That's Sonya herself tending to her garden back in 2010. Standing right next to her is her lovely dog "Aldo."
Here's a personal rundown of the place:
Reservation is done via phone or email, and a deposit is required. Unfortunately, Sonya's Garden does not have an online payment facility, so a visit to the specified bank (they'll give you instructions) is necessary to confirm your booking.
My Bibe outside our room, which was on the second floor.
Checking in was no problem. The inconvenience, though, lay in the fact that after walking downhill through their garden where vehicles are not allowed, we had to go walk back uphill where our room was (our room last time was just near the information office). Word of advice, ask first where your room is so you won't be lugging all your stuff back and forth (even with assistance).
Our room was nicknamed "Licorice," which was huge, bright and airy with very high ceilings. Save for the wooden furniture, door, sliding windows, and other room accents, everything else was painted white, including the floor. Capiz shells are also very prominently used here. There's no air conditioning but there were windows everywhere that allowed the cool Tagaytay breeze into our room, supplemented by a ceiling fan at the center and another electric fan on the side.
High, high ceiling. Love it!
We had three beds: a queen-sized one in one corner, a single in another, and a day bed fronting the door. At least two very long windows also provide seating with a couple of pillows thrown in. And with bedside lamps and a couple of used books available, it just feels so homey in here.
Love the dated influence on the bed's headboard.
You'll love just lounging by the window.
Be forewarned, though, that there's no TV or in-room internet here, as this B&B espouses the art of doing nothing. Besides, don't you just want to escape from all the stress brought about by urban living?
I don't get to see much of cabinets like this anymore. The wooden structure beside the cabinet, on the other hand, I'd like to call a phone booth.
Told you it was a phone booth.
An old-school vanity. Right beside is a coffee/tea-making facility. No coffee, though, just some sprigs of taragon for making tea.
There's also lots of crafty details that fill this room, from the chandeliers, to the beads hanging from the curtains, to the lovely stitch work that went into the sheets, the pillowcases and even the hand towels. Another noteworthy characteristic of this place is that all the sheets and linen are freshly starched and ironed that they all feel so crisp and clean. I think Martha Stewart would approve.
The chandeliers don't really try to be fancy, but they're lovely in their own right.
Some cute stuff hanging from the curtains.
Crisp linen and some crafty stitch work would instantly light up your mood.
The bathroom is a room unto itself, with that same spaciousness and airiness as the bedroom's. Here you can enjoy the view of rolling hills and grazing cows in the distance while doing your thing. Simply lounging by the window is not bad either.
I want a bathroom like this.
The shower area.
Flashback: Our room the last time
Our room was very different the last time we were here, which was in 2010. Unlike our recent room that was made of concrete and painted white all over, this was predominantly made of wood and had that warm, "heritage feel" to it. The room was smaller, too, and maybe because there was another room above us, our ceiling was a bit low. Pretty much the same in-room amenities, though.
Different exterior, but nonetheless lovely.
Same familiar white walls and ceiling, but with wooden floors.
This room had a smaller main bed. Notice the little pieces of cloth that wrap the base of the furniture? They're meant to prevent floor scratching. How nifty!
There were only two beds here but there's a wooden table and some chairs to make up for it. Doesn't this scene feel like you're back in the 1800's or something?
The bathroom's also smaller and the shower area has stones and pebbles for flooring. Cute.
Different orientation, but still a lovely bathroom.
There are a couple of dining spaces at Sonya's, and the bed and breakfast has a dedicated area for its guests. Our room was a little far from the dining area, though, but walking through the gardens makes the trek quite pleasurable. Most tables here seat two to four but there are also seating options for bigger groups. Along with paintings and ceramics, dainty china are on display in at least three glass-covered cupboards.
The dining area.
A section of the dining area with various ceramics on the wall and several sets of china displayed in a cupboard.
The Php 3,400 rate per person (Php 3,000 on weekdays) already includes breakfast and one lunch or dinner. Homegrown, organic food is served here, which, though good, may not be to everyone's liking. This is healthy eating.
For breakfast, guests can choose between Filipino and American, the former consisting of (as pictured) garlic fried rice, omelet (that's so divine!), adobo, daing na bangus (marinated dried milkfish), fruit, and coffee or hot chocolate.
Looking through old photographs, I realized the menu hasn't changed at all since our last time here, something returning guests or those planning on long stays should take note of, I believe. Our dinner two years ago was still very much the same today.
For starters we were presented with lettuce, arugula and some edible flowers, a medley of fruit, cucumber, tomatoes, black olives and shredded hard-boiled eggs, and a choice between vinaigrette and their "secret" salad dressing so we can create our own salad. There was also soup and bread served with a variety of organic spreads that included goat's cheese and black olive pâté.
Salad time! This was in 2010, which was very much still the same in 2012.
Pasta came next, and again, you're left to create your own dish. There was cream chicken (which I didn't like; rich but bland at the same time), sun-dried tomatoes, mushroom, olives, and capers, with strips of fried salmon on the side. Personally, I'd be happy with just the salad.
Another create-your-own fare.
Dessert consisted of a slice of cake, some turon (banana folded in a lumpia wrapper and fried in oil and sugar), and something else I forgot about. Fresh calamansi juice was on hand throughout dinner. Or was it dalandan?
Sonya's Garden caters to weddings and other events, although if you want loud music, I don't think this is the right place. They have a country store where their own handmade soaps, shampoos, massage oils, and even pet spa products are sold. Bottles of their salad dressing are also available, as are fresh greens and a host of other things, handicrafts included. Meanwhile, bread lovers like me can take comfort in their panaderia (bakery).
Their spa is also most recommended. The treatments here aren't that expensive (Php 675 for a 1-hour Swedish massage) and I've always loved how good the masseuses are. Their strokes are just so relaxing and positively different from what I've been regularly getting in Makati. I was also once again reminded of how good it was to have that warm cup of dalandan juice with basil after my massage.
An extra hundred or so gets you a couple's room with its own private shower.
The garden takes inspiration from English gardens -- casual and seemingly random -- no manicured lawns whatsoever. More on that in another post.
A pet-friendly place
At Sonya's -- even at the B&B -- your furry friends are most welcome. And that alone is already reason for me to love this place.
Me with two of Sonya's furry friends back in 2010. The black one is Miss Muppet, who I had the chance of seeing again this time. She's friendly, and without prodding she'll motion you for a belly rub.
Aldo, one of Sonya's two dogs that are now on the label of her homemade pet spa products. Didn't see him this time, though.
Can't wait to be back again soon -- with the cats, of course.
By private vehicle
From SLEX, exit at either Sta. Rosa or Greenfields and turn right towards Tagaytay. Turn right upon reaching Aguinaldo Highway and drive towards Nasugbu, Batangas. It's quite a distance, and you'll drive way past the Tagaytay Rotunda and even way past Bag of Beans. Your signal to slow down would be Splendido on the left side. A short distance after that, you'll see a Sonya's Garden signage on the right. Turn right and drive for about 2km more until you see the Sonya's signage on the left.
By public transport
Take the bus going to Nasugbu, Batangas (I think Crow Bus Lines in Pasay plies that route; I'm not sure of other options). As with the private vehicle option, watch out for Splendido then get off right by the Sonya's signage on the right. I believe there are tricycles that can take you there from the highway.
For more info, visit www.sonyasgarden.com.