Travel Review: The Farm at San Benito

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2013, 10:26am

Having recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, The Farm at San Benito is considered one of the pioneers of Asia's wellness movement. A 90-minute drive from Manila airport, this healing sanctuary in the foothills of Mount Malarayat delivers the latest medical services alongside luxe spa treatments and gourmet raw cuisine.

Accessed via a dirt road surrounded by wild forest and coconut plantations, the property looks more like a tropical paradise than a holistic retreat. Ducks lounge by the lagoon while peacocks and goats roam around happily. There are three pools, including one hidden in a secret garden, complete with a romantic waterfall. A 250-year-old mango tree takes pride of place on the 48 hectare property and is said to have healing energy. This together with unobstructed views of the jungle and the mountains create a postcard-worthy backdrop.

On-site organic gardens provide all the grains and vegetables for the raw vegan restaurant Alive. Coconuts are used in everything - from the food and furniture to spa treatments.

Guests are encouraged to take the complimentary daily Oil of Life tour which details the process behind harvesting the oil to the making of products such as the in-house lemon grass, sea salt and coconut body polish.

The luxury accommodation on offer has an eco-chic vibe. The Sulu Terraces are modelled after traditional Philippine rice barns and look like rustic tree houses. The Palmeira Suites and Garden Villas provide all the modern comforts of home (including free Wi-fi) while the spacious Master Villa - which apparently sits on an energy vortex - can house a family of six and has a massive pool and terrace.

City folks will love the spacious Narra Pool villas, which stand on pillars built into the side of the San Benito ridge. The interiors feature narra wood fixtures, 600-thread-count bed linen, energy saving air conditioning, floor-to-ceiling glass, LCD TV and a private heated swimming pool with hydro jets.

The real reason people travel to The Farm, though, is for its detox programmes. Guests start with a health consultation including a blood test and lifestyle questionnaire. After this a team of consultants and physicians design a customised programme, which can include anything from juice fasts, colonics and intravenous vitamin infusions to alternative treatments like crystal healing, reiki and acupuncture. Spa treatments are added on to complement your detox.

My schedule appeared to be jam-packed for my six-day stay and included everything from a two-day liver cleanse to cupping (ventosa), where suction is created on skin to maximise blood flow.

Much to my surprise the days raced by. Mornings start early thanks to the resident rooster, and are followed by a whirlwind of activities before ending at the spa. The spa treatments were definitely a highlight - who knew that the Philippines had such an extensive range of natural remedies and healing therapies?

Some of the detox treatments included a salt bath which has the same effects as a two-day juice fast and the chlorophyll body wrap from a local tree, known as malunggay, which has powerful healing properties attributed to it.

For those not on detox, there's plenty to keep you busy, from a gym and a library stocked full of books and DVDs to free daily activities including cooking classes, outdoor yoga, mandala flower arranging, pilates, power walks and ab-sculpting classes. Guests can also play a round at the nearby Mount Malarayat Golf and Country Club's 27-hole championship golf course.

Locals come to sample the award-winning food at Alive. Creations include coconut bacon, macadamia nut cheese and vegan chocolate pecan pie with coconut sorbet. Organic wine and beer are also available. I was so inspired that I took a cooking class and bought a copy of the restaurant's vegan cookbook, Raw.

Whether you go for a serious detox or just to enjoy a few days of clean living, The Farm is definitely an experience that will leave you healthier both in mind and spirit.

"I like to call it indulgence with a purpose," says general manager Michael Di Lonardo.

We couldn't agree more.


The Farm at San Benito

119 Barangay Tipakan, Lipa City,

Batangas, the Philippines

Getting there: Cathay Pacific and Philippine Airlines have several flights a day to Manila. Private transfers to The Farm can be arranged directly with the resort and take about 90 minutes.

Staying there: introductory rates for the newly opened luxury Narra Pool Villas start at 19,750 pesos (HK$3,715) per room per night, inclusive of breakfast for two, afternoon tea and participation in movement and fitness activities, valid until March 31.