My father was the one with the green thumb in the family. Even growing up in Dubai – which back then was literally a sandpit – we would have a vegetable garden with rows after rows of big heads of cabbage, tomatoes growing on vines, and lots of big, leafy heads of bok choy. He passed his passion for connecting with nature onto me, and even as a child, I would spend my afternoons trying to grow sunflowers in his little seedling plot – I was so happy when they actually bloomed! Now that I’m all grown up, I can still see how I am my father’s daughter. While he tended to his vegetables, I have my herbs, and I appreciate him having taught me to develop my own personal relationship with Mother Nature.
I think Nurture Wellness Village would have been something my father would have enjoyed immensely, as getting out of the city and spending quiet afternoons surrounded by trees or the sea were activities he particularly enjoyed. So when I got an invitation to be privy to the unveiling of Nurture’s new garden, Gabriela, their ‘live museum’ of sorts, I was on the next ride up to Tagaytay, excited to see why this place is raved about on Trip Advisor for holistic medical tourism, group retreats, and romantic getaways.
A pioneer in the Philippine spa industry, Nurture Wellness Village (formerly known as Nurture Tropical Spa & Café) is a Department of Tourism accredited destination spa. A few of its accolades includes being named One of the 28 Most Relaxing Spas in Asia by CNN Go, one of the Top Seven Spas of the Philippines by Asia Spa Magazine, and being featured several times by local and international media. Located deep amidst coffee orchards, Nurture offers a distinctive brand of “Ecotherapy” – healing by and through nature.
Traveling with a few other friends, we were greeted at the entrance by some of Nurture’s staff members with lots of cheer, festive music from a libbit (a conical hand drum) and kulintang (tuned gongs) , flower petals, and a cup of hot salabat – a spicy drink made from ginger.
Before taking a quick tour of the property and amenities, we took at breather at the pavilion where we were served tinapa and adobo with kesong puti on homemade malunggay pandesal – a really nice, healthy treat for famished travelers, as the drive to Tagaytay can be an hour and a half to up to two hours long when coming from the city. The tour of the holistic wellness village made me fall in love with the place even more, seeing how they built the property by working with the lay of the land, appreciating the colorful, tranquil gardens, and just taking in the beauty of nature.
After taking a quick peek at the highlights of the property, Cathy Brilliantes-Turvill, our gracious hostess that afternoon, gave a quick talk about her passion for living a holistic life and the love she has for the community she and her husband had built with Nurture Spa. She talked about her ancestor, Gabriela Silang, a Filipina revolutionary leader, and unveiled Gabriela – the live museum of herbs and vegetables that guests are free to pick from when putting together their meals or relaxing by their favorite spot in the village with a cup of freshly picked herbal tea.
Opening the doors to the Gabriela garden, we were treated to ladies in Filipina rural garb, dancing the traditional Pandango to Paru Parong Bukid. Getting to chat with the lovely ladies after their dance, I discovered that they were from Batangas mostly, and their passion for their love of Filipino native dance has gotten them as far as Marikina, being asked to showcase their skills at festivals and other special occasions.
The energy of these women is just amazing – looking at them with their sequinned pink blouses, pearl necklaces, and salakót (the wide-brimmed farmer’s hat), one could see their inner child, the happiness just beaming through their eyes.
Marveling over the little vegetable plot brought back a wave of happy memories or me puttering around the garden with my dad, shoveling dirt, tending to seedlings, and making sure they all grew up to be big, happy-looking vegetables – which is also what Nurture does, by the looks of it. Just look at those gigantic cabbage heads! Nurture also plants kale, which is a first for me to see in the country, as kale doesn’t take too well to tropical climates – although they seem to be thriving up in the highlands.
I got there just in time to see Alex, the gardener, laying out a plot for the next batch of seedlings in the Organic Garden, and I quietly watched him go about his work before getting my hands dirty and helping him with his seedling tray. There really is something relaxing and meditative when working with nature – I wouldn’t mind being out in the sun all day doing this.
Some of the Nurture staff were dressed in Katipunero uniforms, entreating us to try some of the traditional Filipino equipment that was used back in the day like the husung at ahu or Filipino mortar and pestle, and the kudkuran ng niyog, a traditional coconut grater. I actually remember having a kudkuran ng niyog back in Dubai – my parents must’ve brought it with them. How they got the sharp, spur-like grater past airport security back in the day is anybody’s guess!
Our dashing Kapipuneros also showcased traditional Filipino games that would be fun activities for family reunions or team building activities. The tiyakad or bamboo stilts is a Filipino outdoor game where teams try to get as many people as possible to successfully walk across the lawn or obstacle course without falling off the wooden platforms. And well, we all know what a spinning top looks like, but trumpo is the local version that’s been hand-carved, which also makes for a nice souvenir.
While cooling off from the heat of the afternoon, we were offered a few healthy libations called Nurture’s Tanaw Drinks – hand-crafted drinks formulated by establishment’s in-house ‘liquid chefs’. Each drink is packed with herbs, edible flowers, and fruits, making for a refreshing drink, such as their Blue Ternate Daiquiri, made with blue ternate flower, tarragon, and citrus; Cosmo Sour, made with the cosmo flower, parsely, and citrus; Basil Lime, a combination of basil, lime, and citrus; and Taragon Lemon Drop, made with Taragon and a citrus component. I especially loved the drink made with blue ternate, as it was the most unusual tasting (and prettiest!) one of the lot.
They really weren’t kidding when they said you could pick and eat whatever they had in the garden. All our salads were freshly picked, either by us or the Nurture staff, washed at the outdoor basin specifically made for this purpose, before being put together. It really doesn’t get as fresh as that!
Along with the unveiling of Gabriela, Nurture also launched their Arroz Caldo Buffet, a hearty porridge using red rice as a base with chunks of chicken, liver, and ginger, that you can top with an assortment of garlic chips, even more ginger, chopped chives, fried shallots, quail eggs, fried tofu, and even chili for a bit of a kick and added texture. I love a lot of garlic and shallots in my arroz caldo, and added a good handful of tofu in there since I’m not a fan of chicken liver. This was delicious, light, and filling all at the same time.
Along with the arroz caldo buffet, there was also an assortment of little plates with pieces of kale siomai, sardines, tawilis, milk fish, and Batangas tapa at the Tapas Bar, all sourced from around the area, that compliment your porridge nicely. I had never actually eaten tawilis before, and didn’t go how to go about it – do I eat it head first, scrape off the meat from the sides, or cut off the head and tail before taking a bite? #TawilisEtiquette
After enjoying a filling meal of arroz caldo and local tapas, we tucked into Filipino kakanin spread for dessert, which consisted of biko and kutchinta – both desserts made from rice and best enjoyed with coconut shavings. What I found to be extra special were the big pots filled with different kinds of native teas and native chocolate for us to help ourselves to. My only complaint was that the cups we were served with was way too small, even with the teapots!
Java Plum Bark, more commonly known as duhat, is a helpful medicinal plant, aiding in the quick recovery from diabetes, kidney stones, diarrhea, liver and blood disorders. I happen to really like the tarragon tea, which in this case was brewed along with the stems and flowers, and is not only a great source of Vitamin C, but also helps to regulate body metabolism by promoting the secretion of digestive juices, constipation, hiccups, and dyspepsia.
Alternatively, I was looking for something sweet, and Nurture’s freshly made Tablea Tsokolate is a godsend for chocoholics like myself. A Batangas delicacy, the chocolate tablets are simply ground up and mixed with water and a little bit of sugar, making for a nice way to end such a lovely meal.
Nurture Spa Wellness Village’s philosophy revolves around healing yourself through the use of natural means, instead of medication that can do your body more harm than good. This speaks to me, and I have noticed chronic illnesses yield better results with healthy eating and a holistic lifestyle as opposed to treatments in a hospital – bad food got you into that mess, good food choices will get you out of it. This is what Nurture advocates, and we were educated in the type of juice flushes that would help un-gunk certain organs in our body. I liked the Liver-Friendly Juice made with parsley, lemon, and honey, which is easy to make at home, and treats your liver to some much needed love and attention, after all the fatty food and alcohol we make it process every week.
It was sad having to say our goodbyes and go home after the day trip to Nurture. I had such a lovely time being surrounded by the beautiful landscape and our very generous hosts. When passing by Tagaytay, make sure to pass by Nurture Wellness Village and enjoy Gabriela, their live museum – pick your own salad, nip a few herbs for tea, or enjoy the arroz caldo buffet and tapas bar while taking in the beautiful sights of the countryside.
Nurture Wellness Village is located at Pulong Sagingan, Barangay Maitim II West, Cavite, Tagaytay. For inquiries or to book a reservation, please call +63 2 401 9030, +63 2 710 9786, +63 46 512 627, +63 917 687 8873 or +63 918 888 8772.
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.