“Nature’s Healing Home” – A holistic retreat center.
I booked this place, thinking that after my time in bustling Taiwan I would want to downshift and spend some time nurturing myself, but I have to admit, given that there really wasn’t a lot of information about Nature’s Healing Home available online, I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. During my research I also realized the place was going to take a fair amount of effort to get to, and at this point in my travels I was getting quite weary of complicated travel logistics. Being out in the middle of “nowhere” could either be a blessing or a curse, and yet something told me to just go. So deciding to roll the dice, I prayed that once I was there it would be everything I had hoped for, making all the effort worthwhile.
And so it was.
Nature’s Healing Home is a grassroots effort to build an eco-friendly place with an emphasis on organic farming and sustainability… a retreat center that works to rebuild and nourish the land so it can give back to the people… and the owner Prescilla has succeeded, although she will tell you it’s still a work in progress.
Her story is actually quite inspiring. Buying a plot of land atop a mountain in the rural area of San Fernando La Union, which is in the northwest part of the island Luzon in the Philippines, she was at first unsure of exactly what her plan was, but she knew she had her work cut out for her. The land, relatively bare, needed rehabilitation in order for things to really grow and the first couple of years were all about tending to the earth and planting an abundance of fruit-bearing trees. After a few stops and starts and some major twists and turns in her personal life, Prescilla’s mission started to become clear to her, and the idea of Nature’s Healing Home was born. After discovering that she had a gift for healing, and honoring the strong pull she had to cultivate and work with the natural beauty and wealth the land had to offer, the idea of a retreat center began to take form. It was to be a place where people could come and live in harmony with the earth while finding healing through healthy, organic food, yoga, meditation and energy work.
Prescilla is quick to say that the path has not been an easy one, but her determination and tireless hard work are quite evident, and her nurturing energy and connection with the land manifests in a strong faith that despite all the difficulty, this is exactly what she is meant to be doing. Her unwavering faith that things are working out exactly as they are supposed to is an ideology that is prevalent in my own life, particularly as I travel, where things are often unpredictable or don’t go as planned. So it’s pretty safe to say that despite my initial reservations, I was clearly meant to land here.
If I had to name my single favorite thing about the place it would be the food. I let Prescilla know ahead of time that I was vegetarian and that if possible, I preferred vegan, and she gladly accommodated me (she does serve chicken and fish, although the other woman staying here at the same time was also vegetarian, so we ate 100% vegetarian and 90% vegan the entire time.) Almost all of the food (about 90%) is organically sourced from her farm… from the rice and the variety of beans to the large array of fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs, it is literally plucked from the farm and brought straight to the table.
She uses very little oil and almost no sugar or salt, and because things are so fresh, together with her ability to make use of the most of flavorful ingredients such as fresh ginger, coconut, or homemade vinegars like mango or plum, the true taste of every item comes shining through. The range and variety of dishes we had was really quite impressive. And the drinks! Sour roselle-hibiscus probiotic tea with raw honey, fresh lemongrass or basil tea, papaya/guava smoothies, and my favorite, a hot cacao with fresh turmeric, coconut milk, cinnamon and cardamom drink that was served with breakfast each morning.
As someone who doesn’t cook a whole lot, to eat and be nourished like this was an incredible gift. Add in the fact that dining takes place on her lovely outdoor kitchen/dining space, where her aunt and grandmother often give you a glimpse into how the fresh ingredients are prepped, and where you are surrounded by trees and plants of every kind while overlooking the small town below and the ocean off in the distance, and well, meal time becomes an incredibly beautiful event. And I got this three times a day!
Part of the pleasure I derive from traveling is the growth that comes from new experiences. It’s safe to say I’ve done thousands of different kinds of yoga with teachers of different backgrounds from all over the world, but Prescilla’s style was very unique. While she does teach some Hatha, it’s not her go-to form of movement. Most of her training is in the Korean modality called Dahn yoga, which is a blend of yoga, martial arts and tai chi. She also has training in Kundalini yoga and integrates this into her teachings, and we also explored different styles of meditation, such as Osho’s dynamic meditation and some chakra chanting. Some of these practices I was familiar with, some not. And while some of the practices did not really resonate for me, I still greatly appreciated the exposure to new things, as I am a firm believer that one’s learning should never, ever stop… exposing yourself to new things is the elixir that enables full engagement with life. And as icing on the cake, she even let me teach a Hatha class while I was there, which is always fun for me.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Prescilla has a gang of dogs and a cat, and I’m not sure why… call it a soul connection… but out of the four dogs here at the retreat center, I felt a special connection to the little rescue named Calini. Terribly shy and unwilling to let me get near her, I decided on my first day that I would let her know how much I love her and that we would become friends before I left. Six days later, I’m pleased to say my mission was accomplished. Although she finally gave me a small kiss the day before, on the day I was to depart she stayed close by my side and she even let me pet her… something that the owner says she will not let anyone beside her do… even the workers here who have known her for years.
It was such a heart-warming process, respecting her boundaries while showing her love, and watching her slowly learn to trust in return. I truly believe that animals feel the love and good intention you give them and that they understand the energy you exude. She was such a sweet reminder and confirmation that unconditional love is the most important thing we can give any living creature.
Engaging with nature is an integral part of the experience here, and the accommodations indulge you in this as well. The Nipa Huts are quite rustic, but with a beautiful open-air feeling that lets the breeze flow through and highlights the sounds of nature, these huts truly bring the outdoors in. It doesn’t hurt that the view from inside the hut overlooks the gardens and the ocean in the distance, and of course watching sunset while relaxing in your room is just an added bonus. All that being said, for people who get a little freaked out by bugs this may not be the best choice, as it is truly an indoor/outdoor space. But no worries there… she has other accommodations for those who need a little more modern convenience, and while I contemplated it, I was so happy waking up in the middle of the night, looking out at the moon and stars, listening to the crickets chirp and feeling the night breeze, that it brought the experience of being in nature to the next level, and I loved it… ants and all.
For the first few days of my stay here, there was a woman from Manila staying here as well, and she, Prescilla and myself had many engaging conversations about spirituality, what it means to be on this path of self-evolution, our individual journeys to wholeness, the practices we’ve been exposed to, and a wide variety of other engaging topics. Truly, it was a beautiful (and I would emphatically say, a karmic) coming together of strong, empowered feminine energy, and a true delight to be with these women who, like myself, are in a place and time of their life where carving out new pathways, opening up new perspectives and maintaining strong intentions of healing and growth are the priorities in our lives.
It was through these discussions one evening that I had a strong desire to share KAP (Kundalini Activation Process) with them, since it has been one of THE most transformative things on my path, and to say they were eager to experience it would be an understatement. We did two sessions on back to back days, and it was incredibly gratifying for me as a facilitator, to witness the soul-expansion people experience through this process.
Prescilla herself is an energy worker, using modalities such as reflexology and massage to assist in her healing practices. So along with the varied yoga and meditation practices, as well as a nice facial that uses, you guessed it… home grown, organic ingredients, all of which are part of the retreat, you will receive her particular brand of healing as well. This whole-body/mind/energy approach to growth and healing is one of the things that makes her center so unique and special.
The day before I left we took a day trip to nearby Tangadan Falls, which was an incredibly special experience. From the road where we parked, we took a moderately strenuous hike through the lush country side, wading across over the river several times, until we finally reached our destination. Before swimming, we climbed high up onto one of the enormous rocks that surround the falls and sat in meditation for awhile, and for me, the energy of the place was so strong I felt every cell in my body resonating. Sitting on ancient rock, listening to the roar of the waterfall, feeling the sun, the spray of the water and the touch of air on your skin, breathing in a freshness that is like no other, basically absorbing the deep nourishment of nature itself… this is one of the most profound things you can do for your soul.
After meditation, we swam in the chilly but refreshing waters, and after we had sufficiently worked up our appetites and got too cold to keep swimming, we found a sunny river-side spot and dug into the home-made lunch that Prescilla had prepared for us. It was really magical.
As we began the trek back, a huge rock in the shape of a platform presented itself to us, and we just looked at each other thinking the same thing: yoga pictures! And so we indulged ourselves in a little promotional picture-taking, laughing that we both wanted to do a headstand, but were both too scared up on the rock. We did get to practice that pose a little way down river though, as we passed through a grassy meadow. We had just enough time to snap a few photos before a rather large steer came along. He seemed friendly enough, but we let him have his meadow back so he could graze in peace and we made our way back to the start.
On my final morning, we walked to the top of her property and sat under a huge mango tree to meditate as the sun came up. It was a rather perfect ending to a deeply expansive retreat. My biggest take-away from the time spent here is that nature is the ultimate healer. From the energy and vibration of the earth itself to the food she gives us, from the visual beauty and intricacy of every type of plant to the unique sounds and calls of the animals, there cannot be any doubt that we are meant to live in harmony with it all. The five elements of creation… earth, water, fire, air, ether… arranged in a unique and individual way, comprise every living thing on the planet, including us. So we must remind ourselves that the deep nourishment we need, that our soul needs, will always come from our truest mother… mother earth. And so with true gratitude for this divinity that we call nature, I say thank you.