• DON ADO ESCUDERO AND HIS SAN PABLO

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    In 1979, Don Ado Escudero – with the assistance of his siblings – made the bold move of starting to open his family’s hacienda to the public.

    A self-contained coconut plantation, Villa Escudero was founded in the 1880s by Don Placido Escudero and his wife, Dona Claudia Marasigan. Originally planted to sugarcane, the crop was converted to coconut by their son Don Arsenio Escudero in the early 1900s. A pioneering agro-industrialist, he built the country’s first hydroelectric plant to supply his dessicated coconut factory, and Villa Escudero, which he and his wife Dona Rosario Adap built in 1929.

    A 1957 graduate of Cornell University in New York, Don Ado had learned about farm management, new ways of handling farms, labor management, and how to motivate workers. He went back to school in 1963, this time taking Hotel and Restaurant Management, also at Cornell.

    “Upon my return, I knew that the only solution to overpopulation was to give people work,” he recalls. “I then thought that a tourism oriented business was perfect because it requires a lot of labor.’

    With three staff, including himself – “I was the cook and got two of my mother’s household help to join me, I invited friends to come over and have a picnic at the place.” Thus, began the transformation of Villa Escudero from a plantation into one of the country’s major tourist attractions.

    Villa Escudero officially opened to the public in 1981, and today has a worldwide reputation as a showcase of the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines, offering a beguiling glimpse of its history, cuisine, dress, customs, and natural beauty.

    As President and General Manager of Villa Escudero Plantation Resort, Don Ado is proud of the fact that “I have today one thousand employees who are ready to entertain a large number of guests.” Having contributed much to the country’s tourism, Don Ado is a perfect guide around his San Pablo, his SM.

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    Don Ado Escudero at the launch of My City, My SM in San Pablo. With him are his sister Rosalie Escudero Blume, sister-in-law Millie Escudero, nephew Dondon Escudero, and SM’s Gabriel Timothy Exconde, Jason Terrenal and Millie Dizon.

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    Don Ado promotes local tourism through his Filipino themed Villa Escudero Plantation and Resort, a showcase of our country’s rich history and culture.

    “I consider San Pablo my hometown. We are totally San Pablenos, born in San Pablo, educated in San Pablo. My ancestors are also here from San Pablo – my grandfather, Don Placido Escudero was the first judge in San Pablo, and was the one who issued an edict that every citizen of San Pablo was to plant one coconut a day, which made us a coconut country. He was also one of the founders of the Katipunan.

    San Pablo was the first chartered city under President Manuel L. Quezon. The first appointed mayor was my father, and he turned it over to Don Potenciano Malvar.”

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    Lake Sampaloc

    “If I would bring visitors around San Pablo, I would bring them around the lakes and the churches.”

    San Pablo is known as the City of Seven Lakes, the largest of which is scenic Lake Sampaloc. Nearly half of the circular lake’s depth has a shallow depression on the lake’s bottom, indicating its volcanic origin. Located behind San Pablo City Hall, it is dotted with fishpens and small cottages on stilts. The massive silhouette of Mt. Cristobal forms a beautiful background on the east.

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    Don Ado inside the AERA Museum

    “I have collected antiques for over 40 years and have a little of everything. I was influenced by my parents’ habit of collecting things from the bodegas of other houses.”

    Don Ado at the AERA Memorial Museum. The museum, founded by spouses Arsenio and Rosario Escudero, houses one of the largest collections in the country. Housed in a replica of a long gone church in Intramuros with painted trompe-l’oeil ceilings, the present building opened for viewing in 1987. The core of the collection is its trove of colonial religious art, mostly dating from the Spanish colonial era. Reflecting a lifetime of dedicated collecting and the wide- ranging interests of the Escudero couple, there are also extensive collections of Oriental ceramics, natural history and ethnographic dioramas, costumes, household furniture, weaponry, and many other items of interest collected in their travels around the world.

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    Carroza of the Santo Entierro

    “San Pablo is known for having the most beautiful holy week procession.”

    Part of the AERA Memorial Museum is the Carroza of the Santo Entierro, a bequest from Dona Luisa Javier vda de Quiogue and family to her relative Don Arsenio M. Escudero and family May 1968. The Santo Entierro is part of the Good Friday procession in San Pablo City. This Carroza is the only one for the Santo Entierro known to have been created by the renowned sculptor Isabelo Tampingco. Commisioned by the Quiogue family, its framework is in kamagong wood and is decorated with gilded carvings of native flora in the distinctive style pioneered by Tampingco. It also has beaten silver accents and details. The Carroza used to be part of the Good Friday processions of Sta. Cruz Church in Manila from the turn of the century until the Second World War. It was then dismantled and the various components scattered and hidden to protect them during the course of the conflict. The scattered pieces were not fully recovered until the 1960s when they were given by the Quiogues into the care of the Escudero family. Dona Rosario Escudero supervised the reassemply and restoration of the various pieces.

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    Don Ado and James Cooper by man-made falls at Villa Escudero

    “I have a formula to make guests come back . . . eat all you can! Also providing a venue for weddings and other events.”

    Don Ado with good friend James Cooper by the man-made falls at Villa Escudero. Lunch at the Labasin Waterfall Restaurant is served at dining tables unique set in a few inches of cool running water from the falls. The experience of dining on delicious native cuisine, with the sparkling waterfall as a background, plus clear spring water running around your feet is enjoyable and memorable.

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    Coconut cookbook and Kulawo

    “ San Pablo is of course well known for the lanzones, coconut goodies, and ginataan dishes.”

    With coconut as its major crop, San Pablo is known for ginataan dishes or dishes cooked in coconut milk, like kulawo, which is made of eggplant in burnt coconut cream.

    Don Ado has celebrated his hometown’s exquisite coconut cuisine in The Coconut Cookbook, which he published several years ago.

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    SM City San Pablo

    “It’s good we have an SM Mall in San Pablo, where everything is fresh and price-controlled. I am very trusting – when you say twenty pesos, you know it’s the real value. It feels so good to be buying from well-managed and honest establishment that is clean and safe at the same time.”

    SM City San Pablo, one of SM’s three malls in Laguna, brings SM’s shopping, leisure, and entertainment excitement to the area.

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    SM Supermarket Wine Bar

    “At the Supermarket, I buy wines and German porcelain as gifts for weddings.’

    Don Ado buys supplies for the Villa at the Wines and Spirits section of SM Supermarket.

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    At Ace Hardware

    “You can get just about anything from SM . . . no transferring . . . no traffic.”

    Don Ado also shops for supplies for the Villa at ACE Hardware, which he says is a big help since he doesn’t have to order abroad most of the time.