I’d figured that I was going to get a lot out of a stay at the Philippines’ legendary wellness retreat, The Farm at San Benito from the moment I was invited to experience their detox programme. After all, for someone who works from home, emerging only occasionally to attend latte and cake-fuelled client meetings, a full health MOT was always going to be just the ticket. After all, I’d been feeling so bloated and tired recently, and inexplicably finding it really hard to resist cheese Doritos.
Umm, yep. And less than a week after confirming my booking for a full-works detox stay, complete with fasting and colonics, further investigation uncovered that, rather than just being worn out from too much work and junk food, I was in fact pregnant, explaining all of the above symptoms in one fell swoop.
I rather shamefacedly emailed The Farm to let them know that, far from presenting myself as a guinea pig for a radical health makeover as previously agreed, I was now suggesting cancelling the stay, or alternatively asking to be wrapped up in cotton wool and coddled instead of flushed out and streamlined. The response came within hours: “Congratulations! We can definitely accommodate you with a tailor-made programme as we regularly have pregnant guests here. We look forward to meeting you!” As if I needed any further encouragement to ditch the Big Smog and my laptop for a few days. Hello, Manila!
Nestled within a coconut plantation spanning a staggering 48 hectares of lush Batangas countryside, The Farm is just a 90-minute car ride from downtown Manila, but a whole world away from the city’s notorious pollution and traffic. Set within extensive tropical grounds, and offering a healthy alternative to the Hong Konger’s typical holiday pursuits of drinking and eating, the resort promotes health, wellness and mindfulness, all in a beautiful self-contained resort that guarantees total escape and relaxation.
In fact, this is quite the departure from your usual holiday; one of the main reasons that people flock to The Farm is to experience one of the resort’s aforementioned award-winning detoxes. Combining elements of juice cleanse, colonic irrigation, spa treatments and fully supported by the on-site medical team, a detox stay allows for a complete break from unhealthy habits and poor nutrition, and the chance to completely reset the body’s natural rhythms. If that all sounds a little hardcore, or if like me you have other reasons preventing a full detox, a wellness break focuses instead on supporting the body via optimum nutrition and healing spa treatments.
Ah yes, on to nutrition. This wellness retreat is – rather surprisingly – something of a foodie’s paradise that has won numerous awards and accolades for its dining options, and if you are expecting sullen deprivation then you’ll be surprised. The gourmet vegan cuisine served up at the on-site Alive! restaurant is beautifully presented and incorporates lovely “pastas”, “pizzas” and some real knock-out desserts, all painstakingly and creatively made from the very freshest of raw ingredients, mostly grown in the retreat’s own organic gardens, which you can wander at your leisure after lunch. There’s even freshly ground, locally produced coffee, plus organic wines and beers on the menu, so it’s possible to cheat a little without feeling too guilty. Coconuts feature heavily on the menu, so if they’re not your fave then you may want to develop a tolerance before arriving, or opt for a juice cleanse to avoid them entirely!
Your accommodation comes in the form of plush villas, many with private pools, or comfortable suites that boast outdoor showers and all the typical extras you’d expect from a high-end resort. All buildings are crafted from natural materials that make the most of the stunning tropical views and all come with private gardens to maximise on the relaxing vibe at the end of a hard day’s detoxing. Bathrooms are stocked with lush organic soaps, scrubs and oils produced by hand on-site at The Farm’s own coconut plantation, which I highly recommend touring during your stay.
And now for the good bit – what would a retreat be without spa treatments? If you’re here for a detox then The Farm’s Healing Sanctuary Spa supports this with prescriptive massages, facials and body treatments, while you can get your exercise fix in one of the resort’s three natural swimming pools, at the jungle gym, or at one of the many fitness classes conducted in the open-air pavilion.
Personal trainers are available too, although obviously I ignored such lunacy, choosing instead to make the most of the yoga and mediation classes, walks and a thorough and very effective pregnancy massage that loosened the knots no end and left me in an extremely Zen frame of mind.
The Farm’s tranquil setting, complete with peacocks wandering the grounds, can’t help but still the busiest mind, while the focus on health and wellness benefits everyone, detoxing or not. I was extremely surprised to see a number of families with young kids during my stay, but thinking about it, the huge green space, pools and inventive coconut-based desserts tick a fair few kiddie boxes, so don’t be discouraged from checking this place out if you’re travelling with the whole gang.
Between now and 14 December 2014, The Farm are offering discounted rates on The Fix Detox Cleanse 4 and 6-night packages, so have a look at www.thefarmatsanbenito.com for more information and booking details.
The Farm at San Benito, 119 Barangay Tipakan, Lipa, Philippines; +63 2 884 8074
Please note that my stay at The Farm was by invitation.