Discovering a Trove of Cultural and Historical Relics at Villa Escudero

There’s only one country I haven’t been to. Nepal. I don’t know why – I just haven’t had the chance” – Don Ado told us after he overheard me asking my friend KarlaCan you guess how many countries he had traveled to?.” It wasn’t a question concocted out of the blue. I wondered about it after surveying through the massive art, historic, religious and souvenir collection housed inside Don Ado’s private mansion.

Koryn Iledan

A One-man Curator of History and Culture

Inheriting a flair for collecting mementoes of significance, from his parents Arsenio and Rosario Escudero – also the founders of Villa Escudero – Don Conrado (Ado) multiplied the family’s collection through his own passion of assembling relics with traditional, spiritual, artistic and historic importance. The house where he lives is dotted from wall to wall of items brought from all over the world. The hallway leading to the master’s and guest rooms are decked with paintings from prominent painters such as Fernando Amorsolo and Felix Resureccion Hidalgo just to name a few.

Karla Ramos and Kara Santos

What is truly remarkable is the absolute sharpness of Don Ado’s memory in recalling the tales behind most of his collections. At one point he pointed at a centuries old wooden arch adorned with intricate carvings “I got that at Yogyakarta. I passed by it near a temple and asked the caretaker if I can buy it. The next day I came in with a truck ready to haul it”.

Krizette chu

He ushered us deep inside his house entering a spacious living room filled with sculptures, statues, paintings, old photographs, colonial furniture and other what-haves one sees inside a museum.

Kara Santos marveling at the many artworks in Villa Escudero

With my mind blown away and jaw almost dropping to the floor, we ended our tour only to know we have yet to see the real collection of the Escudero family – all of which are kept but available for public viewing, at the Escudero Private Museum. “Now the real tour begins” Don Ado tells us.

Pink Church-like Museum of Villa Escudero

How would you react if I tell you that the original altar of Quiapo Church is still in well-preserved condition? And no, it isn’t the one you see inside the Minor Basilica of the Black Nazarene in Manila. The original altar is housed inside the Escudero Museum where it stands as a striking centerpiece surrounded by other religious and historical pieces.

No thanks to the Church’s post-war parish priest who wanted to replace the original altar with a new one, - and thanks to the Escudero family for recognizing the importance of conserving it, the original altar now serves as the  highlight of the museum.

If you're a history junky you will definitely have a splendid time inside the Villa Escudero museum. The place is almost stacked from wall to wall, ground to ceiling – on both floors of stunning and interesting pieces. There is also a section dedicated to taxidermy where you can see preserved animals such as the Philippine Eagle, the Tamaraw and many others. Most of which were from the many hunting soirees of the Escudero patriarch from the decades preceding WWII.

Information overload and visual feast surely awaits every visitor who enters the doors of the Escudero Private Museum. While I find all the facts explained to us by Chef Cocoy Ventura III – Villa Escudero’s Executive Chef -, hard to digest and compress inside my brain, I welcomed all the new-found knowledge I amassed because it felt like going on a time travel through Philippine history as well.

The Heritage Houses: Escudero Mansion and Casa Consuelo

But wait, there’s more” rang inside my head as If I was watching a home shopping show on TV, only this time more than products being advertised, we found ourselves being indulged by a very enlightening walking tour around the vast collection of the Escudero clan.

A sprawling well-manicured garden fronts the Villa Escudero Ancestral Mansion where the other surviving sisters of Don Ado resides. Not open for tourists, but we were fortunate to get inside with the permission from Don Ado. Made mostly from rare red narra wood, this pink and white mansion has a short flight of stair leading to the front door. Upon stepping inside you will quickly notice the dark brown wooden floor and thick marble table tops. 

Hanging lavish chandeliers, artworks from famed artists, iron candle stands, religious statues such as a life-size Nuestra Senora de Paloma made of solid ivory, and a sleeping Sto Nino (Santo Nino Dormido) are just among the eye-popping collections housed inside.

Casa Consuelo was an old ancestral house originally constructed in Pampanga in the later part of the 1800s and used to be owned by then Angeles City Mayor Don Esteban Gomez and his wife Doña Josefa Pamintuan de Gomez. It was bought and transferred to Villa Escudero piece by piece and reconstructed to its present site.

Today, it stands as a perfect accompaniment to the Escudero Ancestral House and Museum as an added attraction beaming with an appealing colonial architecture – specifically embodying the floral style prevalent in the late 19th century.

This is the only house that houses authentic antique furniture. There isn’t a single fake here,” Don Ado reveals in an earlier interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer. With wide windows and a roomy layout, the sunlight seeps through and brightens the interior adorned with mostly wooden materials and antique furniture.

Karla Ramos goofing in Villa Escudero

Various rooms surrounds the square-shaped hallway overlooking an expansive lobby. Imprints from the works of art from the who's who of the art world are kept in posterity inside this house. Isabelo Tampinco's sculptures, Chinese artisan Ah Tay's carved four-poster bed and renowned European furniture makers; August Thonet are just some of the highlight pieces found in this house.

Marky Ramone Go

Unlike the Escudero Ancestral Mansion, Casa Consuelo is included along with the main Museum, in the heritage tours being offered by Villa Escudero to their guests.

More than a place to unwind and relax close to nature, Villa Escudero – as I discovered, is also all about digging deep into our rich culture. If these beautiful vestiges of the past which the Escuderos have collected and stored could talk, expect to listen for hours, days and even weeks – as the stories it could tell might even last a lifetime. In the meantime, if you chance upon Don Ado, there is a big chance he will be willing to tell you some of these fascinating stories.


This article appeared in the March 18, 2018 issue of Business Mirror