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Sunday, February 08, 2009

Weekend at Sonya's Garden

We caught a whiff of this unique haven some two years ago when we had lunch there and, boy, what we saw, felt, smelled, heard, and tasted was too good to resist. However, we were then booked already at the Discovery Country Suites so we just vowed to enjoy Sonya’s Garden one day. That day came last weekend when we spent the night in this not-so-secret southern getaway located just at the fringes of Tagaytay City. And that we enjoyed our stay there tremendously is an understatement.

Choosing from among dozens is going to be painful but let me share just the five details I like best about Sonya’s Garden, in no particular order:

1. The gardens are simply wonderful. Flowers of all shapes, sizes, colors, and scents- including one that smells like butter!- populate a substantial amount of the property. I don’t know and I don’t really care if there was some planning of which flower grows beside what species; the end product is a sight for sore eyes. It’s an amateur photographer’s nightmare: I hardly knew which flowers to photograph first!

The garden, too, served as an unwitting key to unlocking memories. Our aunts who were with us reminisced about which flowers populated their home’s garden back in the day, educating us youngsters, in the process, about biology and our family heritage.

2. Guests will feel at home in any of the 12 cottages in the bed and breakfast area. We stayed in the Lavender cottage, a two-storey abode that comfortably housed our party of 13. The cottage is airy, thanks to the huge windows that allow the cool breeze of the hills to filter through.

The décor is distinctly Filipino but it is replete with hints that a well-traveled person owns the house. Sans tv, landline phone, or stereo, the place is really intended for those who want to master the art of just-relax-and-do-nothing.

The front door opens into the welcoming well-appointed living room and dining room.

My sister and brother in law, feeling a bit Town & Country in the Lavender cottage.

One of the numerous beds in the cottage, arguably the most interesting.

Loo with a view.

3. I adore the simple touches that render the place unique- from the interesting furniture, to the most inconspicuous of knick-knacks, within and around the cottage.

An earthen basin with fresh flowers greet guests at the cottage’s doorstep.

The day can be as lazy as this lounging amphibian at the nearby pond with koi fish.

Detail of the back rest of a bench in front of the cottage depicting the life of an indigenous Filipino trader.

The window greeting anyone who ascends the stairs to the second floor rooms.

Walking paths in the garden are lit at night by numerous capiz lamps.

4. The food at first glance appear to be akin to our daily fare but ordinary the meals here are not. From the bread, the salad, and the pasta for dinner; to the bangus, adobo, and omelet for breakfast- mealtimes are unique experiences which health buffs and those on see-food diet (when I see food, I eat food) will enjoy. The unending liters of dalandan juice for dinner and local hot choco for breakfast provide the perfect partner for the meals.

The irresistible savory character of the meals explains the dearth of photos. I also do not want to preempt future guests’ experience.

5. The members of the staff working with Sonya’s Garden are among the more professional and perceptive in the hospitality industry I’ve encountered. A party of 13 is not the easiest of guests to please but they managed to, um, smile and attend to our needs (and whims!).

For a respite from the stifling life in the city Sonya’s Garden may just be the place for you. It was indeed for me. No TV? No internet? No problem! There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore within the compound of Sonya’s Garden. Its wellness center has a lengthy list of massages to soothe the aches of the body; its Panaderia has goodies reminiscent of the products from the neighborhood bakery.

The Sonya’s Garden experience does not come cheap but it is worth every peso spent. And being serenaded at dinner by two authentic kundiman singers cum guitarists all the more sweetens the deal.

In case I suddenly become incommunicado, be sure to include this hideaway to the list of places you'd check my presence for.

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