Tagaytay’s not-so-secret garden

In Photo: Secret Garden Gazebo

WHEN the Koreanovela Secret Garden became a big hit in the Philippines a few years back, the TV series could have been referring to the pockets of green in the scenic ridge of Tagaytay.

Overlooking the picturesque Taal Volcano and with cool, crisp mountain air the whole year round, it is an ideal place for secret gardens in the hidden nooks to flourish and be a hideaway in the mountains. But with word of mouth and the internet spreading the good news of a new-found refuge, no garden can remain a secret for so long despite its being concealed in the roads less traveled.

Antique Burmese Buddhist scripture and chest

One such garden, which has recently shed its veil of secrecy, is The Veranda, an intimate and cozy rendezvous tucked in the secluded nooks in Silang, Cavite. Situated inside the four-hectare Bella Rosa Farm, this hidden getaway has been limited to private functions and events, but is opening itself to quality guests who want an upland retreat away from Tagaytay’s madding commercial belt.

For the few years it has been operating, it has managed to stay below the tourist radar, but foodies would remember this as the site of Kalamunda, a by-appointment dining place of Chef Carlo Miguel in the early-2000s.

Jazzed up to serve as the sprawling farm of Flowers by Rosabella, it has reinvented itself as among the secret gardens in the ridge, which abound in lush greenery, fresh air, golden sunlight and dreamy garden scapes.

Sea-water swimming pool

Owner-florist Rosabella Ongpin said the once-bare property has evolved into what it is because of fortuitous life events that gave birth to the establishment and made her a reluctant hotelier.

It boasts of a flower farm teeming with chrysanthemum, anthurium, gerbera and hydrangea, which find their way in luxury hotels and event venues under the Rosabella brand.

A herbal garden of basil, rosemary, tarragon, thyme, mint, oregano, sage and dill serves as the source of ingredients for its dishes. With its wide-range of herbs, Caroa’s Café restaurant looks forward to offering the farm-to-table experience to visitors for a healthy back-to-the-basics dining.

She said that, while widely known for garden weddings and private functions, the homey facility is also ideal for wellness and yoga retreats, as well as corporate events sans the cosmopolitan distractions for a more relaxing and productive gathering.

The domed all-weather lower Garden

Punctuated by three well-manicured garden venues, plant plots and greeneries all over, The Veranda is reminiscent of the Biblical Garden of Eden, making it even more suited for religious activities and moments of reflection.

A community church, which will be completed this Christmas, will be a welcome development for those seeking a solemn church wedding and garden reception in the highlands, or those who simply want a quantum of solace.

The place is slowly earning raves in the food and beverage department as it gradually builds its fusion-inspired menu to spice up all-time Filipino favorites a fresh twist. Its trademark entrée is the porchetta, a sumptuous pork-belly roll with tender, juicy meat and crackling, crispy skin.

Other signature dishes include sisig triangulo, gambas pasta, baked fish fillet thermidore, the satay-style chicken inasal skewers, and the ubiquitous Tagaytay bulalo.

Bella Rosa flower farm

Guests can bask in the opulence and comfort of the spacious rooms ornately decorated with Oriental curio items and antiques meticulously curated by the owner herself.

The Veranda also has a swimming pool that utilizes salt-water technology for a refreshing dip that doesn’t leave one reeking with the smell of chlorine.

While it is opening to a bigger market, the farm resort will only accept prebooked visitors in order to maintain the quality of its guests and preserve its aura of exclusivity.

And, despite being a not-so-secret garden, this getaway will remain a suburban refuge away from the madding crowd.

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