The gal has to thank The Peninsula Manila for this trip to The Farm at San Benito. For some years now that luxury hotel has had a happy partnership with The Farm, a health retreat two hours away, up at 1,025 feet ASL in lush and verdant hilltop farmland (a German set up the retreat, which is now owned by Binoud Chaudhary, from Nepal, and Naresh Khattar, from Delhi). It is run by Rouel Guanzon, a Filipino-Canadian who was diverted to hospitality from his original career wish, to fly. He was heading marketing at The Peninsula Manila before coming here, which, as he says, was a natural transition. Chefs from the two establishments train together, and guests staying at the Manila hotel not surprisingly love to head to ‘the countryside’ for health and wellness..
My driver, indeed, opened the window as we climbed the last hill before reaching The Farm – ‘fresh air’, he said with a smile. I was in villa 30, in a row of detached pool villas called Narra, after one of the local woods. I had a 20-foot pool, deep enough for proper swimming, and with so much jungle undergrowth I had total privacy – see the video below. The villa, with big overhanging roof over a terrace with seating, had excellent air-conditioning, lighting and connectivity, and the bed was amazingly comfortable – I slept like a log, perhaps because of the air, and the hour-long hike I had taken round the estate and down past the local village. There are masses of activities planned every day.
I also had a somewhat soporific 2.5-hour massage journey, plus an hour long facial that turned out to be an assessment of breathing and various other functions by an aromatherapeutic doctor. Yes, you come here to be assessed and pampered and made better – many come to lose weight (there is alcohol, but the food is strictly vegan, no meat, fish, cheese or eggs and ‘butter’ is a coconut oil paste). I was actually really impressed, especially by main meals. At lunch I had a wheatgrass antioxidant shot, 21 calories; a grilled vegetables salad, 112 calories; a grilled tofu steak with steak sauce on the side, 216 calories. At dinner my calorie intake was undoubtedly raised by a glass of Delicato Family Vineyards 2013 Old Vine Zinfandel.
In the morning, after a workout in the Jungle Gym – well equipped, by the way – I shampooed with a coconut oil concoction in a ceramic vase, and went for breakfast. While pouring good local coffee from a plunger, I checked some of the recipes in Cleanse! Health and Wellness from The Farm at San Benito, by Jennifer Hazen (published by Narra Wellness Resorts Inc), and Raw! Healthful Recipes from The Farm at San Benito, by Michael Di Lonardo (published by Talisman Publishing Inc). These two really gorgeous paperbacks are practical as well as being great publicity for this luxury health resort. I was brought bowls both of unflavoured and mango yoghurt, both made from coconut milk, and four wholemeal bread rolls. Yes, perhaps I did feel cleansed. I certainly felt healthy. NOW SEE THE VIDEO