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Places to Unplug
Sometimes, the antidote to the busy and frenetic city life is simple: to get away for a weekend (or a three-day weekend) and recharge with nature. A study headed by professors from Stanford University in the USA found that taking a 90-minute walk through nature is highly beneficial to mental health. How much more two days spent unplugged?
But where do you begin? It is not too difficult to find places where you can sit back, put your feet up, and just enjoy being. Here are some destinations you can visit with your family.
Pundaquit is actually a town where many coves and islands were “formed” after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991. Accessible by boat, most of them have no electricity and so, are perfect places to leave the noise of the modern world behind. Among the most quiet options for an overnight or two-night R&R are Nagsasa and Talisayen Cove.
The sand is fine and light and the water crystal clear and shades of blue. Tents are provided, but you will need to either bring food and drinks or buy from the neighborhood store (they don’t cost much more and you would be helping the community). Prepare to sleep with the sound of the waves softly caressing the sand and awaken as the wind blows through the mountains.
Fun Plus: Swimming and sunning will never get old and boring all day.
Contact: A travel agency in Manila to arrange transportation and a tent. Or you can ask help from the Tourism Office in town.
Get there: Ride a bus bound for Zambales from Cubao and alight at San Antonio. From there, you can go to the Tourism Office and arrange for a tricycle, then a boat, to take you to one of the coves.
Romblon is not so popular with tourists because of the difficulty of accessibility. But when you get to Tiamban Beach, the white sand and gin-clear water will reel you in and you won’t want to step on dry land anymore. The place is very natural and untouched. Just the sea and the sand, and you. Bring a beach blanket to lie under the shade during the precariously hot noon hours. You can buy food from town and bring it with you. You can rent one of the cottages or you can just enjoy a picnic with a view, front and center, of the sparkling water.
Fun Plus: Not too far away is equally pristine Bonbon Beach that features a sandbar!
Contact: Tiamban Beach Resort: +63 908 554 4975
Get there: Take a boat from the Batangas pier to Romblon. From the port, you can hire a tricycle to take you to the beach.
If you’re craving a mountain high, then the distance to Sagada, Mountain Province should not deter your desire to commune with nature among the pine trees and foggy weather. Though the town itself has become more popular with tourists, there are still many pockets in this mountain where you can stay still and soul-search. One of them is Sagada Rock Inn, that is situated in an orange orchard—and you can try your hand at picking the luscious fruits when they are in season: around October.
There is no wifi and cell signal is hard to come by; there is a dap-ay (traditional circular place to gather) or many shaded areas where you can read, dream, think or simply stare out and bask in the silence.
Fun Plus: The best yoghurt to be hand in all of Sagada is made and served here!
Get there: Take a GL bus from Baguio to Sagada (leaves in the morning) or take a van service there.
Beaches and mountains are not the only sources of respite. Retreat to a secluded, offline farm with a river running through it. The Mango Grove at Bancal River is 24 hectares full of organically-grown fruits and vegetables. The rooms are spacious with en suite bathrooms and all airconditioner-cooled. You can lie on a hammock by the river while the children try riding a kayak or stand-up paddleboard down the very still, very clean Bancal River.
Or you can set down a blanket and sun yourself on the terrace. Or you can dine looking out at the rows and rows of mango trees. The choices for relaxation abound. There is a 1,000-sqm demo farm that shows how a family can be self-sufficient the whole year round. You can try your hand at planting lettuce or pruning the herb garden.
Fun Plus: All the employees at the farm are part of the families that were relocated there after the Mt. Pinatubo erupted in 1991.
Get there: Take a Victory Liner bus from Cubao to Iba, Zambales; then, a tricycle from the bus terminal. You can also drive and turn right upon seeing the directional sign, just after the welcome arc to Iba.
Don Salvador Benedicto
The setting is pristine—Don Salvador Benedicto is dubbed as the “Baguio of Negros”. The elevation as well as the richness of flora and fauna prove that the moniker is well deserved. The huts are surrounded by thriving gardens, and there are views of undulating hills all around.But aside from the location, the philosophy of healing with natural food pervades Rapha Valley. You will be served fresh greens and fruits, brown or red rice, and meat substitutes or fish. Most of the produce comes from the organic farm cultivated here. You can sign up for the tour and educational walk led by the proprietor and wizard of the kitchen, Dr. Albert Jo, who believes that everything we eat should heal us.
Fun Plus: Enjoy Dr. Jo’s very informative conversations about the health benefits of everything in nature!
Get there: Take a plane to Bacolod (Silay) City. From the bus terminal, take a bus to Don Salvador Benedicto. Or arrange for private car pickup or even a pickup by resort staff.
Situated on top of a hill overlooking Sarangani Bay and surrounded by beautiful flowering plants and trees, the Sarangani Highlands Garden is a safe and secluded sanctuary in the south. The seabreeze keeps the air fresh and your mood in full vacation mode. You can walk through the gardens, admiring the variety and vibrancy—you cannot help but take photos. You can also sit with a view of the waves crashing below. You can also spend time feeding the fish in the koi pond.
Enjoy the songs of the birds and spotting butterflies and other friendly bugs flying and fluttering about.
Fun Plus: You can come out and enjoy entertainment in the restaurant at night.
Get there: Take a plane to General Santos City. The resort is a short drive away from the airport and the city proper.
By Mari-An Santos