BAGUIO CITY—There is a room on the second floor of an old pinewood building in the swanky compound of the Baguio Country Club (BCC) that speaks for the practical and down-to-earth character of running business here.
It’s called the production room—well-ventilated with its big windows—and furnished only with work tables. The floor is filled with big plastic bags full of what would commonly go to a junk shop, as what would be the most convenient thing to do in a big operation such as in an elitist exclusive-to-members hotel.
But not here in this club. Here, creativity defines the handling of interior designs, landscaping and gardens and important events. Creativity guided by ecological and environmental protection and caring hands producing works of art—from craft to gardens and dishes served on the open terraces dining area. The perfect balance to an otherwise rigid and impersonal attitude for business acumen. A hotel, after all, caters to the comfort of people—and that is to be given with a personal touch.
BCC’s innovative ways of running business the “green” way is reflected in many ways—such as its catch basins, three lagoons in its 18-hole golf course that recycles rain water, electrically run golf carts, sewage-treatment plant and the use of LED lights. The architect of the buildings maximized passive light or available natural light—such as their open verandas, where food is served or where guests can simply lounge with the morning papers and rest their eyes on the green grass of the golf course. Rooms have their sliding doors that open up to balconies that give guests a view of the greenery and pine trees, and let in the balmy air of warm days or the bite of Siberian winds in the coldest season of the year.
For all these, the BCC was awarded the Asean Green Hotel Award for 2014-2015.
Yet, it is the production room where nimble hands and creative ideas turn junk into décor items that speak best of why BCC can be said to be a truly green and nature-respecting hotel. For it speaks of an attitude of making the most of resources—the basics of keeping the convenience items from polluting earth—reuse and recycle.
Katrin from the executive office has on her table piles of guest cards and card keys for doors. She holds a glue gun and sticks together the cards at a central place and they become hanging stars or diamond- shaped ornaments.
On other tables, parts of plastic water bottles are cut into strips and glued inverted to the base and become hanging décors. Hundreds of used golf balls are painted and made into Christmas balls. The team is preparing for the setting up of a Christmas village, where Snowmen and Disney characters already stand—arms made of PVC plastic, heads of discarded Styrofoam—the few illustrations on how the Christmas fantasy village, three years in the running is all built from junk.
The Green Zone
BUT what can be said to be the centerpiece of the attractions of BCC is its Green Zone, a leisurely walk through the wide lawns of the compound.
While most other hotels would easily hire top landscapers to take care of their gardens and lawns, the story of the Green Zone is an unusual one.
For top executives, and ladies at that, hatched the concept and actually carved out the Green Zone.
Malou Galiste, executive assistant manager, has worked in BCC for 35 years; and Ann Ramos, internal audit manager, for the last 12 years, would take off their smart black corporate suits, put on their rubber boots and gloves, and dig and nourish the soil.
“We dug and shoveled under rain and shine, and our backs ached for months,” said Ramos, pointing to garden space of leafy ornamental plants that once was where construction debris were dumped.
The Green Zone is now cared for by the employees, but the heart and soul and true masters of the garden are still the two ladies.
Ramos stands by the entrance of the green house pointing to a tree just below, and explained, “That is a cinnamon tree.” It was one she brought home from one of her travels. She pinches the leaves of an herb for taste—quite chocalatey—and says it is the main ingredient of a liqueur.
A cacti garden, beautifully laid out on a spread of white and yellow pebbles, is set at the entrance of the greenhouse. Then the delightful walk begins on a meandering path as Ramos tells the story of a plant, as she points here and there at varied colored plants.
“This is the Persian tea—[actually the Gipah] which grows wild in Australia, “ she said of a plant with bright red berries.
Some plants are familiarly seen, some exotic, some rare, but what happy plants they all appeared to be, and one feels the good energy inside the greenhouse.
The exit from the greenhouse opens to a view of the organic garden. It is a sight to relish, like a painting of a rustic setting of a farm with neat plant rows and the whole expanse fenced by old wooden planks.
A row of asparagus plants sways with the wind, and Ramos said the plants are two years old, not harvested but will be cut and the new sprouts are the ones to be added to dishes.
Past some plots of lettuce and salad greens and citrus trees, Ramos excitedly pointed to several apple trees that grew from seeds of apples they ate.
“I don’t think this will fruit. It will be the scion tree,” she said, as it became apparent she and Galiste and the employees who help tend the garden learn also from trial and error as the garden grows.
It is likely the herbs and greens served on the hotel tables are from the garden, organically nourished from garden debris fed to earthworms. The garden is just growing, and the club hopes soon it can provide all the kitchen salad it needs.
And almost certainly, strawberries served here come from the garden as the organic garden walk stops at the end of a walk through long rows of hundreds of strawberry plants. Here guests can come pick their own strawberries.
Finally the, walk leads to the infinity garden with a pathway shaped like the infinity sign amid garden of Bermuda grass.
“Here weddings are held,” said Customer Corporate Communication Service Manager of BCC Andrew Pinero, adding that these are usually held at sunrise or sunsets. Guests love the open space where the wind blows freely.
One can imagine the view of the colors of daybreak and sundown playing on the clouds above distant mountains from the infinity garden.
It is the same view of blue mountains and the same wild wind that lured the American founding fathers here to build the club in 1907, certainly more pastoral then and with wilder vegetation. A writer called it then “a summon to paradise.”
Only this time, where other hotels have cut trees for concrete structures and boasted of the most modern architectural designs, and paved paths where grass could have grown, BCC chose to work with nature, taming the wild vegetation only to add beauty to it with gardens home to happy plants, making it a kind of little paradise in the concrete jungle the city has fast become.
Image credits: Mau Victa