HEDGED by trees and shrubs, the vast and winding pathways in Nurture Farmacy are a welcome treat from the ultracontemporary façade of the city. The farmacy rests only a couple of blocks away from Magallanes Square, yet stepping foot onto its 4,000-square-meter expanse, one feels like he is in an entirely new world, away from the urbanized city where it resides.
“Welcome!” old women exalted in their saya, swaying and chanting to soft guitar strums, their smiles as warm and sunny as the Friday morning. Warmth, it seems, is very much alive on this quiet side of Amadeo—partly because this new farm destination was created from the vision of ecoentrepreneur couple Mike and Cathy Turvill, who also manage and own Nurture Wellness Village and Nurture Spa next door.
Nurture Farmacy encompasses the usual wellness and spa offerings in spa destinations today. Here, visitors, with the help of locals and farmers called “farmacists,” are offered live demonstrations on coffeemaking, organic cooking and herba-plant use, and a tour of the custom-designed phytotherapy garden. Interactive activities that educate visitors on heritage, including Tinggian weaving, add to Nurture Farmacy’s unique appeal.
Mike, a doctor in organic chemistry, said Nurture Farmacy is all about lending a hand to people toward wellness. “The key message here, more than anything else, is prevention. Our experience with doctors is that they will treat the symptoms, but this is an opportunity for everyone to prevent the symptoms and getting sick in the first place. We will embrace you and help you on your journey to wellness through education.”
Our journey to wellness and culture began with a tour of the phytotherapy garden, which was designed by a team of certified pharmaculturists and nurses. Resembling the various anatomical systems of the body, the garden is subdivided to six farm plots, each planted with herbs and vegetables that possess medicinal properties suited to the body systems they represent.
“The phytotherapy garden revolves around the idea of healing with plants. We designed it this way, because we want to serve as a classroom and reach out to families with kids, as well as corporate groups,” Cathy explained.
The Balik-Tanaw Experience and Balay Tinggian
Cathy is adamant about integrating into the farm the culture of the Tinggian, an indigenous group in Abra, where she and Filipino revolutionary heroine Gabriela Silang were born to. Nurture Farmacy’s balik-tanaw experience takes visitors on an enriching back-to-basics tour of Abra’s unique culture. Adjacent to the phytotherapy garden, visitors will find Balay Tinggian, where handwoven Tinggian fabric is made. The fabric is handwoven by the only remaining family in Abra who specializes in the craft.
What makes Tinggian fabric interesting is not only that it is handwoven but that it contains embroidery of symbols unique to the Tinggian tribe. Such symbols include the frog to signify luck; fingers, which symbolize the hand’s crafting power; and rice and river, both vital to Abra.
Too, the fabric stays true to Nurture Farmacy’s all-organic mantra. It is naturally dyed in boiled mahogany bark, leaves and vegetables, making it hypoallergenic and 100-percent nonsynthetic. The woven fabrics are displayed and sold at Nurture Farmacy’s souvenir shop starting at P500.
In Balay Tinggian, guests also learn about the art of crafting coffee naturally from bean to cup—an effort to honor Amadeo’s reputation as the country’s coffee capital and Nurture Farmacy’s history as a coffee plantation.
Healthy and sumptuous meals at the Nurture Farmacy kitchen
Of course, a journey to wellness will not be complete without healthful eats, an aspect that the farm prides itself in. Food here is considered sacred and medicinal (as such, Cathy constantly points out the famous Hippocrates quote “Let thy food be thy medicine”).
Eighty percent of Nurture Farmacy’s dishes come from its own farm, including chickens and wild boars, which are fed with zero-fertilizer vegetables. The kitchen also utilizes rainwater recycling.
“Every dish must be respected. That’s why we use all-organic ingredients. We never use food enhancers,” Executive Chef Christopher Carangian said. Carangian spearheads the Nurture Farmacy kitchen in curating indulgent and surprisingly healthy Chavacano and Abra dishes, such as savory warek-warek, Abra’s rendition of dinakdakan. Contrary to the latter, warek-warek uses wild-boar meat (which contains 40-percent less fat than regular swine meat) and non-fat yogurt, instead of mayonnaise or pig brains. Other notable dishes include nutrient-rich tinolang kabute, anti-inflammatory sieto kinse, and adobong dilaw—a dish native to Kawit, Cavite, and popularized by Emilio Aguinaldo.
The day is best capped off at Camp Nurture, a serene and grassy space that combines all of the Turvills sustainability efforts, including vermiculture and composting. This massive learn-and-play area includes two outdoor pools that use natural filtration systems and luxury tents for glamping (glamorous camping) amid a backdrop of coffee plants and native trees.
During the launch, Tourism Assistant Secretary Frederick Alegre commented, “The soul of the Philippines isn’t just all about our beautiful places. It is also about our people and culture. I believe that Nurture Farmacy is one of the best examples of the soul of the Philippines.”
Such are weighty words. And having found peace, culture and wellness even just for a day at Nurture Farmacy, I cannot agree more. Nurture Farmacy goes beyond its mantra of “healthier, happier, better.” It is not just a farm. It is a journey to the rich and unique culture of the Philippines, to peace and wellness, and to one’s soul.