April 28, 2008. Two Saturdays ago, to cap off my mother and my brother’s birthdays (which both fall within the same week), we went to Hacienda Escudero (formerly Villa Escudero) for a short day trip.
It was my first time at the estate-turned-tourist destination. It took us a almost four hours to drive down to San Pablo, Laguna / Tiaong, Quezon from Manila. We passed by the route crossing Batangas. When we arrived at the place, we were toured briefly at the church-turned-museum. It looked familiar to me. No, not because I’ve seen it in the many postcards that it may have appeared in. It was after a few minutes when I realized this was where Wong Kar Wai shot parts of his film Days of Being Wild.
Anyway, the museum was basically a hogwash of various antiques and Escudero memorabilia, which I found quite interesting.
After the museum tour, we rode these carabao trolleys to the resort’s main recreation area, where we had lunch at the foot of a man-made dam with fresh water falling off the dam’s slope and streaming through our feet. If not for the heat of the midday sun, it would have been a very relaxing and refreshing lunch.
Admittedly, it was a picturesque plantation. The change of name from Villa Escudero to Hacienda Escudero is, apparently, part of a plan to reinvent the Escudero family estate into a “world-class” residential and tourist destination. It invites investors to relive the haciendero lifestyle. That didn’t sound appealing to me. Also, since when did farming and agriculture become so recreational, romanticized and considered as entertainment? How insensitive to Filipino farmers, really, and the long history of oppression and poverty in landlord-owned estates across the country. “A place to cultivate the gifts of nature, nurture the bounties that surround us… Plant seeds, till the soil and harvest crops… Let time fly as you catch fish at the fishing lake.” Hilarious, right?
Come to think of it, it’s been a trend for years. Vast landlord families-owned estates being turned into tourist resorts and fancy residential communities, as a way of circumventing land reform. Las Haciendas in Laurel, Batangas is one resort I’ve been to which seems to be another example of a landlord estate employing such scheme. And similarly, it also invites the wealthy to own leisure farms, and practice agriculture like it’s such a lovely, romantic activity.