Tuesday, July 28, 2015

TRAVEL | A relaxing retreat at Sitio de Amor Farm Resort

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Water gushing from a man-made lily pond at Sitio de Amor.

It's been more than a month already since we first stayed at Sitio de Amor Farm Resort in San Pablo City, Laguna. We did a little Viaje del Sol then and our stay came to be only because Sulyap Gallery Cafe, a bed and breakfast and restaurant with really good food and where we intended to stay for 2 nights, could only accommodate us for one. It all turned out to be a good thing for us in the end because Sitio proved to be a perfect fit for us.

This post is long overdue and fact is we've been back there already as of this writing. I guess it's about time I tell you about this B&B.

Reservation and booking
As is common with many a B&B in the country, reservation is done via phone and confirmed after a deposit to their designated bank account is made. That's it.

Check-in
We found our way to Sitio through Google Maps but still doubted ourselves when we saw no other sign other than the one on the highway as we drove through a small dirt road. It led to an open huge gate reminiscent of haciendas in telenovelas, or even horror flicks for that matter. I mean, just look at this:

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Epic, don't you think?

We carried on just the same and soon found a loose cluster of structures and a few parked cars. I got out and looked around but found no one. A few minutes later a young couple came into view and I asked if this was indeed Sitio de Amor because there was no sign or anything. They said yes and related how they also doubted themselves when they arrived.

Eventually a lady clad in a white blouse and black pants, probably in her 40s or 50s, appeared. She introduced herself as Magda and ushered me to a table inside a no-walls dining cum function hall. Her demeanor reminded me of a principal but she was nice. Sometimes overly perky people only annoy me anyway.

Not long after she led us to our room.

Layout and ambiance
Sitio sits on a sprawling, 5 or so-hectare property, although only about 3 hectares is cleared. It's a perennial work in progress, owners George and Amor Bondad told me on separate occasions.

Grass and ornamental plants fill up most of the open space while a host of different fruit-bearing trees are kept on the sides. There's avocado, duhat (black plum), and rambutan, among others. They don't use any pesticides, according to George, and they don't seem to bother much about earning from them either, if all the fruit lying idly on the ground are any indication.

Anyone will also surely notice the owners's penchant for using boulders in their landscaping. George told me they were put in place by Igorots they hired. Must have taken them a while to complete the whole thing.

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Wide, open spaces. And of course, a gorgeous view of Mt Banahaw.

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One of several gazebos that dot the property.

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Flower power!

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Such low-hanging fruits, a lot of which just fall on the grass to rot, or at least until they're cleaned up.

Sitio undoubtedly takes pride in its vast open spaces, and it's something Kwittiegirl and I really like. Structures of varying designs are laid out not too near each other, which affords guests a much welcome sense of privacy. Some of these house the 7 rooms of what make up the B&B; the rest serve as housing for the staff and the owners. A few gazebos also dot the landscape, casually offering guests places to sit back, read a book perhaps.

Our room(s)
Like I said we've been to Sitio twice already as of this writing and have tried two different rooms in the process. On our first time we originally wanted their Avocado room (yes, they name their rooms after fruits) but it was booked, so we settled for Duhat (Php 3,500 a night).

Duhat is part of a ground-level structure with interconnecting rooms. It was the first such structure they built, according to Amor. Despite being interconnected, each room has its own front porch that faces a different direction that effectively affords guests some privacy.

Inside there's a double bed, a day bed, and a quasi-outdoor bathroom. Curiously there's also an attic where they keep stuff like beddings, pillows, and the like. There is no TV here, nor is there one in any of the other rooms. This setup reminds me of Siama Hotel in Sorsogon, where guests are encouraged to unplug and simply unwind.

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Duhat's front porch. I didn't notice it before but don't the chairs remind you of Jack-O-Lanterns or something?

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Miming in the bedroom!

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From another angle. That's the attic in view. But my, look at that gorgeous chest!

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The bathroom; the quasi-outdoor part is on the rear.

They provide two sets of towels for each guest, one for the bathroom and the other for pool use. As for toiletries, it's just soap, so bring your own.

We finally got the Avocado room (also at Php 3,500 a night) on our second time there about a week ago. It's in a duplex structure that's still mostly concrete but incorporated with a lot of hardwood for a traditional Filipino touch, which is more evident indoors. Think wooden floors and furniture, and capiz shell sliding windows (but which unfortunately are locked shut).

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The relaxing sight of nature from the Avocado room. I could really get used to waking up to mornings like this.

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Doesn't look much on the outside but the owners sure have a lot of excess furniture and what-have-you.

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Come on in! The door to the Avocado room.

The room is fitted with a four-poster double bed (sweet!), a wooden sofa bed with rattan strips, and some furniture on which to rest your things. It's a fairly small room but with enough space for you to move around. There's a sliding glass door at the foot of the bed that opens up to a small balcony with a dose of trees for view. That view may not be anything grand but I find it nice to wake up to such a sight nonetheless.

The bathroom's just about right in size; nothing much except for what I noticed was a set of really nice faucets and shower head. I can tell they're of good quality. Water pressure's erratic, however.

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The four-poster bed.

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I'm liking this room's layout.

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The bathroom.

While I'm happy with both rooms, I find them too dimly lit for my taste. I haven't seen any of the other rooms but there are maybe three in what they call the tree house. Well, it was supposed to be a real tree house originally -- built by the Igorots they also hired for the boulders -- but Amor wasn't too pleased with the result and took design matters into her own hands. The tree eventually died anyway and it's this structure that's left standing:

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The tree house. I might want to try a room here next time.

Dining
It's a bed and breakfast, so there's breakfast, for guests at least. Sitio does not have a full service restaurant and as such, does not cater to any walk-ins. They're more than glad, however, to serve checked-in guests lunch or dinner. They only need to be notified in advance so they can make the necessary market trips.

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Hefty breakfast, huh!

Breakfast and other prearranged meals are served at Sitio's open-air function hall although they can set up something romantic for you in any of their gazebos, too. Breakfast is Filipino style and it's a lot! There's brewed coffee, juice, and some fruit as well. But what I really loved was the suman sa latik (suman is a sticky rice delicacy wrapped in either banana or palm leaves; latik is a syrupy concoction made from reduced coconut milk and brown sugar). It's actually the latik that does the trick, which, as George said, is sourced from Bicol and also contains crushed pili nuts.

Facilities
Although primarily a B&B and a farm, Sitio also plays host to weddings, team building activities, and other events. In addition to its spacious grounds -- already an amenity if you ask me -- there's the function hall with high ceilings from which hang an assortment of Aladdin lamps and very impressive chandeliers. I'm simply amazed by the owners's sourcing skills here, especially after George told us they got this and that on sale, and about one particular chandelier that they only found by chance by a roadside shop.

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The function hall.

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High ceilings + impressive lighting fixtures = a winner!

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I would presume this is where newlyweds sit.

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The chandelier they found by a roadside. I tell you, it's huge.

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Forgive me for the repetitive diagonal shots but aren't these chandelier-lamps gorgeous?

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A sampling of the hall's many Aladdin lamps, a favorite of Amor's, according to George.

There's a small infinity pool and a few concrete steps below, a man-made lagoon with a natural water source. After the farm, it was the first thing they built so the owners's then-kids have a place to swim.

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The infinity pool.

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The lagoon.

To me Sitio's best feature is its wide, open spaces. There are countless spots for guests just to sit down and do nothing, and I love that. But in case you feel the need for a little activity, they have bicycles that you can use.

What's more
There's a nice, still unfinished colonial-era house on the property. Called the Parañaque house, the Bondads are calling it their home here. Judging by their recent spate of buying old houses that they painstakingly dismantle, transport, and then meticulously rebuild piece by piece (think Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar but on a much smaller scale), this one they got from somewhere in Parañaque. And we actually got to take a look inside!

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Still unfinished, but already beautiful. The Parañaque house.

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Construction in progress: sliding windows being fitted into place.

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Perfect framing! Just how spectacular can the living room view get!

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Oops! Like I said, it's not yet finished. But don't you just love the effect those stained glass windows have?

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This is not the Parañaque house anymore but it's going to be something really grand.

Another noticeable development on Sitio's grounds is what I would call the Quezon house, which they got from Quezon (from Manoling Morato, if I'm not mistaken) and are rebuilding here. This one's huge and is promising to be really grand, which I thought deserves a separate blog post of its own (soon). It's expected to be completed by December of this year.

But it all ain't gonna stop here because they have two more houses in their warehouse as of the moment. That said, we're going to expect more to come soon.

Checkout
As with checking in, checking out was no fuss. It's the having-to-leave part that's difficult.

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In hindsight
We may have found another go-to place for quick out-of-town trips in Sitio de Amor. For the peace and quiet it offers, the abundance of open spaces and areas that you can claim as your own private spots, the hefty breakfasts, and even yes, the minimal facilities, Sitio is a place I'd recommend, at least for singles and couples. I was initially a bit worried about security because the huge gate is always left wide open but I later learned that Magda closes it at night once all guests's cars are in.

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Little birdie perched on the tip of a young palm.

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Sitio de Amor is located at the end of a small dirt road from the Maharlika Highway in San Pablo City, Laguna. If you're coming from San Pablo, it's on the left. You'll go past signage for Patis Tito Garden Cafe and Bato Springs, both of which are on the left side of the road. And just like Patis Tito, your cue to turn left is a gasoline station. There's a Sitio de Amor sign right at the small corner as well.

For inquiries and reservations, call +63918-927-4346.

sitiodeamor.com

8 comments:

  1. This is such an interesting place. When my little kid gets older, ready to be rustic and ready to hack it,we'll definitely go here.

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  2. It's a beauty! I need to go there with my love ^_^

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  3. Hi, how can we get there by bus? Hope to have a reply from you. Thank you

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    1. hi ena, sorry i'm not quite sure about commuting since it's quite the distance from san pablo proper :(

      all i know is that there are buses (like jam, i think) going lucena but it can get quite tricky where to get off along the highway. not sure about whether tricycles can take you there from san pablo.

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  4. Hi, sent them an inquiry for 70 guests for a garden picnic but after the initial reply, I didn't get any after. I guess they really value their privacy and 70 guests roaming about would be too much. It's a pity since the place is really ideal for a family reunion. Planning to go there with my family anyway, a brood of 7, that should be ok, I think.

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    1. sorry to hear that. but they do weddings, so i guess that picnic shouldn't be much of a problem. you could follow them up, i guess.

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  5. Thank you for your blogpost! This prompted us to have our 11th anniv there with the kids and father-in-law. We stayed at Sitio recently (Lanzones Room), and we're happy to update you that the Bondads now reside at the Quezon House. They occupy the second floor, while the ground floor is a wide open space for dining (where we actually had our meals). I was about to do a blogpost of our experience there, but I guess I'll just refer people to yours because it is very comprehensive and positive at that. We also ate at Sulyap for our dinner and was awed by the opulence and beauty of the place (your separate post on it also was our peg). However, I still choose Sitio over Sulyap as a B&B place because of the open spaces.

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