Finding yourself at The Farm

By Lalaine Chu-Benitez


Three weeks in the Philippines of traipsing through hectic tourist-filled resorts promising sun, sand and fun, and I was somehow tired and jaded.  So the idea of a week at yet another ‘resort,’ didn’t particularly excite my now weary mind.  That is, until I set my eyes on this expansive sanctuary at the foothills of Mt. Malarayat in Lipa, Batangas, some 80 kilometers south of Manila.  There, I found so much more than just the rest and relaxation I was looking for.


A uniformed driver came to our Makati hotel that late morning to take my husband and me to The Farm – a highly acclaimed multi-awarded spa facility, hailed as One of Asia’s Top Spas, just this year by The Wall Street Journal.  Although, a week at the spa would always be a welcome retreat, I wondered how different this could be from the places we’ve been to before.  After all, a massage is a massage, is a massage – right?

So off we went South bound for a two hour ride. As soon as we passed the usual traffic which tapered off at the Alabang exit, the horizon widened to a view of lusciously green Laguna. Especially for folks like us who live in the dry and urban Dubai landscape where the sunlight is so stark, it was such a pleasure to cruise along, especially through Batangas’ Star Toll highway filled with rolling plains, coconut and mango groves and lines upon lines of mahogany trees.  It was quite a visual treat on a softly sunny day with blue skies dotted with puffy white cumulous clouds.

Within busy Lipa City, we suddenly turned at a nondescript side street, and followed a narrow road through some more groves, livestock farms and a steep but shallow tree-covered cliff leading to the foothills of Mt. Malarayat, until we reached The Farm’s lush but impeccably polished surroundings.  An organic coconut and coffee plantation filled with gardens of tropical trees, plants and flowers; ponds, rivers, lagoons and waterfalls, The Farm, in all its 119-hectare glory, is in a nutshell, nature orchestrated to perfection.

As soon as we disembarked at the reception area, we were greeted by General Manager Michael Di Lonardi, and his smiling staff who knew us by name and had our wellness program schedule conveniently at hand.  After a long ride on a warm day, it was great to be welcomed with a tall chilled glass of coconut juice and a refreshing cold wet towel infused with the invigorating scent of lemongrass.

Post check-in, we were promptly led through the palm tree lined driveway, then thru rolling lawns, passing a lake, and finally through a secluded walkway to our accommodation. Throughout the short walk, one couldn’t help but be awed by the sights and sounds of the place – the flawlessly mown carabao grass, the interesting mix of tropical flora, the meditation lounges that seem to spring up at every quiet corner, the calm stillness in the air, the view of the mountain, and just the sheer beauty of it all.  It is the kind of scenery that stops you in your tracks and compels you take it all in, inhaling the profound splendor in one long deep breath.

The Farm has several accommodation options, but we were fortunate to have a garden villa – a single detached lodging with its own garden cozily tucked within moss and bougainvillea covered concrete walls.  The well appointed Asian-inspired unit has shiny wooden floors, a king sized bed with a ‘kulambo’ canopy, surrounded by sliding glass doors virtually bringing the lush foliage into the bedroom. Just behind the sleeping area is a spacious dressing room-bathroom, featuring all natural toiletries – coconut milk soap, shampoo and conditioner, some lemon grass essence, and a multi-purpose bottle of cold pressed virgin coconut oil, all lovingly created at The Farm. But the piece de resistance has got to be the outdoor tub and rain shower, allowing you the distinctly sensuous pleasure of bathing under the stars to the sounds of crickets and cicadas at night.  Such a romantic and tasteful place by all accounts.

One thing you can’t find in the accommodations though are TV sets and internet connection.  And quite rightly so, because at The Farm, one is not only supposed to detoxify body, but also mind, so guests are encouraged to rid themselves from the ‘noise’ of technology – quite a tricky proposition for those perennially wired to the virtual world (note: Smart Bro doesn’t work in those parts, but the international Blackberry service does), or those looking for socials, partying or strenuous outings, as well as folks who simply cannot put their mobile phones down (caution: mobile phones are to be kept on silent mode here).  The Farm is meant to be an exclusive secluded sanctuary where you gear down to a calm unhurried pace, learn to be still, spend quality time with your mate or best pal, and just savor being in the moment.  Here, you watch and listen to nature and just allow it to nurture your state of being.

But certainly, The Farm has more than its share of healthy pursuits to keep anyone busy.  Within its grounds are three swimming pools, the Jungle Gym where one can participate in Callanetics, Pilates, core movement and trampoline dance, and the airy amphitheatre where silent meditation and yoga classes are held.  Those who are looking for other activities can try power walking, The Farm’s Oil of Life tour and Art of Climbing where participants are taught how to harvest coconut, the process of cold pressing and how to make soap using natural ingredients. If inclined, you may also join the vegan cuisine prep classes, flower arranging, or conversations related to health, wellness and spiritual well-being, which alternates with movie night at the main reception area. Better yet, indulge in an impromptu rain dance, if ever you have the pleasure of being in The Farm during monsoon season.

Speaking of nurturing the body, perhaps one of The Farm’s best facets, among so many others, is their highly acclaimed and awarded vegan restaurant ‘Alive!’  Here, well trained chefs whip up signature gourmet plant based raw foods, prepared with special techniques to resemble cooked foods.  Best of all, virtually all of the ingredients used in the dishes (as well as their spa concoction and toiletries) are grown, harvested and processed right within The Farm’s rich environs – from coconut fruit, milk and oils, to the luscious mangoes, avocados, bananas and other fruits, to the numerous varieties of greens, sprouts and herbs.  It is an effective and noteworthy attempt towards sustainable living from which we could all learn from.

As a junk food fan, the thought of eating raw vegetables for an entire week was quite disconcerting. But I became a firm believer as soon as I had my first beautifully plated, petite portioned flavorful five course meal which even miraculously included a moist chocolate marble pie.  Quashing all my negative expectations, vegan actually isn’t boring, and is not at all a sacrifice; I never felt any hunger pangs and, instead, learned to appreciate flavor subtleties.  In fact, after our weeklong stay, it was difficult to go back to old eating habits, let alone consume meat like I used to.  A week at The Farm not only makes one asses how they should be eating, but also adjusts your appetite and palate giving you better appreciation for natural good food.

Unlike other spas, The Farm is known as a medical and wellness retreat, where guests come for a variety of reasons more than just to get pampered. Some are there to convalesce from previous ailments, or to detoxify and lose extra weight; then there or those looking to establish good holistic health and people like us, who came to de-stress.  While guests with specific concerns can avail of European-inspired medical treatments which include holistic medical consultation, nutritional microscopy, colon hydrotherapy, kidney and liver cleansing, among others, there is also an extensive menu of spa services to please the most world weary of urban folks.

The Farm’s spa, Salus per Aquam, sits at the farthest side of the property, with its airy receiving area overlooking an infinity pool with an expansive view of Mt. Malarayat. There, on our first night, we were treated to a 90-minute relaxation massage which was absolutely magical; there’s nothing quite like a soothing evening massage done to the sound of rain.  In the following days we also tried Hampol – a treatment using herbs and hot compresses followed by “hilot” meant to improve blood circulation; the chlorophyll body wrap based on a malunggay concoction which leaves the skin amazingly supple; the seasonal delight body scrub with papaya and other seasonal fruits, as well as reflexology.

At The Farm, just when you think you have too much time in your hands, the days, spent on nurturing your body, clearing your mind, learning about healthy and sustainable living, and just enjoying the stillness of nature, pass by without you noticing.

Our last day was probably the most special one.  We started the morning early at the amphitheatre, the gloriously beautiful day in full view.  There we met The Farm’s resident physician, Dr. Jean Rosales for a meditation session.  After explaining to us the importance of looking at both health and spirituality as essentials to a good life, she took us through a breathing exercise and taught us how to focus on the process to attain a calm relaxed state.  The 15 minute session felt like time standing still – I floated in the comforting feeling of combined detachment and being in the moment effortlessly. When I opened my eyes, the visual and aural impact was so breathtaking that I experienced a moment of profoundness, finally understanding what it really meant to commune with nature and your spiritual side.  My husband and I sat there for a good hour just nurturing the feeling, imbibing the soft sun and the vision of dew drenched green all around us, listening to the gentle sounds of beautiful nature.

We grudgingly moved to Alive! for our last breakfast, and then for a final swim at the infinity pool at the spa, paying homage to Mt. Malarayat and the trees, savoring the final moments of quietude before we went back to the noisy bustling city.

We didn’t want to leave.  But despite our heavy hearts, we knew that we were taking back so much more: more than just the restful week in the beautiful countryside, made even more alive in our heads with the memory of crisp smelling lemongrass and basil, the delicately nuanced taste of fresh organic food, the soothing sensation of virgin coconut oil being rubbed on the skin, the feeling of having so much air to breathe in, and just the mere lightness of being.

We went to The Farm just to de-stress, but came out, not only restored, but somehow changed for life and certainly happier for it.


The Farm at San Benito – 119 Barangay Tipakan, 4217 Lipa City, Batangas, Philippines
Tel: +63 2 696 3795, Cell: +63 918 884 8078, Hotline Number:+63 918 884 8078

For more information, visit their website at: