GARIN FARM / SAN JUAQUIN, ILOILO: A GLIMPSE OF HEAVEN ON EARTH




We had a unique experience visiting Garin Farm. It was both recreational and spiritual.  If you are a nature lover, then you will surely like this place. It has a farm that produces poultry products, milk, and meat. Then, there is a resort with a swimming pool and a man-made lake, plus a worship place, they call it pilgrimage hill, wherein you can take time to personally talk to yourself and find meaning to all your experiences in life.

FARM

               From the main entrance, we passed through the vine-covered passageway leading to the farm’s amenities. Because of the vine curtain and big shady trees, we did not feel any discomfort whatsoever despite the hot weather.

We had a 20-minute walk before reaching the main area of the property. For us who live in the city, it is always a refreshing sight to see chickens in coops laying eggs, a flock of doves flying freely in the air, goats, and carabaos in their natural habitat and other farm animals I can no longer remember at this time. 


The vine curtain gives shades to visitors as they walked around this sprawling Garin property.
Photo by Joarniel John S. Hinolan

RESORT

               Aside from the agricultural feature of Garin, we were also treated to the breathtaking view of the resort area. The hotel rooms are neatly lined in one area overlooking the swimming pool and a man-made lake. Since we were on a day tour, we did not check the resort’s amenities. I guess visitors can try out the zip line, ride in ATV (all-terrain vehicle), go night swimming, kayaking and fishing.

               We took our early lunch at the resort’s restaurant. We had corned beef and spam with a sunny-side-up fried egg. They also served fresh goat milk and chicken empanada – both were the products of the farm. There were pasalubong items on sale in the restaurant too.

The panoramic view of the resort as viewed from the restaurant. It features hotel rooms, swimming pool, lake for fishing and other boat activities as well as zipline for the adventurous guests.


Fresh goat milk and empanadas are some of the food guests may eat at the farm's restaurant.


PILGRIMAGE HILL
  
               The most important part of this sprawling property is Pilgrimage Hill, which is the favorite subject of many pictures on Facebook and Instagram. We climbed around 500-step stairs leading to the symbolic white cross at the end of the hill.



The Pilgrimage Hill is  about 500 steps upward which  provides guests the opportunity to talk to God.


               While climbing the steep hill, we were transported back to the days of Jesus as we saw the recreation of the major biblical events leading to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The tableau features life-sized images of the biblical characters and yes, the emotions on their faces were artistically differentiated. I can feel the pain and agony Jesus endured with his tormentors when He was sentenced to death.



                It was an achievement reaching the top of the hill. We looked around and entered a dark room with a sign – Divine Mercy Dark Meditation Tunnel. The other  sign on the wall said that this represents our life on earth. At the end of the dark passage, was the image of the Divine Mercy. We paused for a while and prayed. Then, we moved forward and ended up in the all-white space at the end of the tunnel. There were white angels and white life-sized figures of people in immaculately white clouds.  Obviously, this is a glimpse of heaven and the figures were souls now enjoying their life in heaven.

The brother and sister team pose before entering the dark tunnel leading to the Divine Mercy Prayer Room
               Our visit to Garin Farm is relaxing not only to our physical body but to our soul as well. We had the chance to appreciate the little things we failed to notice because of our busy life, like seeing how chickens in coop lay their eggs or noticing how graceful birds fly. It was also a chance to meditate and to know what we value most in life. 

                  Did you experience travelling to places like this?  Share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.




MAYOR ISKO GOES GREEN


 Mayor ISKO MORENO threaded an impoverished area in Manila while growing up.  As the elected City Mayor of Manila, more popularly known to Filipinos as Yorme, he never wavered amidst adversities hurled at him for taking several steps in making a better version of the city he fondly calls his home and crowning glory.  Bold and fearless, Yorme puts his heart and mind in anything he does - “Believe in yourself! You’ve got nothing to lose.”

Yorme recently signed Ordinance 8607 declaring the permanence of Arroceros Forest Park dubbed as the “Last lung of the City”, home to 61 tree varieties and 8,000 ornamental plants. The new ordinance forbids the cutting of trees and dumping of waste within the park. Part of his plan is to allocate P1 million solely for its preservation and maintenance away from urbanization and all these efforts stem from his greater plan to make Manila a Green City”.




Yorme firmly believes in the power of nature. It’s no secret that he advocates on using natural products. No wonder, early this year Yorme became the newest brand ambassador of NOVUHAIR, Nature’s Answer to Hair Loss. Watch the full video at https://youtu.be/udvLJKXesYE
Want to try NOVUHAIR?

NOVUHAIR UNBOXING EXPERIENCE PROMO

In line with our 10th Anniversary celebration, here’s the chance to win a NOVUHAIR VIP Gift Box! Find out what’s inside the box. 10 VIP winners will be randomly chosen via electronic raffle per week for 1 month. NO PURCHASE REQUIRED!
Let’s GO GREEN!

#NothingToLoseNovuhair #ChooseNatural #Novuhair #UnboxingNovuhair

JITAKU PRIVATE RESORT / BACOLOD CITY FAMILY CHRISTMAS PARTY



     Christmas party is one of the highly anticipated occasions when it comes to the family celebration.  Every year, one of us (my siblings) is appointed as the event host.  The  host is in-charge  to look  for the  venue (where else, but our respective homes), food and program for the occasion.    For the latest Christmas party, we decided to celebrate our family reunion differently.

          We were so excited to plan out the venue of our 2019 party. So, as early as August 30, 2019, we were checking out resorts and hotels that could accommodate a group of 25 pax for a reasonable rate. My brother in law suggested a resort somewhere along Murcia but it was immediately crossed out because of transportation issues.   Another family member suggested a resort along the national road going to Bacolod City.  It has a swimming pool and hotel, wherein our little kids can swim and we may stay overnight in case the party extends up to midnight.

          With many venue suggestions and discussions of each place, Jitaku Private Resort at 25th St., Calamba, Capitol Subdivision, Barangay 3 was the unanimous decision.  Aside from its proximity to the city and the amenities for guests, it offers privacy because we had the resort by ourselves.

            Jitaku Private Resort is a private modern house with a medium-sized swimming pool.  It has a bar area near the pool wherein you can order hard drinks and beer.  The exterior has a Bali or Korean vibe with a  landscaped pocket garden.  The cozy ambiance is highlighted by  the various lights complimenting each other, even the pool is lighted underneath, so night swimming is safe.

            Aside from the well-maintained swimming pool and landscaped garden, it has an open area for dining, a large  airconditioned living area with a flat screen TV and videoke set, a kitchen area furnished with a rice cooker and refrigerator, an airconditioned bedroom and grilling area.  There are two comfort rooms, one inside the living area and another one in the bedroom.
Guests are greeted with this well-maintained swimming pool.


This open area, overlooking the swimming pool can be used for buffet set-up dining.



The aironditioned living area is wide enough to accommodate around 25 to 30 guests


Located at the rear end of the medium-sized swimming pool, this bar offers hard drink and beer.


The bedroom is ideal for overnight stay-in guests.

The bathroom is very clean and smells fresh, you  want to linger inside for some personal routine,
           With the accompanying pictures as evidence, I am sure, we made the right choice.  Jitaku Private Resort is indeed for private parties and intimate family gatherings. We spent the night singing songs from the videoke, exchanging gifts and eating lechon while drinking a few bottles of beer. 

             I cannot wait to plan out our next Christmas party.  You may check Jitaku's FB Page for additional information:  https://www.facebook.com/Jitakuprivateresort/

Jitaku Private Resort's Rules and Regulations


EATING FRESH SEAFOOD IN TOMONTONG MANGROVE ECO-TRAIL




My family always supports initiatives that promote social awareness of the environment and caring for mother earth.    For instance, my youngest daughter carries her re-usable metal straw and a water container when going out for work.  We do away with straws when drinking soda and recently a mall launched a bag less shopping Sunday.  My daughter and I were quite excited to hand-carry our goods from that store one Sunday morning when we bought some household stuff there.

                Recently, I saw many of my FB friends going to this place in E.B. Magalona, which is located in the northern part of Negros Occidental.  The pictures they posted look interesting and I was intrigued by the place's catchy name.  So, we visited Tomontong Mangrove Eco-trail one sunny Sunday to experience what it's like to be in this latest eco-tourism project of the local government.

Going to Tomontong Mangrove Eco-Trail

We have no difficulty finding Tomontong.  There are signs in strategic corners that direct you where to proceed.  The local folks are friendly, they will answer all your queries about directions. 

From Talisay, we headed off to E.B. Magalona and took the street where the plaza and municipal hall are located.  From there, we asked for directions from tricycle drivers.

The inner roads leading to the mangrove forest is long and narrow.  I had difficulty driving our Nissan Terra because one missed turn will get you into one of the fish pens ("punong" in local dialect), which surrounded the roads.    In one portion, a tricycle had to take a backward turn to give way for our vehicle to pass. Parking space is also rare, we had to park our cars in a private parking space for a fee.

Walking through the Mangrove Forest

We walked through the forest using a bamboo bridge.  It was a different experience walking on the bamboo bridge while seeing the tall plants with its roots exposed.  Mangroves as I learned in my science lesson, serves as a natural habitat of certain fish and bird species.  They are vital in the ecosystem and they prevent soil erosion in the shoreline.


Walking inside the mangrove forest is through a bamboo bridge.  Photo grabbed from Bep-bep Regine's Facebook account.
  I read many signs about the environment along the bridge, maybe a way to remind visitors how important it is to save what is left of our environment.  There were birds on the muddy portion of the forest which means that the ecosystem is working.

                At the end of the wooden structure is the Tomontong shoreline where you can enjoy swimming in the waters during high tide and see the surrounding areas with the green lush greenery with the clear blue sky serving as the backdrop.


Eating Seafood on the Beachfront Cottage

 Getting a cottage for rent is difficult, especially because it has only around 6 cottages available for rent.    We need to book our reservation early as most visitors go there on weekends.  So, expect that during weekends, all the cottages are fully booked.   However, there are picnic areas at the other end of the shoreline where visitors are accommodated on a first-come, first-served basis.


 The elevated cottage is made of bamboo and nipa.   But despite the use of natural materials, it was still very hot.  I saw that there were no mangroves along the shoreline to give shades, so we can feel the scorching hot breeze of the air.

The cottage is made of bamboo and nipa leaves. But it was so hot staying inside.
We did not mind the hot environment though but focus instead to the gastronomic feast of steamed talaba, shrimp in oyster sauce ( a must-try, I even mixed the sauce into my rice)  and grilled bangus, the former, we ordered from the restaurant inside the forest while my youngest sister brought the grilled bangus from her house. 

 It was heaven opening the talaba with its meat size just enough and dipping them in a sinamak (vinegar mixed with ginger, garlic, and onion), putting them in the hot white rice, and eating the mixture by bare hands.  Alternately, I mixed my rice with the shrimp sauce and the grilled bangus.  The saltiness from the sauce was just enough to add a little zest to the grilled food.


This talaba is best when dipped in sinamak and eaten with steaming hot white rice.
Keeping the Shoreline Clean

 While roaming around, I saw one corner wherein it was lined with colorful bottles from a well-known hard drink brand.  The discarded bottles were given a colorful look by putting cut-outs of junk food and candy wrappers inside.  Then, they were mounted on each other by bamboo trunks and transparent strings.

 I give a thumbs-up sign to E.B. Magalona for initiating this gesture towards a greener environment.  The artsy bottles were made by the townsfolk as a livelihood project.  The local government gives one kilo of rice for every eight colorful bottles.  The scheme works both ways.  It is an income-generating endeavor for the people and a green program for the local government.  


The local government consistently promotes green initiatives.  This time, they transformed candy wrappers and discarded bottles as work of art.
Livelihood Program

 Aside from the decorative bottle project, the operation of the place gives employment opportunities to the people of E.B. Magalona.  There were plenty of volunteer workers on the beach which you may call for assistance.  They can accommodate you even in facilitating the order of seafood to the restaurant in the vicinity, which we did.   I was told, that the income from the operation of the mangrove forest is divided among the three stakeholders – LGU, barangay, and volunteers.

 Our Tomontong Mangrove Eco-trail trip was nothing extraordinary.  We walked on the bamboo bridge, marvel at the tall mangroves and the majestic sights of the sea and clear blue sky and eat seafood.  I was extra full after lunch and we had a grand time chatting with my siblings and their families.  I climbed the bamboo tower and saw the shoreline covered by the mangroves and fishponds.

 And before I forgot, we had an issue with the restaurant where we got our seafood. While it was resolved to our satisfaction, it was not a good impression should this happened to other visitors.  If you want to do something new, then visit this place but do not expect too much.

BRAZAVILLE BEACH RESORT: ONE OF THE HIDDEN GEMS OF HINOBA-AN NEGROS OCCIDENTAL



        
The majestic view of the sun, sand and sea at the Brazaville Beach Resort


 Exploring Hinoba-an is not complete without making a side trip to or booking a stay in Brazaville Beach Resort.  For local tourists coming in from Bacolod City, this is a strategic place for lunch because you will reach the place from Bacolod City at lunch time,  if you start traveling from the City of Smile early in the morning.  So your tummy will tell you it is time to eat when you pass by this resort.

When my siblings and our respective families decided to spend an overnight-stay in Hinoba-an, we do not have any idea what is in store for us.  Our itineraries were mostly based on what we read or saw on Facebook and some were recommended by friends who have been to Hinoba-an.

Related post:  Hinolan Family Travel: Exploring Hinoba-an in one Day

But, we know for sure that our three-day stay should be in Brazaville Beach Resort.  We arrived at the beach past 1 PM, so we immediately ordered our late lunch.  The front desk was very accommodating, the check-in process was a breeze.  That is an advantage when you book your stay in advance.
Since it was a lean month and rainy season, they let us occupy our assigned rooms early.  Again, it is always good to travel during the off-peak period because customers are not many and you may even enjoy their  promo or discounts. 

Accommodation
We were a big group of around 20 persons - my siblings, and their children.  We got three family rooms for four guests each room and one room for 2 guests.  The four rooms have a queen-sized bed each, a cable TV and a decent WIFI connection.  The family rooms have extra beds so that one family stays in one room.  They have clean and crispy mattresses and blankets.  Their bathrooms were spacious and well-maintained and the area is equipped with a 24-hour CCTV system.  After all, they are DOT-accredited for nothing, so it follows that they have superior facilities.


This well-appointed room with clean and crisp mattress awaits guests of the resort.

After eating our lunch and ensuring everything was in order, we checked the surrounding areas.  The resort has 6 family rooms, with a very wide common living area, a big terrace, and a wide beachfront.  The living area also serves as a dining area for guests and walk-in customers. On the other side, you can relax, sip a cold drink and watch beachcombers walk or play on the beach at the resort's big terrace.

On the beachfront, guests may play volleyball, stroll or run on the shoreline, or maybe chase the waves endlessly.  Watching the sunset while having a cold or hard drink is very romantic, especially if you are with your spouse. 

Watching Sunset
My wife and I always love the sunset.   In Brazaville, you can witness the best and majestic sunset view.  It is interesting to see how the colors change from blue, red, orange then to black or blue, signaling that another day has ended. I really see how amazing and magical the love of God is working.  When I have the opportunity, I never miss taking pictures of this beautiful sight.

 When the surroundings become black, I wondered how the sun slowly hides among the clouds or gradually swimming down the ocean floor.   I feel sad seeing the sun making its graceful exit.

Candlelight Dining at Beachfront
As I've mentioned, the resort has a friendly and very accommodating staff.  I requested for a dinner table arrangement at the beachfront.  What we got was a table arrangement prepared elegantly, with eating utensils used for fine dining.

The canopy - an open structure with nipa as the roof was beautifully dressed in white curtains.  It has multi-colored bulbs,  serving as the main source of light at dinner time, which makes it romantic.  There were also improvised candles on the tables fashioned out of used cooking oil.


This wooden structure was artistically transformed into an elegantly decorated venue for the family dinner.

Since I am interested in anything about the environment, I asked one of the staff  - how these were made.  I was told that instead of throwing the used cooking oil to the drain, they use the fatty liquid as fuel to light an improvised candle.  All it needs are a container for the cooking oil, a wick from old clothes and an improvised holder for the wick, maybe an excess of steel wire.  The idea is simple, yet it gives an impact to minimize waste in the environment.


This environment-friendly lighting adds a romantic touch to the family dinner by the sea.
We had seafood and chicken adobo for dinner.  Everyone enjoyed the gastronomic feast while at the same time, appreciated the company of family with the sunset slowly making its graceful  exit, promising a brand new day.


Lounging at the Beach Front
We made the most of our stay in this paradise.  After dinner, most of us, adult family members were sharing stories and family anecdotes while drinking beers or shakes on the beachfront.    It is nice that the resort has a bar on the beachfront, selling drinks and light snacks.  This is an added advantage for us, tourists because sometime we may forget to bring all our personal stuff and we do not know where to buy them since we are not familiar with the place.  Having an in-house convenience store makes it easy for us to buy junk food, hygienic items, and even souvenirs.

Discovering Hinoba-an
 They say that unplanned travel is the most exciting because you get to visit places you do not expect to be more fun and interesting.  And of course, it allows you to deal with the people and be acquainted with their culture and practices.


Travelling allows us to mingle with the locals.  This helpful driver drove us up to the steepy portion of the historic Obong Cave, one of the must-see places in Hinoba-an
 Aside from enjoying the magnificent sunset and the VIP accommodation in Brazaville, we also went spelunking and made a side trip to Satori Cliff in Basay, Negros Oriental.  


I am with the bests - the best people, the best beach and the best travel destination in the south

 There are many treasures in Hinoba-an waiting for us to discover.  For us, we already found one.