SONIA’S Garden has put the town of Alfonso on the map of popular theme restaurants such as Marcia Adams and the Thai-inspired Lime and Basil.
Located just a few kilometers from Tagaytay, Alfonso is an upland municipality in Cavite that has always been heavily forested.
Compared with Tagaytay, it’s still not densely populated and the innards are still forested that Waze and GPS don’t work.
Many of the affluent have built weekend getaways in Alfonso. “It feels like Vancouver because of the nature and fresh air,” says hotelier Pipo Fernandez, owner of Alfonso Hotel. Its Italian trattoria, Il Gallo Nero, has been a favorite of Japanese tourists.
The Les Roches-educated Fernandez has been the go-to guy for getting around this peaceful and scenic place.
Here’s an idea of what Alfonso offers.
This two-hectare farm has been more popular for team building and school outings. Clients bring facilitators to organize the games.
Organic jackfruit, mango, guyabano, avocado and macopa trees surround the rolling terrain that descends to an 11-kilometer river where young people go trekking.
Ducks, chicken and turkeys waddle in the farm.
For day events, visitors can enjoy the lap pool and horseback riding in the corral.
The farm takes pride in its American Saddlebred, the only five-gaited horse in the country. This means that the horse can do more gaits or manner of walking than the average horse which does three.
It also has a white Przewalski pony, a wild horse breed from Mongolia.
Casey Takayama started searching for a purpose in life, after growing weary to the humdrum existence of giving job placements to Japanese in America. One day, he encountered a Filipino faith healer who had diagnosed an ailment which Takayama was not aware of.
He met more psychics and healers. Hearing about the Philippines, he ended up in Alfonso where he found a property for sale. He has since developed it into the Academy of World Healing (AWH) which not only caters to foreign patients but also does a lot of community service.
Indian mango trees line the estate which is partially powered by solar energy. Takayama drives a car fueled by recycled cooking oil.
The place has been drawing foreigns, particularly Japanese cancer patients. The therapies cover mega-doses of vitamins, coffee enema, the beam ray machine developed by Dr. Raymond Rife, high-body temperature healing, to name a few.
Also offered is infrared light therapy, in which light deeply penetrates the tissues, stimulate their physiology, increase the blood flow and speeds up the healing process by 50 percent. It has been used to treat cancer and eye disorders.
AWH likewise provides spiritual counseling such as past life regression, spiritual cleansing and meeting spiritual guides.
Families can spend the weekend enjoying the Zen spa area, Thai massage, dry acupressure or aromatherapy and the healthy vegetarian cuisine.
AWH can arrange tours to Taal Lake, Los Baños hot springs and diving in Anilao. Closer to Tagaytay, AWH can also arrange golfing and horseback riding.
Alfonso’s forest has been transformed into an animatronics kingdom and haunted woodland.
The adventure begins with the steep and winding descent to the mechanized zoo. Along the way, visitors encounter statues of Snow White and the Dwarves, the comic heroes Minions, an herb garden, hydroponics plants, a fossil museum and live animals.
The highlights are the interaction with dinosaurs, a giant turtle snapping its head, cobras and crocodiles.
Operations manager Louie Ramos created these animals using a special motor so that the tortoise can blink its eyes and roll its eyeballs, the guinea pig squeaks, the viper turns its head, the Tyrannosaurus rex opens its jaw.
As visitors approach the animals, their sensors pick up the body heat and the animals start moving.
On weekends, the Fun House puts on a 20-minute show of its mascots and reptiles.
The Haunted Forest is also operated with mechanized ghouls and fog machine for special effect. You get lost in the jungle and are troubled by its creepy creatures.
Then there’s carabao riding and trails for team building groups.
Palumlum, Alfonso; contact 0999-3582344, 0906-8097500, 0908-8669724 and 0927-9525206
A few hundred meters from Reptiland Adventure is a fairy-tale book setting. The jungle-like drive to Gingerbread House lends the actual feel of a Hansel and Gretel journey.
The concept takes after the German fairy tale of two siblings who get lost in the forest and find themselves in Gingerbread House built by a cannibalistic witch.
A long-tailed monkey, perched on a tree house, greets guests while the smell of freshly-baked bread wafts in the air. Visitor pass through the candy cane entrance and write down their wishes, post them on the Dream Board, and then make a wish on the Wishing Well.
The mini forest serves as the Hansel and Gretel trail.
The place has a dining al fresco spot, quaint, cottage-style rooms, and a fish spa.
It serves mini cakes, brownies, muffins, chocolates and a corner filled with confection. An actual Gingerbread House can be ordered. The staff is courteous and very accommodating.
Upli-Palumlum Road, Alfonso; tel. nos. (02) 6972817, 0917-6303124 and 0922-8945171
When you buy a rose in Manila, chances are that the heads are too heavy that they easily droop.
But Island Rose, the country’s largest single producer of roses and cut flowers, has got the size down to a science: four-centimeter buds that bloom when placed in a vase.
Some 3,000 Indian trees border the 5.5-hectare sloping terrain to protect the greenhouses from strong winds and flooding. Excess water is diverted into a man-made lagoon. The flowers are nurtured in temperature-controlled greenhouses.
“We’ve learned from growers in the tropics that the temperature for roses shouldn’t go over 30 degrees Celsius,” says chief operations officer Albert Andaya. “When Tagaytay gets to 32 degrees, we use a lot of irrigation, shading and fans.”
Orange, dark red and yellow roses with exquisite leaves brighten up the greenhouses. “Unlike gerberas where leaves aren’t necessary, our wholesale clients appreciate the nice leaves of the roses. They form part of the bouquet,” says Andaya.
Each plant has its own spaghetti tube in which the amount of water and fertilizer are calculated to prevent wastage.
After harvesting, the flowers continue to grow in cold storage for 48 hours to guarantee freshness.
The place is not open for private tours, although it accepts educational trips for agriculture and botany students. Still, it accommodates walk-in clients who want to buy roses.
Buck Estate, Metro Tagaytay, Alfonso; tel. (632) 7591599
It is recommended for tourists visiting Alfonso to make a stopover in Mendez to visit the curative hot spring where a vision of its patron saint, San Agustin, appeared.
Sculptor/surgeon Jose T. Jose created a life-size metal sculpture of the patron saint. It is located near the hot spring, where the saint was said to have appeared, standing on the log and blessing the waters. The townsfolk believe that the waters have miraculous powers.
San Agustin was known to have led a banal existence until he immersed himself in silence and prayer. As a result, he wrote profound books that have greatly influenced Christianity.