” she tells me, arranging her fresh fruits around on the banana leaf-covered wooden slabs she was using as serving trays. “And I wanted it to look more local, more tropical. We are on the water, after all.”

The bamboo slats of the dining table were the perfect backdrop to Loida’s spread, which featured tropical fruits alongside an entire roll of lechon belly, fresh lumpia, empanada and steamed shrimp.

The highlight of the table, though, was the chicken liver pate, a dish that Richard makes himself. “Luckily, the French love to cook,” Loida jokes conspiratorially.

Finally, it was time to take the vessel out onto the high seas, and the group makes its way above deck to enjoy the view. The cool sea breeze was a bit stronger than usual, something that had to do with the dark rain clouds looming above us—something that would have deterred any other group, but not this adventurous bunch. Armed with a glass of champagne in one hand and a biscuit smeared with pate on the other, many stand against the railing, admiring the sight of the sky turning orange above the Mactan Channel.

And then it starts to pour. No matter, though—as the rain pounds against the deck, the party finds its way down below. A bottle of wine is opened, and then another, while a second pot of pate is transferred on a plate. Our captain waits until the waves calm before he brings us back ashore.

(This story has already been published in the printed edition of Zee Lifestyle Magazine’s November 2016 issue as one of the Entertaining Features on pages 82-85.)

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Culture

Experience authentic Korean Barbeque at Da-In Restaurant

Filipinos are crazy for Korean barbecue. As such, there are a lot of places that are offering Korean barbecue. But Da-In restaurant isn’t just one of those restaurants.

Located in Salinas Drive in Lahug, Cebu, Da-in restaurant is a joint project between the Creative Cuisine Group and Da-Won restaurant. With state-of-the-art grilling stations in each table and various Korean cuisines ready to be served, Da-In would surely sate your Korean barbecue cravings without any hassle.

Visit Da-In restaurant today!

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