Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Good for the heart

A heart-shaped wreath from Ate Neneth

When I go to Tagaytay, I usually have only one thing in my agenda: Sonya’s Garden. Sonya is a dear friend. I call her Mother. She must know how much of me is frittered away by city life because when I arrive at her garden, she always, always has me fed straightaway, as if there’s a hole in me that needs filling. And she must be right because when I get there, I am always, always ravenous.

Pinoy breakfast served on fine china

I remember one particularly nippy afternoon in early November when Ate Ellen, Sonya’s trusty and thoughtful caretaker, prepared for me something called Darling Dolores. It was my first taste of this exquisite thin-crust pizza wrapped over lettuce leaves, arugula, cucumber and pecorino cheese. The pizza crust is prepared at Sonya’s panaderia. That afternoon, after merienda, Sonya asked Ate Ellen to bring me a quilted blanket to bundle myself with so that we could have siesta together in the living room while waiting for our friend Clang. I remember the breeze from the open windows stroking my face until I drifted off to sleep. Such delights lure me to visit regularly but I’m afraid I still don’t go often enough. It would certainly do my soul good to visit more frequently.

The birthday girl

This weekend, I hied to Mother’s haven to celebrate with my dear friend Clang on her birthday. Mother was having a reflexology with Rodel so I proceeded to the bed and breakfast where the attentive staff headed by Ate Neneth immediately prepared a table for me. After sending Clang a message that I would get started without her, I reached for the sesame-encrusted bread and broke off a piece, topped it with kesong puti and a dollop of tapenade. I relished the first bite. With each that followed, I found my spirit settling, descending to a place of calm.

Clang arrived shortly after and joined me. While we were enjoying our salad, the staff came out to sing Clang a “Happy Birthday” and gave her red roses and a petal-festooned chocolate cake.

Me in my favorite Sonya’s getup - her Vietnamese-style pajamas 

Sonya had a dinner appointment in Manila that night so Clang and I decided to have a massage after seeing her off. We requested for the signature massage with fragrant rice compress, an add-on service that amplifies the relaxation many times over. I had a light dinner after and went to bed early, my normally nocturnal self holding no objections.

Kindred spirits

The next day, I woke up renewed. While showering, I took in the view of the hills and rolling pastures dotted with white grazing cattle. The sight was framed with clusters of blooms. I got ready to meet Sonya, Clang and Mona for breakfast, and walked along the flower-paved pathways with a spring in my step, thankful for this sanctuary where I get to experience all the good things in life – beauty, friendship, and simple joys like the smell of freshly laundered sheets or a cup of warm tsokolate.

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