Post-COVID farm hopping bucket list

By Bernard L Supetran Philippine Daily Inquirer March 25,2020

The Farm at San Benito

Weeks before COVID-19 became a pandemic and an enhanced community quarantine due was put in place, I was already planning to feature a couple of farms or garden-themed resorts which have been offering a getaway for families, barkadas or corporate events. These so-called “farm resorts” are a merry mix of agricultural experiences, organic food and drinks, recreation, and a bevy of health-oriented activities.

The outbreak is a rude awakening for us to check on our diet, health, and lifestyle, to make us more resistant to viruses and even common illnesses. The good news is there are scores of alternative back-to-nature destinations at the doorstep of the metro which provide diversity to the usual inland resort, beach, or posh hotel staycation.

Let me clarify though that this is just a bucket list of sort while waiting for the go signal to hit the gas pedal to take us home to the country roads we missed.

Tagaytay. Even in the olden days, this ridge area has been a favorite rural hideaway because of its cool climate and the abundance of fruits and vegetables, as well as garden shops for ornamental plants. And of course, there’s the view of Taal Volcano and the placid lake, which in itself seem to have healing properties.

In the past few decades, it has caught the attention of farm and garden lovers to jazz up the area and offer an “enhanced” green experience by marrying agrarian ambiance and modern amenities.

Nurture Wellness Village pioneered the theme resort concept in 2001 with holistic, medically-supervised programs as its core product and supplemented by farm-to-table dining restaurant, and ethnic motif-rooms. There are also typical amenities such as swimming pools, a spa, jogging or walking paths, and gazebos and verdant spaces for lazing.

The award-winning resort also offers powdered kale juices, ready-made salads, and other organic produce at its mini farmers’ market. Nearby is the Nurture Farmacy where guests are taken for a tour on organic produce and medicinal plants.

With the onset of the corona virus, it has concocted a health program acronymed CHOICES, which stands for controlling stress, healthy eating, hydrating, oxygenating, immune boost through natural supplements, cleansing of the body, mind, and emotion, embrace natural therapies, and sleep, social and spiritual connections.

Its holistic packages are designed and overseen by a medical doctor and facilitated by a professional wellness team composed of a registered nurse, licensed nutritionist and dietitian, therapists and chefs. The treatments employ natural means to cleanse the body of toxins which lower our immunity.

A 15-km drive will take you to Sonya’s Garden in the Alfonso side of the ridge, which is famed for its intimate and elegant bed and breakfast lodging. Once a compact secluded “secret garden”, it has expanded over the years to offer lunch or dinner buffets, and welcome weddings and special events with farm-to-plate food.

It has also diversified into Sonya’s Botanicals which has product lines on organic skin and hair care, bath soaps, shampoo bar, feminine hygiene wash, beauty oil and liquid castile soaps.

To replicate its best practices, it is conducting a series of master classes on organic farming, and starting a bed and breakfast enterprise.

Across the Tagaytay ridge from Silang, Cavite to Laurel, Batangas there are pockets of gardens and farm-themed places where can have a pit stop for a snack with native coffee rich in anti-oxidants, and do your version of panic-buying for fruits, vegetables and medicinal plants, instead of alcohol, tissue paper or face mask.

Lipa City. Once known as the country’s coffee capital, it has a relatively higher altitude and a cooler climate than the neighboring towns and cities in Batangas, making it a sought-after hideaway for retirement places, recreational enclaves, farm-themed establishments, and more recently, glamping sites.

As if tucked in the middle of nowhere is The Farm at San Benito, an eco-luxury holistic medical wellness resort with 40 exclusive suites and villas, which has been around for almost two decades now. This 48-hectare patch of greenery has been offering natural medically-supervised health programs long before virus outbreaks became a fad and hit our shores in the early 2000s.

Its holistic treatments are planned and conducted by internationally–trained integrative doctors, nurses, spa therapists, nutritionists, living food experts, fitness coaches and yoga teachers. Not the typical agricultural farm that we know, it addresses lifestyle illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension, chronic pain, hormonal imbalance, as well as anxiety, stress and depression.

The Farm’s healing journey is focused on diagnosis, cleansing, nourishment, repair and sustenance to bring guests’ bodies to return to balanced state and achieve holistic optimum wellness. A recipient of the Best Medical Wellness Resort in the World award, it boasts of so-called life-changing holidays, which cover health optimization, executive health, cellular health, and non-invasive aesthetic beauty and anti-ageing treatments.

Worry not if you’re a carnivore, the resort can cook gourmet vegetarian dishes which approximate the richness steaks of steaks, bacons and hamburgers.

For a well-rounded retreat, it has tied up with Mount Malarayat Golf and Country Club for a crash course or a friendly round with fairway addicts from the south. Non-golfers can also relax in its resort-like facilities and local cuisine, most notably the bulalo. It is also offering a staycation package for two, which hopefully will resume once it reopens.

For a glimpse of Lipa’s storied past, swing by the San Sebastian Cathedral which has an impressive ceiling fresco painting, and the Casa de Segunda or the Luz–Katigbak ancestral house, the circa 1860 heritage museum which was the residence of one of Jose Rizal’s numerous charming girlfriends—Segunda Katigbak.

Before heading home, shop for fresh agricultural produce and Batangas delicacies at the roadside pasalubong stalls to help the local economy which is just recovering from the effects of the Taal Volcano eruption before getting hit with the Covid quarantine.

These are indeed enticing day trips which we can only dream of, for now. Meantime, let us heed the United Nations World Tourism Organization’s call to “stay home today, so we can travel tomorrow”.

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