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Zambawood: Of Stories and Synchronicities

The bus bound to Zambales left Caloocan terminal at 5pm. Leaving Manila for a 5-hour bus ride, alone in the coming dark without really knowing my exact location, was quite a scary, daring act for me. After passing winding roads of Olongapo, I saw the middle of nowhere. Huge open spaces drowned in pitch black night separate small houses. I didn’t even know where the sea was. I was trying to piece the fragments of Google map I checked earlier that day, but they were still broken in my memory. All I knew was I must drop off the town called San Narciso, the location of this newly opened resort where my friends were now already having their dinner. One of our hosts, Sid, had been contacting me up to the time I arrived. A string of messages and a few calls from him assured me that I was nearing the town and, thankfully, I did not get lost.

I spotted the white van where Sid and his friend Ivy rode to pick me up near San Narciso bus stop. Warm and friendly, they immediately introduced themselves and asked how was my bus ride. It was so smooth, I told them. Though I found it to be very long, I had enjoyed the time of reflecting my thoughts and feelings, wondering about the resort that I only knew by name, yet the surprise, events and new people ahead were all beyond me.

The night never hindered me to see the trunks and brush-like leaves of pine trees along our way, as the van’s headlights cast upon them. During that 5 minute drive to our destination, I asked Sid and Ivy about its story and its characters. Matutuwa ka kay Rachel, Sid told me. He and Ivy briefly described Rachel Harrison and her beautiful reason behind putting up the resort. I always love authentic stories and writing about them, and that thrilled me enough to know more about the place, to meet Rachel and listen to her whole story.

photos by Claire Madarang

photos by Claire Madarang

We arrived at the place. On its outside wall mounted the resort’s name, white-painted bold letters on a slab of old wood. Zambawood has white walls from the outside, outlined with natural brown from its wooden entrance. The glow and shadows of dim moroccan lights blend with its façade into romantic tone. Sid and Ivy guided my way as we entered through its enormous wooden door, which reminded me the many majestic doors I saw in Bali. This place is not just a resort, I thought.

I saw Rachel with the rest of my friends and a group of guests at the dinner table. Rachel beamed with excitement, shook my hands right away and smiled so warmly that I never thought I would expect from an owner of a resort. In many resorts and hotels I stayed at, owners greet their guests because it is always about excellent customer service. Rachel, who reminded me of my spiritual friends her age, greeted me like she was meeting an old friend from another lifetime. She received me, radiating her genuine aura, and I presumed she did the same to my friends earlier that day. I never count first impressions; a person’s energy is far more accurate and trustworthy, like feeling a physical temperature (hence, the idiomatic warm and cold). Hers was a warmth you reserve only for family and closed friends. That was for me a wonderful clue to a story waiting to be told.

***

A bonfire was set up after dinner just a few feet away from the building. Everyone was trying to roast sticks of hotdog and marshmallows over crackling fire. The fire, as it did thousands of years ago among primitive human beings, always and never fails to spark storytelling. As a few of us gathered around the fire, Rachel and I also had a chance to exchange stories. What do you do, what’s your blog about, she asked. I write about Love, I replied. For a while, we had shared some thoughts about my passion on practicing Love and writing, and her personal reflections and life insights. It was enough for a story starter.

About 15 minutes people left the bonfire one by one, I included. It seemed that everyone was readying to rest, as others had just gone to bed. That night I was about to finish some writing tasks, so I switched on my PC, connected to a WiFi and continued with my work. I joined Rachel, as she was also working on her Mac at the table just next to Zambawood’s elegant kitchen. I told her some of my thoughts and asked her questions about her place. She shared one of her therapeutic habits at the resort – stargazing and moongazing. You are really into this, I told her. Metta! she enthused. I told her at the bonfire this Buddhist teaching of Love, which steered our conversation back again to Love.

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photo by Claire Madarang

I remembered my old hero Leo Buscaglia, who said if he is asked for a moment to choose between people and things, he would always choose people. Leo taught a radical way of living Love principles in the 70s and the 80s. For this kind of rare conversation, I always choose the way Leo had chosen. So without saying, I decided to stop the writing tasks and hibernated my pc. Rachel, on the other hand, decided to cancel her massage scheduled that night. When Ivy and Sid overheard our lively exchange, we invited them to join. Gio, Ivy and Sid’s friend, whom I hadn’t seen earlier, also joined us. Davis, who is part of the When in Manila group, and Martin, Zambawood’s chef and Rachel’s nephew, joined us too. We moved to the long table where we had had our dinner, just outside the glass door next to the infinity pool. We continued the conversation in a bigger group, this time we had a new bonfire – Love.

For the next 2 hours, we were enthusiastically sharing each other’s thoughts, insights and reflections about the many facets of Love, like relationships and happiness (Rachel: you have to be happy with yourself first, in order to be happy with others), and money (Gio: you don’t think of money, you think of abundance; Sid: You use money, but you Love people). We’d lost count of our aha moments on beauty and goodness, on daily struggles and understanding life in general, on work and time, on self-awareness and personal meaning.

Gio told us that this kind of conversation is something rare and tough to hold with other people. I agree, because a topic like Love is too hot to handle. It provokes so many, yet it evokes only few. Provoke, because many people view Love based only on usual romanticized notions. Evoke, because, for some inexplicable yet amazingly coincidental reasons, resonant people converge and converse on Love’s deeper dimensions. There are no judgments in this kinds of conversations, Sid said. I couldn’t agree more. Love is, in its most uncommon and unheard definition, thoughts and feelings minus judgment.

I again witnessed what Carl Jung termed as synchronicity – meaningful but wholly unrelated events. For me, it’s this connecting principle of Love, converging at some point of our experiences. When Sid told me he already read The Celestine Prophecy, that deepened my faith on this meeting. I always meet people outside my circle, but it was rare (only 2 people to be exact) to hear someone saying they read a book that I considered one of the most important life-changing text in my spiritual path. I only met Sid, Rachel and the rest of them for this particular occasion, privileged of responding to this invitation of the beautiful Zambawood. Synchronicities happen, nonetheless. They are blessings that connect people of unrelated timelines, worlds and worldviews. In hindsight, all those constellations of events are like dots finally threaded together. Kaya pala, Sid exclaimed.

We only spent 2 hours, yet the whole conversation was like a 4-hour worth. This is one magic of Love – its time is never the ticking of clocks or flipping of calendars; it collapses eternity in the beating of the heart.

***

I only had 2 hours of sleep, yet I woke up first. The rest of our group were still asleep in the long bedroom. (Here, no bed sheets are sterile white. Rachel has a taste for colors and patterns, and each bed has a unique set.) I opened up the glass window near my bed, and saw this part of Zambales’ slowly rising warm morning. Outside, I could see the pine trees, and the gray beach sand. Zambawood sits where pine trees tower around. I was told that they have grown abundant years after Mt. Pinatubo erupted.

photo by Paula Anntoneth O

photo by Paula Anntoneth O

A few meters away towards the west, I could hear the muffled sound of the waves. Claire and I had a short morning walk to the beach. We met a fisherman hauling by himself a huge net, which I first thought was for harvesting huge fishes. Another fisherman came and helped him. Then, their wives approached with a plastic basin and pail on their hands. As the kuyas came, the ates helped them grab the pail of seawater and poured its contents into the white basin. Using a plastic bowl, they scooped what seems to be tiny, invisible creatures. Looking closer, they were actually harvesting bangus fingerlings – small and transparent with two black pinpoint eyes, swimming wildly in what was otherwise clear seawater. Sold for about 50 centavos each, lucky fisherfolks can make as much as PhP3,000 in just one harvest. Husbands fish, wives gather. Huge nets, tiny fingerlings, big income. Indeed, a circle of life.

san narciso fisher folks

photos by Claire Madarang

The sun was already up in the beach when my travel friends and I had a fun and lighthearted morning with the trio of Sid, Ivy and Gio. They shared stories of their friendship (of which includes Ken, the one who manages around at Zambawood), how they knew each other from the very start, poked fun at each other’s weakness, helped each other in their difficult days, and how, again, in the light of synchronicities, found themselves working together as events professionals and as best of friends. They are all giving their time and effort to introduce Zambawood to the world. And while they have the skills in marketing, social media, styling and managing projects, on top of everything are their souls knitted together by one simple vision: they all believe in Rachel and her Zambawood. Before I left Zambales, I finally understood why.

***

Rachel and her British husband Keith Harrison have 3 grown kids. Julyan is the middle child. A few years after giving birth to Julyan, some noticed that he was not as sociable as other babies. He kept hiding under the bed or playing alone, showing little emotion. Rachel never thought of anything unusual about him. To her, he seemed well like any other kids. But she grew suspicious and thought he might be mute, so they consulted a doctor to check his condition. It was then she discovered that Julyan has autism. Bumagsak talaga ang mundo ko, she said. She cried so hard. To confront the challenge, she devised her battle plan.

Julyan Harrison today | photo by Claire Madarang

Julyan Harrison today | photo by Claire Madarang

Even without the convenience of today’s internet in the early 90s, Rachel’s first instinct was to study autism. She took all the chance – she visited libraries and bookstores, read every material her hands could hold just to learn more about the condition that struck her little boy. When Keith was assigned In Switzerland, Rachel found it too difficult to adjust. Naturally kindhearted, he allowed Rachel to fly to California with Julyan. After a series of calls to several universities in Europe, Rachel received 5 graduating students who observed and treated 2-year old Julyan, spending 8 intensive therapy hours everyday.

I left no stones unturned, Rachel said. For 12 straight years, Julyan went under the hands of so many doctors and spent time on all available therapies in a period when autism barely reached mainstream awareness. The twelfth year was an ultimatum. Rachel eventually came into her senses. One of Julyan’s doctors saw her too wasted, drained and stressed. He advised her to just stop. More than Julyan, it was Rachel who broke down, suffered and almost lost herself to her son’s condition. Rachel heeded her doctor’s call, and began to save herself and her family from her imminent fall.

Julyan is a gift. Rachel’s tears rolled as she began this sentence. She was thrown back again to her past struggles. Twelve years of tough learning, of finally accepting Julyan and who he is. However, the journey did not end there. Now laughing at her eyeliner being messed up by her tears, she told me another phase of Julyan’s story, from the twelfth year and ahead. She was frustrated after bringing Julyan to Singapore, which at the time did not have facilities for children with special needs. Keith thought of bringing Julyan to the UK, but that was too much for her not to see her beloved son. She considered Singapore, but eventually thought Philippines. She revisited her parents’ old property here in Zambales, and planned to design a place where Julyan can be free. It was a place for him to play around, to learn more, and to grow well.

After those many years of moving around the world, Rachel and her family returned to Zambales and started to make it their new home. It brought her grounding and a deeper sense of family and inner peace. I learned from Sid that this part of the town is called Baranggay La Paz – Spanish for ‘peace’. There, in the middle of a pine forest by the sea, this place has encouraged Rachel more to bring the family together and bond with one another, for them to feel and be at home and to find this elusive peace that is all within her.

***

For some time the resort was rough and raw; Rachel’s challenge was to consistently monitor the whole construction since she occasionally comes to the Philippines, refining it within the last 3 years. Gusto ko lahat glass. Rachel wanted natural light to come in. With her flair for interior design, her architectural background and taste for arts, culture and wellness, her vision for Julyan has shaped their new home.

photo by Claire Madarang

photo by Claire Madarang

Within those years, a number of independent filmmakers frequented the area, seeing it as an ideal filming location. As an allusion to Hollywood, they christened the place Zambawood. Now, this vacation home-turned-resort remains Julyan’s playground and learning place. Here, Rachel becomes Julyan’s down-to-earth teacher, guide, tutor, therapist. Opening Zambawood to the public both as a high-end resort and as a healing hub for special children, Rachel wears her new hats as an entrepreneur, an advocate and a visionary. For these reasons, unrelated as they may seem to me as a writer, we got all in sync with this one inspiring network of possibilities – Rachel with her Love for Julyan, Sid and his friends with their friendship and event planning skills, my travel blogger-friends with their thrill as wanderlusts, and me with my Love for writing and Love.

This is not just a resort. I never doubted that insight. I told Rachel and Sid that Zambawood strikingly reminds me of Esalen Institute. Located in the rocky coast of Northern California, Esalen Institute, once home to American Native Indians, Esalen has become the birthplace of the Human Potential Movement (with big names like psychologists Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, philosophers Alan Watts and Aldous Huxley, as well as present-day spiritual teachers like Deepak Chopra and Gary Zukav). It was in Esalen where the concepts of healing, meditation and spirituality started to become mainstream. It was a hub of conversation for transformative thinking that has now spread across the world. The conversations we had, a meeting of minds and hearts, makes me feel that Zambawood blooms like a little Esalen, giving birth to something that will change the country and the world. No one knows, but our spirits are open. Zambawood can do its magic in many ways.

***

Rachel Harrison | photo by Claire Madarang

Rachel Harrison | photo by Claire Madarang

Rachel’s journey with Julyan’s growing years is daring the dark and the middle-of-nowhere, a far cry from my 5-hour ride to Zambawood. She has arrived to where Zambawood continues to become – a home of healing and Love. I am grateful that through Rachel’s journey, I arrived too, to see Zambawood in its beautiful becoming, a place of stories and synchronicities, of meeting beautiful people and enjoying a weekend of meaning, bonding, and returning to spirit.

Zambawood has a lot to offer. Please check the following blog posts from my fellow bloggers:

The Zippy Zambawood by Paula Anntoneth O

Visit the website at Zambawood.com

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Looking Back, Leader’s Will and Lingayen

Looking back. Lingayen was an old Pangasinense word lingawen, which sounds almost like Tagalog lingunin. Lingon is the root word, and it’s like when you turn your head to see again what you are leaving or left behind – either the place you have been to or the memories you want to remember. Lingawen was what people did back in the early times, when, as they leave Lingayen, they looked back to see once more the huge tree that was once rooted in the town plaza. As I write this, I am trying to do just that: to look back at Lingayen more than just an interesting town.

In my first summer morning in Lingayen, the sun was hypnotic. I found myself, almost unmindful, walking along Maramba boulevard, which ended in front of a huge public park. Here I had a chance to breathe in lukewarm but fresh breeze of the countryside. Walking here lit up special thoughts, being grateful of seeing such a quaint and beautiful place. I was almost tempted to compare the place with the ones I saw in American movies but that was plainly an injustice to what was really here. I felt more grateful, for as simple as this park is not somewhere else offshore, but here within the country, within my reach, only after a 6-hour smooth bus ride from Manila.

Aguedo F. Agbayani Park. Photo by Claire Madarang.

Trees in this park were more joyous compared to the cities. Lured by them, I continued walking and saw from afar a tall sculpture. He looked like Manuel Quezon to me, but that was a naïve thought. His name is Aguedo F. Agbayani. The park was named after him, and looking at his sculpture hinted me his greatness. That’s one nice way to look back: people have a place to remember the legacy of a leader and to enjoy a cool late afternoon. The next day we went back to the park, it was livelier with people taking pictures, a family strolling with kids, a pair of lovers sitting on one of the benches lined along the brick path.

These days, cities have more malls to stroll in, billboards and ads to distract our senses. This area of Lingayen has a beauty that many of us in the city miss out. No ads, no shops around. (The busy area was in the downtown where the church is) Only trees, branches and leaves; only quiet benches and huge grassy patch of earth. At the park’s center was the only huge structure, the old capitol building. It’s a living history, an architecture that dates back to 1918. Still stands after the war, its façade was painted white and creamy yellow.

photo by Rem Tanauan

Pangasinan Capitol Building. Photo by Rem Tanauan.

***

While Claire was taking some pictures of the capitol building, some of our friends went ahead inside. The building was still open to public. We later saw them on the building’s roof deck, waving their hands at us. It’s because that night was part of a month-long Pistay Dayat, a festival that celebrates the blessings of Pangasinan. Dayat means “sea”. The sea is the Lingayen Gulf, just at the northernmost part of the capitol grounds. We walked on its grayish dense beach sand lit up with a strong halogen lamp. I was surprised to see a clean, uncommercialized beach in Pangasinan’s capital. Mica, a travel friend and a Pangasinan native, told me that the beach was once crowded, but their current governor ordered to clean it up.

photo by Rem Tanauan

Pistay Dayat (Sea Festival). Photo by Rem Tanauan.

That was a bold move, I thought, especially in this age when commercialism is contagious in many cities of the world. Just by looking around in this progressive yet rustic town, Lingayen reminds me of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Featured in a documentary film, the city mayor banned all billboards and ads. Five years and counting, Sao Paulo’s urban charm and grandeur that was once masked by all commercialism has unfolded gracefully. It’s a remarkable example it sets for the world. Lingayen does it in its own right.

We spent our last afternoon in Lingayen by walking again to the beach. Families with their kids crowded the long stretch, happily enjoying their summer for free. With only a few ambulant vendors around, the vibe of getting together, in the middle of laughter and smiles seeing boys skimboarding and people swimming, picnicking and beach bumming, was a dynamic, collective, genuine energy of human relationships. That was the best thing in sunset to see in that place.

photo by Rem Tanauan

Lingayen Gulf. Photo by Rem Tanauan.

***

Neither the former governor Aguedo Agabayani nor the incumbent Amado Espino Jr. is familiar to me, yet my brief visit in Lingayen Pangasinan gave me a glimpse of their presence. I don’t know much about them, but I can only trust the energy I feel. I thought that the word politics (which at many times I distrust) was inappropriate to describe it. The word leadership does more justice to give that felt energy a name. More than political will, there is a leader’s will. Perhaps that sense moves these leaders to boldness and Pangasinan to its subtle greatness.

I presume that this boldness also moved Fidel Ramos to presidency. We got a glimpsed of the replica of the former president’s ancestral house, just sitting on a small street from Maramba boulevard. His old days in the town nurtured him, as seen in most of his pictures and books that he authored, priding himself the child of Lingayen. At the back of the house is The President’s Hotel, where my friends and I stayed for a few nights. It gives the quality, presidential service to every guest they receive. Inspired by Ramos’ presidency, the hotel was named as a tribute. Another way of looking back at Lingayen’s legacy through the hotel’s name.

photo by Rem Tanauan

A portrait of Urduja. Photo by Rem Tanauan.

I forgot that Pangasinan is home to Urduja but I was happy to remember. Urduja is Pangasinense’s legendary leader, an ancient icon of boldness. She – and not he – was their history’s sacred feminine, a woman and a warrior immortalized in many of their local legends and stories. Governor Espino paid tribute to her by erecting the Urduja House. Inspired by Balinese architecture, the house serves as an elegant venue where the provincial government hosts small events and receives important guests. We had a brief tour inside the house right before we had our last stop at the beach. I remembered Urduja’s portrait hanging inside its reception area. Her image beautifully haunted my memory, her fierce eyes reminding the Jungian archetypes of anima and femme fatale, a raw power of leadership, of leader’s will.

A friend and psychology teacher Reimon Cosare told me the meaning of pinuno, the Tagalog word for “leader”. He pointed out that our definition and sense of leadership has been shaped by the West. Unfortunately, our native understanding of leadership was lost. He seemed to resurrect this forgotten understanding. Punò (tree), nunò (ancestor), punô (filled) are anagrams of pinunò. He weaved a story out of this words: punò, a tree, firm and rooted, growing inside, expanding outside, fruitful and alive, is symbolic of a leader. nunò, an ancestor, old or dead,  is always revered for his/her wisdom. Both are punô, in essence are filled – or more precisely, fulfilled. For me, this story of leadership in words is directly symbolic, resolute and primordial, the still-pulsing relic of leader’s will.

Now, I’m looking back at Lingayen, at its ancient, archetypal tree. Perhaps I got a glimpse of leader’s will in the living force of Lingayen’s political legacy. I’m not into anything politics, but with its gloomy landscape nowadays, I still hope and care for a change. This is a looking back, a paglingon, to remind myself of some silver lining. A short travel to Lingayen, a nice walk in the park, and writing words and stories are surprising ways to look back, to stumble upon insights along the way. Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan, hindi makararating sa paroroonan (Those who do not look back where they came will not arrive in their destination). I’m glad I did.

Many thanks to Victory Liner and The President’s Hotel , and to the newlyweds Nil and Gelai (gelaikuting.net), and to fellow travel blogger Mica (senyorita.net).

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The Music of the Lost Bamboos of Las Piñas

It is NOT the bamboo organ church, Gani Ditan, the Bamboo Organ museum docent told us. The name of the church is St. Joseph Parish Church, but because of its famous organ people couldn’t help but call it the “bamboo organ church.”

Wearing his yellow collared shirt with an embroidered logo of the Bamboo Organ Foundation, Gani radiated his youthful aura combined with teacher’s energy as he welcome our group of travel bloggers. He began telling us the story of the Bamboo Organ through bits and pieces of historical facts and trivia. He eagerly answered our questions whenever we chimed them in. He was ready and enthusiastic, sharing his passionate grasp of the Organ’s history. In fact, he revealed to us that, unknown to many, despite its distinct historical character and years of international fame, the Organ has just recently recognized as a historical landmark by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP). While many historical markers are mounted on churches façade and other historic sites, only a few are listed as historical landmarks. It’s some sort of a special badge that identifies a site or structure’s strong historical influence. Gani took the first steps for the Bamboo Organ to be included in the list. And now he’s taking a leap of faith for it to become UNESCO World Heritage site. That’s a feat for someone who just have his first year of volunteer service.

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This Hidden Sweetness of Antipolo

In a native-inspired restaurant called Luljetta Hanging Gardens, our host Ramon Mariñas welcomed me and my friends to sit together for dinner. We found our spot at the low but wide wooden tables covered with runners of colorful native patterns. The girls in our group sat on small leather cushions, while the boys on small wooden chairs, each has a pair of kissing fishes carved on its surface. While we waited for our dinner, we warmed up in this cozy and cool place, a hidden yet amazing spot in the great Antipolo.

I felt at home with Ramon’s place, perhaps because of subtle indigenous and natural ambiance – pillars and furniture pieces made of solid wood, and walls and balusters made of bamboo. In some of my encounters last year with various indigenous people, and the years of interaction with cultural advocates, the colors and smells of Earth that the place reminded me were all so familiar, the same sensuous flavors that I relished in an indigenous-inspired place. Ramon has designed it to capture that exotic and tropical feel that guests can enjoy even an hour away from the city.

Over our dinner of thick egg soup, fresh greens with sweet balsamic vinaigrette, and a huge plate of tuna pesto pasta, Ramon engaged us in a conversation. He asked us to share something about ourselves, what we do and what we blog. Though I have known my companions by their names, it was also my first time to learn more about what makes them busy by the day and what excites them as they travel and blog. After a round of sharing, we were full, not only because we had a sumptuous dinner, but we also had a huge serving of laughter and unforgettable funny moments.

photos by Claire Madarang

photos by Claire Madarang

Ramon was so gracious that even though we only met that day, he welcomed us like long-time friends. It was a sort of reunion of travel bloggers I met last February in the eve of Chinese New Year. Led by the dynamic Dong Ho, the group has been in many adventures within the first half of 2013. Claire, my partner, has joined with them many times, and though I am yet to join their next adventure, I have heard and cherished their travel stories together through her. When they don’t have to go too far, like this opportunity, I can hang around with them, and bond with them like seeing old classmates and childhood friends.

* * *

Just a few hours ago while the sun was nearly setting, Ramon led us to a guided tour within their family resort, Loreland. “My mom’s name is Lolita and my dad is Renato, which is why it’s Loreland,” Ramon said. All along we thought that it was spoken as the English word lore, until I learned that interesting history. While the resort is pronounced as lo-re, the magic of their place is like a lore worth telling.

I noticed that the resort has a number of interesting details. Ramon said it was once a huge farm of mango and cashew trees. He also pointed three small pine trees that have grown in the middle of the resort; their seeds, Ramon shared, came all the way from Baguio. They are not as high and huge as those in the north, but they have grown well in Antipolo’s cool weather. Just on the other side near the pine trees was a structure that resembled a yatch built beside a pool, which Ramon called Aplaya, a Spanish word for “beach”. From there, we walked over the resort’s higher edge, and we passed by a small chapel of the Virgin Mary. We found Ramon’s mom sat in the middle facing the icon, then stood up as she just finished her praying when we arrived. I have found chapels in hospitals and airports, but a chapel in a resort like this is a rare find. Though I haven’t asked Ramon about it, I can feel that spirituality is still in the core of their family business.

Ramon brought us to a high deck overlooking the southwestern panorama of Rizal – the art capital Angono by the lakeside on the left (which reminds me of a February art walk ended in its park by the bay called Wawa, where I and another group of adventurers saw a scenic sunset), and the smoggy view of Makati and Ortigas on the right. Such view was a striking contrast of the rustic past of Filipino’s artistic spirit and this current urban amnesia in favor of the impermanent man-made progress. It’s ironic to see such interesting picture of reality, especially for Antipolo as a vantage point.

Ramon made me realized that Antipolo is some sort of a forgotten land – a place so accessible to city yet left behind like an undiscovered sanctuary. The neighboring provinces of Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and Quezon all have their own strong tourism identity, but Rizal, where Antipolo is, has yet to boost its own. Despite this challenge, Antipolo remains in touch with nature, continuously nourished by the living force of Sierra Madre’s tail. Ramon envisions Antipolo as travelers’ refuge, where locals and foreigners would find themselves transported to the cradle of paradise just two hours away from the hustle and bustle of the Metro. Learning business as early as 10, Ramon is now in the forefront of their family business and he wants to begin this vision with their place, the closest to his heart. He invited us for that reason as a first step to his dreams.

loreland pics

Ramon Marinas (above); all photos by Claire Madarang

After two generations of harvesting mangoes and cashews, Loreland is where Ramon will soon harvest sweet stories of Antipolo from guests, tourists and travelers. More than the awesome night of cold dip in the infinity pool and a relaxing spa massage, Ramon opened the doors of Loreland for me and the rest of our friends to a warm blend of sharing and bonding. It was a seed we all planted in this beautiful ground, where water springs, friendships blooms and stories like this one I’m writing leave a lingering sweetness in the heart.