Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Commune with Nature at Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Dolores, Quezon

Fresh air and healthy foods seem to have become rare commodities these days. Many of us are so caught up in our fast-paced lives that we barely can find time to pause and unwind regularly.

So I was truly grateful to be given a chance to stop thinking about my deadlines even for just one weekend. Last Saturday, I joined our group of organic agriculture bloggers and our friends from the Agricultural Training Institute's e-Extension Division for an overnight trip to Bangkong Kahoy Valley in Dolores, Quezon.

It took us around three hours to get there from Makati but the journey was worth it. We were greeted by the majestic sights of Mount Cristobal and Mount Banahaw, two towering land areas that look like they were standing guard over the peaceful valley between them. On a clear day, one can even see the town Tiaong, Quezon below and faraway Mount Halcon in Mindoro.

Given the rural feel of the place, I thought we'll be sleeping in huts like those we could see from the dining area, which is also a kind of a big hut where they serve food and where guests can have hearty meals. But after a sumptuous lunch, we were led to a modern structure that houses several nice rooms.

The girls' room has two big beds, a fireplace, cable TV, table and chairs, and bathroom. There is no need for electric fans or air-conditioning units. You just need to open the sliding door with screen and let the cool breeze come in. At night, it's nice to snuggle up under the thick blankets to ward off the naturally cold weather. 

Each meal we had at BK Valley are delicious! I love the vegetable dishes, especially the soups with freshly-harvested oyster mushrooms. They cook a tasty adobo, too! Dessert for lunch was a pleasant surprise for me. I used to pick wild raspberries (or sampinit in the local dialect) as a little girl at the foot of Mount Cristobal on the Laguna side where my grandparents' farm land is located. 

After our filling first meal, Sir Dion Pullan, the great-grandson of BK Valley's original owner but who prefers to be known as the land's Caretaker, shared with us a brief history of the place, his plans on further helping the community through other livelihood projects, and his advocacy of preserving the environment for the next generations. 

He also toured us around and showed us how they meticulously grow oyster mushrooms then had one of his staff bring us to the wild raspberry field where my friends and I happily picked berries and ate them straight from the bush! I wished my sister was with me though because I'm sure she would definitely feel nostalgic about the activity. 

Near the pretty little chapel, we enjoyed posing for photos in a wide, open field that, as my friend and namesake Ruth says, "Ang lakas maka-New Zealand!" LOL Kidding aside, the beautiful vista before us was very soothing to the soul. If only I have the time, I could stay in that field for hours to daydream or do some writing under the shade of one of the trees dotting the perimeter.

Nighttime came and the stars came out bright and shining. It's really different looking at the night sky away from the city lights. They're clearer and feel closer. If it wasn't freezing cold at 19 degrees Centigrade, I would have asked my companions if they'd want to lie down on the field and go star gazing. That's what my roommates and I used to do when we were still college students in UP Los Banos

But the cold drove us inside our rooms and we never did get to go out again at 10PM when, according to BK Valley staff, fireflies would be coming out. The fresh air and the long trip that morning made it very, very easy to fall into a restful sleep. 

The girls were up by 6AM the next day and we went to the mess hall to have coffee. Sir Dion joined us  for a chat and told us that the sun would soon be rising behind Mount Banahaw. I was happy to be there and catch it right on time. Too bad we didn't see any of the monkeys that they say usually come out on the field in the early mornings.

Breakfast was over too soon and, after freshening up, it was time to go. I'd love to stay longer but everyone has stuff and busy lives to go back to. But before we left, I made sure to buy some of the pesticide-free vegetables, a kilo of oyster mushrooms for me and my sister, and a bottle of wild raspberry jam. I'd love to buy fresh ones but I think we, and the other visitors the day before, have already "over picked" the plantation. Sir Dion said it will take about three days for new fruits to be ready for harvest.

Soon, I hope I could bring my family there for a day or two and enjoy once again the fresh and cool air, beautiful surroundings, and healthy food. I've yet to try relaxing in one of the hammocks and my kids would definitely love to ride the horses which one can rent for only P50 for a full ride around the area. It would also help the animals' caretakers have extra income. Those who are more adventurous may also want to try out the zip line ride

There are more stories to tell about BK Valley that I'll share in the coming days. For now, those who are interested in going there can inquire and make reservations by sending a message through their Facebook page, contact 0906.4381410 / 0943.4058785 / 0918.5093224, email bkvalley@gmail.com or log on to BKvalley.webs.com

*To see more photos taken at BK Valley, you can view this album

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