Monday, October 20, 2014

Time and Space

I'm alive!

One of my favorite features in our October issue is "The Road to Wellness," wherein the members of Team GH tried different ways to help us hit the reset button. We all had such interesting experiences—so much so that we wrote well over our word count. As a result, our text had to be cut (A LOT). Below is mine in its entirety. I was lucky enough to be able to go on a wellness holiday at The Farm at San Benito. The others tried acupunture, pranic healing, even a high-tech oxygen machine.

Time and Space
Perpetually on hyper-drive and severely lacking in me-time, editor in chief Tisha Alvarez Angluben goes on a wellness holiday and rediscovers the joys of doing something just for herself

Chilling by my private pool

“Do you get enough sleep? Do you have a lot on your mind? Do you worry a lot?”
Do you have ESP? I thought.
I was sitting in Dr. Ferdinand Browner’s office at The Farm at San Benito, and he was giving me a live blood analysis—he had taken a drop of my blood, and we were now staring at my red blood cells, magnified on the screen in front of us. I expected mine to look very similar to the perfectly round, evenly spaced normal cells on the chart. Instead, I saw flower-shaped blobs (some stuck together) and little crystal particles floating about. The good doctor rattled off everything else that was wrong with me: I always have my phone and sit in front of a computer for extended periods, and am thus exposed to electromagnetic radiation (true), I love sugar (true, though in the last month, I had cut back. But it takes four months for RBCs to regenerate, so…), and I eat a lot of meat and junk (busted—I actually had a double cheeseburger on my way there). It felt like I was at confession, where all my deep, dark health sins were being revealed. He did say he thought I was in my 20s, so I must still be doing something right!
This was my first stop after checking into my luxurious Narra Villa at The Farm. On my four-day/three-night wellness holiday, I was to start things off with a consultation with one of The Farm’s licensed M.D.s, who would gauge where I was, health-wise, and suggest the treatments I needed to help me get back on track. During my consultation, Dr. Browner talked about how the body has been scientifically proven to regenerate—but, I suppose, with all the stress of everyday life, it’s harder to do these days. “Here at The Farm,” he said,  “we give the time and space for the body to heal itself.”
Time and space—these were things that seemed to be sorely lacking in my life. Even this trip, designed to help me relax, had gotten me anxious. I was worried about the work I had left behind. I was stressing over the work I had to do while I was there (the friendly front desk staff playfully tsk-tsked as I lugged my laptop, stack of magazines, and files). And most of all, I felt intensely guilty about leaving my son. As dusk set in, I got a wake-up call from GH art director, Kara: “Kung ako yan, i-e-enjoy ko ang me-time. Kailan pa ako makakahanap ng opportunity na mag-isa lang talaga ako?” she texted. She was right. I resolved to make the most of the experience. After all, the guilt was useless—I was already there.
Instead of focusing on my worries, I decided to be thankful for the experience instead. I had a fantastic villa with my own private pool, a tub, a huge bed, a forest for a backyard, and—much to my surprise—cable TV! (I hardly ever get to watch TV in Manila since my son is generally not allowed to.) I wanted to get my schedule to see what treatments Doc had prescribed, and what the healing sanctuary (aka their spa) thought I needed; I could then pencil in all the other activities I wanted to do (PX90! Yoga! Aqua aerobics!).
I had gotten really excited—until I found out that Doc had scheduled me for two colon irrigation treatments. “It’s all fun and games til they clean your colon,” I Vibered Team GH. This was what I was most nervous about—having someone stick a tube up my rear. (Assistant art director Theo’s Viber message: “Just no.”) Dr. Browner encouraged me to try it, saying that a lot of people get immense relief, sometimes finding that the physical process opened up emotional floodgates. “They end up talking to the therapist about what’s going on in their lives,” he said. We talked about how physical ailments are often rooted in something deeper. I decided to just be upfront about all the emotional turmoil I had been through in the past year (silently hoping he would give me a get-out-of-colon-cleanse-free card), to which he replied, “I think you should do it, because you have a lot of shit to let out.”
So, in the name of journalism, I underwent a colema and colonics on two consecutive days.
The first requires you to lie on a bed over a toilet. A pencil-thin tube is then inserted into your bum; through this tube, 20 liters of a coffee solution are quickly pumped into you, and you just push when you feel discomfort. This was, by far, the unsexiest thing I have ever had to do in my life—and I’ve given birth, so that’s really saying something. The second treatment requires a fatter tube and about 35 liters of water slowly pumped into you. This was much less icky, and I was also much less apprehensive, since I’d had my baptism by fire (or, more accurately, coffee) the previous day. I was obsessively weighing myself while I was there, and after two and a half days and two colon hydrotherapy sessions, I had amazingly lost two kilos.
And it wasn’t even because I was starving. Though friends joked that I would have to pick my own food, I thoroughly enjoyed what The Farm’s award-winning restaurant, Alive!, had to offer. Since I wasn’t on a detox cleanse, I had free rein over my meals, and could select anything from their menu. (I went nuts the first night and ordered their five-course special.) I thought I would be subsisting on salads and carrot sticks throughout my stay, but I was happy to be introduced to vegan cuisine done right: Paper-thin beets masqueraded as cannelloni, coconut meat had the texture of squid, and fresh, wholesome flavors exploded in my mouth. After my first two days, I thought, If this is what it’s like to be vegan, I could totally do this for life. And then I woke up on my third day with a raging craving for tocino. Still, the food far exceeded my expectations, and introduced me to a whole new way of eating.
After four days, I felt like I was cleansed, kneaded, and scrubbed into a rejuvenated Zen state. I had two massages (both of which lulled me into a nap), a skin kayud treatment (scraping using mother-of-pearl shells, followed by a coffee scrub, wrap, and soak in a tub of more java), and another scrub using coconut oil. I felt so polished and supple after all my spa treatments; a few people remarked that I looked so fresh, and even that my aura was different. 

Morning yoga 

Thinking back, this glow had less to do with all the treatments and more to do with actually just being at The Farm. Though there were other guests during my stay, it often felt like I had the sprawling, 10-hectare place to myself (well, shared with some peacocks freely roaming about). In between treatments, I was able to attend an intense fitness class at their gym and a morning yoga session outdoors. For the most part, I decided to just take it easy: lounge in a bed I didn’t have to share with anyone, read, watch TV, or take a dip in my own pool. I would float on my back and look up at the clouds (or stars), or swim to the edge and just stare off into the trees, my head going completely blank. For once, my mind was surprisingly, blissfully quiet.
Four days seemed like a long time to be away, but by the end of it, I didn’t want to go home. On day one, I dreaded being alone, but I soon learned to relish the solitude. It reminded me that no matter how hectic my life got, I also needed to pay attention to me—it’s not selfish; it’s only sane. Dr. Browner was right: The Farm really did give me the time and space I didn’t even know I needed. I thought about the changes I wanted to make in my diet, my schedule, my life. I thought—or didn’t think, if I didn’t want to—about all the things I had been through in the past year, and where I would go from there. I thought about how getting back on track didn’t happen overnight, how it was a process that required patience, a virtue that life tries to teach me again and again. My body—and my spirit—had begun to heal.

The Farm at San Benito is located at 119 Barangay Tipakan, 4217 Lipa City, Batangas; seasonal offers available. Call (632) 884-8074, (63918) 884-8080, email, or visit for more details.

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