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Typically I don’t write a lot of destination posts, but every now and then I experience something so special that I’ve just got to tell everyone about it. Sonya’s Garden, Tagaytay is a Bed & Breakfast situated in the hills of a tourist destination located about a 2-hour drive from Manila, Philippines.
Walking onto the grounds is like stepping into the pages of Alice and Wonderland. I half expected the Mad Hare to rush out from the flower garden at any moment in a frenzied rush to make his appointment with the Queen of Hearts.
A stone path meanders through lush gardens of flowering plants. Sunflowers crane their necks toward the sun. An Italian bicycle sits perched in front of a charming cottage bedecked with it’s own sunflowers in stained glass.
No detail is overlooked in this relaxing getaway…from the freshly pressed linens to the mismatched china settings on the dining porch.
I spent two days in this lovely getaway. My experience was made even sweeter by meeting Sonya herself on our final morning. We had just finished our breakfast and decided to visit the apothecary for a few pampering treats to take home. As we walked back to our bungalow, there she stood on the path; dressed in a sun hat and laceless Keds with a floral scarf draped around her neck.
Sonya twirled around to greet me and asked, “Are you a model?” I knew then and there we were going to be fast friends. She asked if I had enjoyed her B&B and I assured her I was mesmerized by its charm. To which she exclaimed, “Isn’t it romantic and magical?!” Ah yes, those were the perfect words to describe this special place.
She grabbed my hand and whisked me away for an impromptu tour of the grounds. She flitted easily from flower to shrub; filling me in on their origins and various uses. She would bite into a leaf as she handed me another to sample…one would taste peppery, while the next would pucker my mouth with it’s tangy tartness. Holding up the lacy flower of the snake gourd, she proclaimed, “One look at this and it’s impossible to deny there is a creator,” and I had to agree.
“Do you know they sell oxygen in a can in China?” she asked. “Here, you get it for free!” she squealed with a twinkle in her eye.
When asked what inspired her to start her gardens, Sonya explained that she grew up in her grandmother’s garden and wanted to recreate the experience when she grew up. Originally, she started the gardens around her home where she regularly entertained friends. But often, her guests would enjoy it so much they just didn’t want to leave, so she built her first bungalow to house them.
Soon, the word spread. Sonya began receiving requests from suitors who wanted to do wedding proposals and eventually, weddings. “There was no plan,” she said, “it just sort of grew.” Her friends finally convinced her to open a restaurant where she serves all organic foods from her garden. Then, she slowly added bungalows one at a time so her guests could, “learn the art of doing nothing.”
I had complemented several employees throughout my stay. Their pride was evident as they talked about their gardens and their Sonya. On our stroll, Sonya explained that all the workers live in the surrounding community. A few neighborhood kids ran up for hugs while we were talking. They were on their way to her house to watch a rare cartoon.
“None of the kids drink soda,” she explained. They eat only organic foods to make them fit and strong. She pointed to the taller of two,”I promised to take her to Paris when she reaches my shoulder…now, I’m realizing she will be there soon!”
Rarely does one have the opportunity to step out of the everyday to experience such a slice of paradise. I left heaped high with organic tomatoes, basil, cilantro and ensaynada (a buttery Filipino pastry) that she had instructed others to pack up for me as we strolled the grounds.
We drove down the path toward home and just like that the spell was broken as the landscape returned to normal. But, the smell of basil lingered in the air; with it the memory of Sonya and her special garden hideaway. That may have been my first visit, but it will not be my last.
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