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.


Live Food Lecture by Cheloy Ignacio

22 02 2010

Ms. Cheloy Ignacio, the renowned raw foodist, is now back from the US.  I got her email yesterday informing that she will be holding a food lecture this weekend.   I was not sure if this is the Living on Live Food Lecture explained in her site (Rawfood Philippines) so I called her up.  So it is the Live Food Lecture, which according to her lasts for 6 hours but may extend depending on the queries.  I told her that I’m trying to invite some friends.  I hope I could convince one. 

The package, which costs Php10,000, is a combination of lectures and actual recipe preparations so a participant is required to come on empty stomach.  

For details and reservations, contact 687-1121.

Truffettes de France latest promo…

15 01 2010

I just got an SMS message from TdF Glorietta 4 outlet exactly 2 hours ago about its ongoing promo.  For every purchase of 2 boxes of 250-gm orange truffles at Php1,000, one gets a free box of toffee truffles.

Go indulge!  Promo runs until supplies last.  I will skip this time co’z I still have a box of 2-pounder courtesy of my brod from Canada who came for a vacation last month.

Roxas City, Here I Come!

21 10 2009

PAL Promo Banner

I just let Cebu Pacific’s latest promo pass.  I was thinking that I have to be more serious in saving this time for my future “ahem”.  Besides, I already have two (2) travels in queue for this last quarter.  

But, just after I arrived in my workplace, my colleague asked me if I was interested to come to Roxas City, her hometown.  I asked her why.  According to her, the PAL all-in promo fare is only Php1,792.  My next question was, “When?”.  She said, “from Nov. 27 to 30”.  I took a moment of silence… I’ve been kidding her for not inviting us to see her hometown.  Now is the time.  But I thought I couldn’t afford to absent myself for 2 days co’z  I have upcoming travels.  I didn’t realize it will be a long weekend.  Ok, good thing!  I still had one more concern – church commitment.  After checking the calendar, I realized there’s no conflict.  Ok, book, book. 

Now looking forward, it will be a truly indulging holiday, a weekend of seafood indulgence being in the Seafood Capital of the Philippines.  

Thanks to the Philippine Airlines’ More for Less promo*. 

* Sale period is from October 16 to 23 for travel period from November 4 to December 10, 2009  

Oh My Goolai!

16 10 2009

At past 10 a.m., I was considering either a Starbuck’s Tomato, Basil and Mozarella Bagel or some gourmet sandwich from The Sandwich Guy for my lunch after having two full bowls of goto (beef stripe congee) and tokwa’t baboy (fried tofu and pork) at breakfast.  But, I still feel full and bloated a little before lunchtime so I thought a salad meal was a better choice.  I checked on Petron’s Treats across my office building for the available ready-to-eat salad items and I got this Goolai.  I opted for the mixed greens with chicken, peaches, grapes, kiwi and honey almonds in poppyseed vinaigrette over the one with creamy dressing.  The dressing was good, not sour for a vinaigrette, a bit tangy.  It was a good choice. 

Goolai is really another good option for the salad lovers.  It is reasonably priced at Php146 considering that it is prepared fresh daily by the Agri-Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative.  A pack, which expires after 2 days, contains about 150 grams of lettuce and 200 grams of various toppings ranging from chicken, fresh fruits in season and nuts.  The vegetables are grown hydroponically – using carefully measured water instead of soil – to prevent bacteria and pesticide contamination.*  

Check out this salad at Petron’s Treats, Crossings and Robinson’s Supermarkets.  

*Source: Masigasig, May 2009 Issue Published by Globe Business for SMEs 

Truffettes de France joins Midnight Sale

10 09 2009

Truffettes de France

For all the TdF lovers out there, here’s one good news I got thru SMS.  Its Glorietta outlet joins the 3-day midnight sale starting tomorrow, September 11.  You can buy two (2) 500g packs of the Original variant at Php999 only.   

Now, we can again indulge with less guilt…  How’s that?

SLERS of Cagayan de Oro

29 08 2009


I first learned about SLERS through my former boss a few years ago.  Tried its own version of chicharon (pork crackling) which definitely tastes better than Lapid’s (comes close to second).  I didn’t pay much attention to her sharing of delight for the chicharon at that time primarily because it’s not a healthy food (hahaha) until she brought at work a pack as her pasalubong (gift item from travel ).  She told us that there’s a SLERS kiosk at the Mall of Asia (MOA).  And so during my first visit to the  MOA, while I was browsing the stores and shops, I stumbled upon the kiosk and that was the start of my appreciation as I shared with my family this delectable pica pica (finger food). 

When my boss and a colleague announced their visit to the Del Monte cannery in Cagayan de Oro, I requested them to buy me a pack of SLERS chicharon just to remind me of the taste as I seldom eat the stuff.  I didn’t know that SLERS has other product offerings such as Jamon de Cagayan, sausage, bacon, sweet ham, among others until my colleague contacted me to ask if I want the foodstuff they bought for themselves.  I told her I would want the Jamon de Cagayan instead of the sweet ham which they purchased, a pack of bacon and sausage. 

Upon their return, she told me that it was a good decision for me to have the Jamon de Cagayan, a country ham produced the old fashioned way by the long process of salt curing and smoking, as this is the must-try among the SLERS products according to the locals there.   Sorry guys! but I’m accustomed to try the unique local food in every locality that I visit.   I promised to share some, anyway, for them to try.