Nowhere but at Sonya’s Garden…

14 03 2010

Based on the descriptions shared by a colleague way back then – salad of greens and petals, eating area amidst enchanting garden, no walk-ins but reservations only – I was certain that I was going to like the Sonya’s Secret Garden.   So after our overnight stay and pampering moments at the Nurture Spa in December 2005, I and two friends stopped over for lunch and from there the brief introduction to this once secret garden started.  We inquired if we can take a look at one of the rooms.  The staff took us then on a walk-through of one of the big cottages and the restaurant area.  There we decided to have our relaxation vacation the following year in Sonya’s. 

It didn’t happen in 2006 and the following years not because we chose another destination, but because we had conflicting schedules.  

I finally had a chance last January with my balikbayan (Philippine nationals who are permanently residing abroad or those of Filipino descent who acquired foreign citizenship and permanent status abroad) relatives. They had to attend a wedding in Tagaytay so I suggested to spend a night at Sonya’s, not because it is situated in Tagaytay (only a few know that it is located in Alfonso, Cavite) but because it is very close to Tagaytay.  

The frontage and parking area had the same look, as far as I can recall, plain rocks laid down on an uncemented ground, no landscapings.  At the back of my mind, there was this line of speech for my companions, “No, please don’t get discouraged yet.  There are many beautiful surprises to redeem this lack of interesting scenery.”  I was right. My sis-in-law’s mother was sort of disappointed but remained silent about it until we got into our cottage. Here, the old adage, “First impressions last.”, didn’t apply.  Later, she described Sonya’s Garden as more beautiful than the Butchart Gardens of Vancouver, Canada. 

To go to the  reception area, we walked down the pathway of wood planks and stones amidst fire trees, butter bushes, then, lo and behold, a wooden huge gate.  Countless flowering plants of all sorts abound in the unmanicured lawns along the way and then chimes of various shapes and sizes hanged in either the trees or verandas with those relaxing tones and…

 stone bowls of different sizes with colorful petals afloat welcomed us.  

Our admiration of the place increased as we were ushered to our respective cottages, named after herbs – with an ante-room and furnished with wood furniture, big beds clothed with crisp white sheets complemented with soft white pillows in embroidered cases. Moroccan glass lanterns hanging so freely in the high ceilings provide a more relaxing ambience.  What I liked the most in the cottages is the spacious bath area of pebbled flooring with huge flat river stones to step on, equipped with shower head of the rain-dome type, adorned with an arrangement of floating petals in a stone bowl.  Fresh-smelling toiletries made exclusively by Ilog Maria are arranged in a receptacle.  Next to the bath area, I also liked the nook where two soft white pillows await its occupant.  This place which is overlooking (in our cottages) the small wilderness is an ideal place to read a good book or just curl up and relax.  Other items of interest are mirrors set in Indonesian woodcarvings mounted on the wall, gauzy white cloth that serve as a shower curtain, shell-beaded curtains and bits & pieces of antiques.   

After we settled our things in the cottage, we went out to explore the area and there we met the owner, Ms. Sonya Garcia.  So we walked with her toward the location of the Panaderia (local bakery) and Country Store and we passed again through the pathway of wooden planks and stone.  From that spot, she let us smell a huge pink flower and asked how it smelled.  “Does it not smell butter?” So we learned that it’s called butter bush.  Actually it is a tree bearing that baby pink-colored flower.  

Then dinner came.  It was truly filling with fresh greens (lettuce only, no arugula, nor fennels and parsley as described by others) and an assortment of toppings e.g. cheese, corn, cucumber, boiled egg, pineapple, mango and toasted broad beans with two kinds of dressing to choose from – Sonya’s secret dressing or vinaigrette; freshly baked bread from the Panaderia with various dips such as basil pesto, white cheese, anchovies, bruschetta tomato toppings, mushroom pate, black olive tapinade and fresh green peppercorn in olive oil; and pasta with two kinds of sauces – sun dried tomato and chicken cream – and salmon belly.  If the salmon was not too oily, we would have consumed it all but it was redeemed by the entire hearty experience.  For the sweet ending, we had glazed sweet potato, banana rolls with sesame & jackfruit and a small slice of chocolate cake from the Panaderia.  Everyone enjoyed the drinks – refillable freshly squeezed dalandan (local orange) juice and the ender of all enders the tarragon tea, which tasted like hot rootbeer. 

Is there a better way to end the day than to spoil your senses?  So the ladies had the Magnolia Package which is a complete head-to-toe, two-hour pampering rituals, consisting of aromatherapy steam bath, foot spa, manicure and pedicure and Sonya’s Signature Massage.  My brother delighted himself in the Bentosa with Hilot Massage (an ancient hilot technique which utilizes tiny pieces of a local herb called damong maria that are burned in air tight glass cups. This creates heat and suction as the cups are applied to nerve points of the back. The treatment, combined with Filipino hilot techniques on the back and legs, promotes balanced blood flow, stimulates circulation, removes toxins and dissipates cold spots) 

The following morning, we joined Ms. Sonya for the basic yoga session which we arranged upon our check-in.  We just did a few sun salutation poses.  It was such a very personal encounter with her.  Initially, I and my brother were the only present but my sis-in-law joined after a while. After the session, we took a leisurely walk in the garden and there she showed us some unique and very colorful flowers which are often the subject of artists then toured us in her greenhouse of mostly herbs.  She let us taste the stevia, a substitute for sugar, and the others, of which the names we could no longer remember. 

And for our last meal, breakfast that is, we had her version of adobo, fried boneless bangus and omelet, paired with her fried rice (has similarity with bagoong rice), mango salsa, thick hot chocolate drink (there’s coffee for coffee lovers).  To our request, her staff also generously served us again her freshly-baked wheat bread. 

I still would want to visit this place maybe during the firefly mating season co’z during this time fireflies come out and light the place even in the darkest of nights. So firefly watching!  It will be another interesting experience, nowhere but at Sonya’s.


Apple Cider Vinegar: The Natural Acne Cure

25 11 2009


As to the benefits of apple cider vinegar (ACV), I contented myself with the short literature on the label of Bragg Organic ACV.  A few minutes ago, however, curiosity got the better of me. “How is an apple made into cider vinegar?” I searched the web and stumbled upon a number of sites which say “Apple Cider Vinegar Acne Treatment.  Oh! That is something new to me.  Why didn’t I encounter that before?  

So here what they say… 

Vinegar is produced by fermentation of vegetables, fruits or grains. It is a natural process in which the food molecules are broken down with the help of yeast and bacteria. In the initial stage, the sugar present in the food gets converted into alcohol, and in the later stage, the fermentation of alcohol leads to formation of vinegar. 

Due to its natural processing, apple cider vinegar contains more enzymes and mineral that any other vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, Vitamin C, beta carotene, three different forms of vitamin B, bioflavonoids, etc. It also contains useful minerals like calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, copper, iron, etc. All these ingredients help it in fighting bacteria and reducing inflammation.    

So ACV may be used either as a skin toner or as a tonic drink to fight acne.  As a skin toner, 2 tablespoons of ACV must be diluted with an ounce of water.  Dab a cotton into the mixture and apply on the spot or pour a half cup of ACV into a basin of warm water then splash this on the face.  This can be done twice a day to achieve the best results.  As a health tonic, the usual proportion is 2 tablespoons of ACV to a cup of water.  Honey may be added to improve the taste.  This can be taken up to three times a day – upon rising on empty stomach, mid-morning and mid-afternoon.  It should be noted, however, that the acid content of the vinegar may cause harm to the teeth enamel so it is advisable that you rinse your mouth thoroughly. 

Health experts suggest that we select a good quality ACV made of organic apples.  I personally recommend the brand Bragg which can be purchased at Healthy Options, SM Supermarket and Makati Supermarket.  

Branded Fragrances and Cosmetics up to 70% Off

16 09 2009

A colleague just informed us that branded fragrances are being sold in a kiosk inside the Pacific Star.  So after I settled my bill, I checked it out.

So I’ve learned that it belongs to Luxasia, Inc. , which is owned and managed by socialite Mia Nolasco-Cuenca.  The company has been making  international brands of fragrances and cosmetics available in department stores such as Rustans.

Rumeur by Lanvin (100ml) at Php1,200

Rumeur by Lanvin (100ml) at Php1,200

So what did I get?  Guerlain Parure Compact (Php1,300), Shiseido Multi-Energizing Cream (Php800), Decleor Radiance Smoothing Cream (Php1,350), StriVectin-SD Eye Cream (Php1,000), Jurlique Purifying Foaming Cleanser (Php800), Shiseido Pureness Anti-Shine Refreshing Lotion (Php600) and Rumeur by Lanvin (Php1,200).  A real steal….

So ladies and gentlemen, you can start your holiday shopping now.  The kiosk will stay until Friday, September 18.  By the way, payments can be made by cash or card.

BS Lip and Cheek Stain Exiting Soon?

23 06 2009

Lip and Cheek Stain

Last Saturday, I and a colleague were strolling around Robinsons Galleria when I noticed Body Shop still on sale.  Was the anniversary sale extended again?  I wondered… As we got closer, I realized the items on sale were different from the last time, as far as I can recall.  One item on the display window piqued my interest so I asked my colleague if it was ok to check out the items. 

While my buddy was trying a free make-over, I expressed to the staff my liking for their Lip and Cheek Stain.  According to her, this favorite item of mine will be phased out  soon co’z it’s not selling very well in other countries unlike in Manila.   If ever, this will be the second Body Shop product I patronize that is exiting the market, the first was the Tea Tree Oil Pressed Powder.

Body Shop Sale Extended

15 06 2009

Body Shop

Girls, grab your shopping basket before the day ends co’z today is the last day of the Extended Sale at all Body Shop outlets.  Get as much as 70% discount on your favorite stuffs.

Speaking of favorite stuff, mine is the Lip and Cheek Stain.   Since it was launched here in the Philippines, I never ran out of stock of this item.  I always have at least 2 pieces of this fabulous beauty essential in my vanity drawer.  How’s that?  Well, I just never missed to purchase this item whenever it’s on sale.  I got myself 2 pieces last month when it was offered at 40% off.  Now, that makes 4 in my drawer.  So, you know…

What make this item a really “must-have”  for me?  First is the price.  At Php795, it costs a little cheaper compared to other brands like Smashbox, Mac and ModelCo.  And if you’re regularly checking out Body Shop, you should not miss the sale events that usually include this stuff offered at 40% off or “Buy 1, Take 1”.  Isn’t that hot?  Another thing I like about this stuff is the natural glow it gives my cheeks and with just a little powder and lip color, off I can go….

Go Natural

24 04 2009

It’s great to know that people are becoming aware of the many toxic and harmful synthetic ingredients in our toiletries and cosmetics.  Yes, a few of my friends are now starting to use natural hair care products like Nature’s Gate Organics.  Although this brand is said to still use the carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-dioxane (Refer to Item No. 46 at, I think we’re still better off using it than the conventional and traditional brands with ingredients that cause cancer, are skin irritants, disturb our hormone balance or have never been fully tested for safety.

My favorite natural product brand is Burt’s Bees which is a little more expensive than the other brands I’ve used like Jason Pure, Natural and Organic, Nature’s Gate Organics and Aveeno.

USDA Organic and Natural Product Certification

Those who want to completely shift to truly organic toiletries and cosmetics should look for the organic label i.e. USDA Certified Organic and the natural product seal which certifies compliance with the Natural Products Association Standard for Personal Care Products.  Unfortunately and sadly, we can’t still find local products that are natural and organic although we have this Natural Products Society of the Philippines, a non-stock, non-profit organization established in 1996 whose members are actively involved in natural products research.

So aside from Nature’s Gate hair care products, my friends are also getting interested in mineral make-up after showing them a brochure of the brand I started using just recently.  They are now excited to receive their orders which are arriving in 3 to 4 days.

Burt’s Bees is available at Beauty Bar while Nature’s Gate and Jason are available at Healthy Options.

Related post: Toiletries: Killing us softly?

Wanted: Neutrogena Hand Cream

8 04 2009


Can anyone tell me where I can purchase Neutrogena Hand Cream?  I’ve checked several Watsons’ outlets and PCX in ATC, but it was not available.  Around late last year, I got 3 tubes from Watsons Southmall at the basement.  Initially, the store clerk told me that they don’t have any stock but I urged her to re-check.  Her colleague heard me and told the first lady that they had stock in… I don’t know where.  So it was placed in a different shelf or something.  So I got 3 tubes out of their 4 in stock.  When I checked Watsons early this year co’z I only had one extra tube left, it was no longer available in that outlet.  Now, I’m squeezing my last tube and will cut it half anytime to get the last drop or should I say iota of cream.