Normally, I live for the summer. You head to the beach, work on a tan, eat halo-halo out of a coconut, take a dip in the cool waters of the Philippine Sea, and watch the sun go down while sipping on your really fruity piña colada. But not this summer. This particular Manila summer is just brutal! I can’t stand to be outside for more than 15 minutes, the air-conditioning never seems to be cold enough, and work has left me stuck in the city ’til the end of May. But hey, I’m determined. And If I can’t enjoy the sea, I can always enjoy the summit. So I went to Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay for a few days to relax, unwind, and go back to basics.
Nurture Wellness Village is a short drive off a fork in the road, with a big sign on your right pointing the way. You really can’t miss it. By car, take the South Expressway towards Batangas, and exit at Sta. Rosa or Greenfields City. Follow the signs towards Tagaytay and upon reaching the ridge, turn right towards Tagaytay City. Once you reach the Tagaytay City Rotonda go towards the direction of Nasugbu. Watch out for the very popular Leslie’s on your left and make a right right at Magallanes Square, right across the restaurant. Past Brahma Kumaris and The Country Store, Nurture Wellness will be approximately 3 kilometers away.
I have been waiting and praying for an excuse to escape Metro Manila’s heatwave along with all the tweets and posts about how people were in various stages of liquification, being reduced to primordial ooze from the unrelenting heat, and booking three days in the multi-awarded Tagaytay resort couldn’t have come at a better time! As luck would have it, Jericho felt the same way about #Summer2016, too, so my solo escape turned into a bestie’s roadtrip.
We both agreed to go on a tech detox, keeping our phones on mute for our entire stay there and leaving our laptops at home. Our time spent there was meant to be a relaxing, holistic trip, and as it turned out, an re-education on healthy living, too.
Checking in was a breeze. Even though the staff had their hands full with an ongoing company day tour, we were well taken care of, being served cups of lemongrass tea upon arrival we filled out our health forms – which also included our preferences for the spa, like how soft or hard we like our massage – before being escorted to our home for the next couple of days.
And then we walked into THIS. What a gorgeous view! It was almost as if the scorching summer sun hadn’t touched this sanctuary of trees and flowers, the ordered horticultural chaos being home to a variety of birds as well. There was a lovely breeze and the walkways had adequate shade for us to roam around the grounds without feeling like a popsicle on a stick.
Home Is Where Saya Is
We would be calling Saya, one of their Superior Garden View Rooms, home for most of the week. This has a fantastic view of the tranquil gardens from our little patio, an air-conditioned room with local and cable TV, private toilet and bath, bathroom amenities, one queen-sized bed, a phone, a coffee station, turn down service, as well as complimentary breakfast. Ang saya talaga!
The room is a lot more spacious than your average hotel suite, with windows all around, a dark stained wardrobe on one side, a simple working desk on the other, and the queen-sized bed in the center of the room with an origami swan made with towels by the foot of the bed adorned with gumamela flowers and petals. The high ceiling helped a lot with the hot afternoons (we still needed to ask for a fan though), but Jericho and I made it a point to go out and explore Tagaytay in lieu of siesta on our second day there.
The bathroom is spacious as well, equipped with a shower and plenty of hot water. I couldn’t get enough of the bath products, they smelled so fresh and energizing – a mix of ylang-ylang, peppermint, and something else I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Mike Turvill, part-owner of Nurture Wellness, is a chemist who blends and makes shampoos, conditioners, shower gels, and body lotions, so it isn’t a surprise they concocted bath essentials especially for the guests staying the night.
Gabriela, the name of Nurture Wellness’ in-house restaurant, was taken from the heroic Caviteña who was also the first Filipina to lead the revolt against Spain. Located in the open-space pavillion right after the reception desk, guests can enjoy the cool breeze that wafts by in the afternoons, although you may want to pack the anti-mosquito lotion when dining here in the evenings. Unlike most of the restaurants that line Tagaytay’s main highway, Gabriela stays true to their wellness cuisine philosophy, cutting back on oil where they can, and serving up dishes that are heavy on organic vegetables that have been mainly sourced from their own farm.
Their take on English Fish & Chips (Php 270), for example, was a lot less greasy than average, the dory coated in a crunchy layer of golden beer batter and served with hand-cut chips and tartar sauce, but it sorely needed some malt vinegar though for that authentic fish and chippy experience.
They also have the perennial Pinoy favorites on the menu as well, such as the Caldereta in Osso Bucco (Php 330). The Batangas-style hearty meat dish using beef shank combined with potatoes, carrots, tomato sauce and liver spread, with probably have the amount of unnecessary oil needed to flavor the dish.
What I liked even more than the food were the super healthy line up of drinks they had on offer! A favorite of mine during my stay was the Quartet of Kale, Mango, Pineapple & Melon (Php 150) which also had powdered kale, making for a naturally sweet, nutrient-rich fresh fruit juice.
Jericho really liked his Basil Ginger Cold Herb Tea (Php 110) which uses locally grown, organic ingredients, that has been chilled to make this refreshing herb beverage.
If you plan on passing by for a day trip to Nurture Wellness, don’t miss dessert! Their healthy spin on food is also applicable to their sweets section, and I like how they sneak in some veg in their Squash Leche Flan (Php 90), their take on the traditional Filipino custard. You hardly taste the squash, chopped into itty-bitty pieces and set in with the rest of the flan.
A favorite (and really photogenic!) of mine is their Suman at Mangga (Php 150) made with suman malagkit, the surprise is the mango center. You can enjoy it as is or with the accompanying a small cup of thick, hot Batangas tsokolate.
Passing the Time
Jericho and I spent most of our days in different parts of the village, taking pictures, meditating, or catching up on our reading, only meeting up for meals for meals or to retire for the night. There are a lot of things around the village to keep you preoccupied (like the giant chessboard and sungka), and since wi-fi beyond the main pavilion can be spotty from all the trees, swapping out your laptop for a book or journal is a better option to whiling the time away.
There is a wide variety of flowers at Nurture Wellness, it was a joy to just sit in the garden and take in the different shapes and colors each one had to offer. Try identifying them (the only one I knew was the local hibiscus), and once your done exploring the grounds for flowers, try and spot the fruit trees, too. During our stay, there was a guyabano, or soursop tree, heavy with fruit and little green mangoes weighing down their branches.
This is also a great place to enjoy the quiet and catch up on your writing. There are a few benches and chairs around the pavilion, garden and spa area for you to just sit down with your thoughts, or work on planning or mind-mapping a project you plan on bringing to life.
If you’re feeling more meditative than prolific, take a walk around Nurture Wellness’ zen garden, paved with stones of varying sizes – some big and round, while others were small and painful to walk on. The meditative practice also helps to stimulate the nerves of your feet, so in this case the pain might actually be worth it.
Filipino Spa & Pampering
Nurture Wellness is known for their spa and pampering services, so in order to make the most of our stay, Jericho and I signed up for their Hilot Kagalingan (Php 1,200), a 60-minute customized Filipino massage using a fusion of Asian therapies that is said to prevent and cure common ailments like colds, sprain, fever and fatigue. I was just tired all over, and was looking forward to the hour of bliss.
After changing out of our clothes and into our tapis, their #prehilotgame started with a quick foot soak in warm water with essential oils before getting a mini foot spa using ground coffee to exfoliate our feet. This was utterly relaxing, and we hadn’t even started yet!
After lying face down on the massage table, staring at the thoughtfully prepared flower mandala floating in a bowl, warmed banana leaves were placed on our backs, the smell and the heat made for such a pleasurable sensation that I fell asleep halfway through only to wake up when my therapist started to poke at me feet with massage sticks – a reflexology thing that I still don’t understand – but after she went back to kneading the backs of my legs I was back in dreamland.
I was gently woken up when they were done with the hilot, I felt like pudding. I have never felt this relaxed in years, and I was happily spacing out with the music for a few minutes until they brought in a pot of ginger tea to help ground us (and wake us up) after our wonderful treat. Needless to say, I slept like a baby that night.
Breakfast at Nurture Wellness
So, just so you know, they have tai chi in the morning for those who want to take it, but we haven’t be able to catch it since we keep oversleeping! I blame the cool Tagaytay mornings (and the soul-soothing massage), but hey, we made it for breakfast once during our stay – I think that was short of a minor miracle.
For the morning I did manage to make it to breakfast, I enjoyed The Continental with a cup of tea. Being not one for heavy breakfasts, this suited me just fine. The freshly baked bread was still warm, as were the assorted cookies, and I found out later in the day that they actually incorporate powdered kale into their breads for an energy boost. The bread came with a nob of butter and their homemade pineapple jam, as well as a big plate of fresh fruit.
Jericho went for a heavier meal to start the day with Gabriela’s Batangas Beef Tapa – cured beef with garlic rice, homemade pickles and two eggs served sunny side up, as well as a small platter of fresh fruit to help cleanse the palate. By the looks of his plate when he was through he seemed to enjoy his breakfast – by a lot.
Tour of The Farmacy
We took a tour of The Farmacy on our second day at Nurture Wellness. The farm is still a work in progress and is around 70% done, located 500 meters (a quick walk) from one gate to the other. They are also moving their glamping site to the farm, which would lend a more authentic experience, I think. Toured by kuya Elmer, one of the farmers that worked the land, he showed us what each section of The Farmacy was for. Upon entering, you walk up to the big warehouse and laundry on the right, before being led to a waiting shed of sorts where we were served tea and given straw hats to protect us from the sun’s rays. It didn’t help much and I had to keep one hand on my head to keep it from flying off, so we gave up on it halfway through the tour.
Cathy Turvill, the owner of Nurture Wellness and The Farmacy, had arranged the planted vegetation according to the parts of one’s anatomy. So there would be plots of land with fruits, vegetables, and herbs specifically to aid the immune system, a section for heart health, and so on. It felt more like a crash course on herbology than a farm tour, which just made it even more interesting!
Speaking of herbology, there is a parcel of land on the farm called ‘Botika ni Lola’ which boasts of several herbs our grandparents would use to quicken the healing process. For example, instead of turning to medication, people suffering from diabetes could look to nature and boil serpentina in water to drink as a tea in order to help regulate or lower blood sugar. The bitter plant can also help with eliminating liver toxins, protecting the liver and gallbladder, fights free radicals, cleans the system (especially the bloodstream), and kill intestinal worms. And that’s just one of the herbs in this pharmacy, er, garden!
To naturally help the plants grow, and to occasionally used to collect honey, The Farmacy also has a tiny bee farm. Don’t worry, these meliponines are also called stingless honey bees, so you can safely take a peek at them while they work without worrying about being stung.
Healthy Juice Demo & Coffee Appreciation
The education on health, wellness, and why holistic is always the better option continued when Jericho and I returned to Nurture Wellness. We sat in on a healthy juice demo, while the staff explained each ingredient and how one could benefit from drinking the blended juices daily. I particularly liked two of them – the slightly sour Juice for the Kidney, which consisted of kale, lemon, parsley, and honey, and the sweeter Juice for the Heart that uses kale, apple, banana, pineapple, basil leaves and honey.
Now, I have to say, I never really liked kale. I found it tough, slightly bitter, with the leaves having an almost leathery texture, but the kale at Nurture Wellness was actually quite sweet. It goes to show that organic farming really does make quite the difference in one’s fruit and vegetables, and the kale here tastes worlds better than the ones I’d buy from Baguio.
Up next was a short lecture on coffee appreciation. The Philippines has quite a rich coffee culture, ever since the Spaniards brought over coffee trees to be planted in places like Tagaytay and the Cordillera Mountains. We smelled coffee beans, taking note of the differences of Arabica and Robusta blends, and just how different they tasted from the famous Batangas Barako, a rare Liberica blend. It was fascinating to see how people would pound the dried cherries to get the beans before roasting them and just how much effort is put into that one cuppa Joe.
Pasalubong from the Gift Shop
Alas, I feel like the days passed by too quickly and soon, we were checking out of Nurture Wellness and bidding adieu to our temporary home in the highlands. Before leaving, I passed by the little gift shop to bring some of my favorite things about Nurture Wellness home with me, like their Amu’in Aromatherapy Bath Products (Php 299 each, Buy 3 Get 1). Move over, Bath & Body Works! I also took home a bottle of their Nurture Salad Dressing (Php 399), which I had practically become addicted to during my stay, and half a kilo of Kale (Php 600/kilo), which they had picked fresh from The Farmacy.
My short stay at Nurture Wellness Village has definitely made my summer! I feel relaxed, content, and happy sans the swimmers ear and finding sand in the weirdest places. This place really is something special, gently encouraging you to leave the toxicity of the city behind and just give into the warm embrace of the staff, marvel at the beauty of nature, and re-learn the basics of life – the most important ones being that you don’t need grease in what you eat and always choose organic. I am so thankful for the three days I got to spend in this not-so-hidden gem, and I cannot wait to come back and share this experience with my family or significant other!
Nurture Wellness Village is located at Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West Cavite, Tagaytay. For inquiries or to book your stay, please call +63 918 888 8772 or +63 2 710 9786. For packages, rates, and other promos, please check their official website.
Nurture Wellness Village is owned jointly by Dr. Mike Turvill, a British national and his Fllipina wife Cathy Brilliantes-Turvill. Mike is a Doctor in Organic Chemistry from the University of Nottingham, UK while Cathy is an internationally licensed therapist (CIBTAC, UK) and Certified Wellness Specialist from the USA. They own two spa-related companies: Hotel and Spa Essentials, a supplier of spa and hotel products to five star spas and resorts and Spa and Wellness Professionals which offers spa training and consultancy services. Cathy was the Founding President of the Spa Association of the Philippines and is a Board member of the Asia Pacific Spa and Wellness Coalition and TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority). Mike is the immediate Past President of the Cosmetics Chamber of the Philippines.