The Villa Escudero Folkloric Group is keeping Philippine arts and culture alive, one dance at a time.
We talk a lot about cultural events here but, aside from DDA 2017, there’s barely anything about dancing.
I participated in the Rehiyon Rehiyon Festival back in elementary. Our school represented a region from Mindanao, which was my only personal experience with any Philippine ethnic and occupational dances.
At the time I might not understood what the dance was about but it was definitely more than just to entertain. Just as a writer uses words, dancers tell stories through movement.
National Artist for Dance Mr. Ramon Obusan best described it in his article entitled Rituals in Philippine Dance:
For the Filipino, there is no higher symbolic form than a dance. Transcendent of the spoken language and laden with the most profound emotional content, dance represents the distillation of collective memory, affect, religious piety, humility, and purity of intention. When the message is so complex, it is at times articulated in a dance.
The Villa Escudero Folkloric Group is one of his living legacies, established in 1990. The group is currently under the care of dance master Nestor Cortez, which performs at the Coco Pavilion every weekends.
After a sumptuous and refreshing lunch by the waterfalls, we joined the crowd who was unaware that they were in for a treat!
It has been tradition for Villa Escudero Folkloric Group dancers to come together, both old and new, and do a special show during the group’s anniversary. This year they did a 19-part production of local traditional dances from the Philippines, Spain, Mexico and neighboring Asian countries. This was accompanied by live music using ethnic instruments or a Rondalla band.
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They gave away handmade souvenirs to the audience before capping off with Tinikling dance. TIP: guests who wish to dance with the group may do so but would have to be arranged in advance. Once in a while, Don Ado Escudero happily shared facts and stories about the group. He said that certain props like the clay pots are real (that’s so heavy!). The same with the knives, but are dull for safety reasons. Also, retired dancers transition to resort staff so that they continue to provide for their families.
We also had to chance to drop by the costume department with Sir Nestor the following day. He shared that learning the basic steps requires new dancers to train everyday for three months. They perform on stage at least 12 consecutive times to master a simple choreography. That means three times a week for the next 4 weeks! Such dedication!
I do not have any recollection of the first time we’ve watched the Villa Escudero Folkloric Group. Yes, my family has been to the resort at least 15 years ago but that’s another story. I’m thankful for opportunity at an age where I can appreciate them more. Every segment of their performance was beautiful and authentic – the colorful costumes, their smiles and the passion for the arts. I highly recommend that you take time to see the Villa Escudero Folkloric Group on your next visit!
Villa Escudero Plantations and Resort is located in Tiaong, Quezon Province, Philippines.