Sonya’s Garden (ALL PHOTOS BY BERNARD L. SUPETRAN)

When Tagaytay City reopened for tourism last September, travel-deprived and lockdown-weary residents headed off to this mountain resort which is an already all-time favorite even before the pandemic struck because of its cool climate and accessibility.

But before driving to this hideaway, let’s take a quick Geography 101 lesson first. Tagaytay Ridge is the road or the metropolitan area which runs from Silang, Tagaytay City, Amadeo, Mendez and Alfonso in Cavite to Laurel and Nasugbu towns in Batangas. Each municipality has distinct destinations and local governments have their respective quarantine regulations on tourism establishments.

Here are some alluring “staycations” for a whiff of fresh air, gourmet food, quality family time, and cozy nature-themed accommodations which adhere to stringent health safety measures.

Asian Village Tagaytay

Asian Village Tagaytay. A slice of Asian motifs amid the pineapple plantations along the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road in Silang, this boutique hotel sports Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Filipino accents. Its exterior approximates the well-loved Balinese architecture which seems to transport you to the famed Indonesian tropics.

Just like the proverbial big surprises in small packages, it can spring up surprises with its own rendition of popular upland local specialties such as bulalo, sisig and beef tapa, which you can have at its Japanese-style multi-purpose lounge, which doubles as an open-air siesta place and music bar at night.

With its low guest density and vast grounds, there is enough space for everyone to enjoy the rolling terrain, laze by the poolside, read a book, and do yoga or music sound-trip, without risking close contact.

The resort will also open soon a glasshouse pavilion which will be equipped with a modern anti-COVID air purifier, in its aim to be the new special events hall and watering hole in this side of the ridge under the new normal regime.

Asian Village Pavilion

Nurture Wellness Village. This award-winning spa resort is arguably the best place to be during these times because of the healthy lifestyle it advocates—from its organic dishes to the environment-friendly practices.

During the pandemic, it concocted the CHOICES health program, consisting of controlling stress, healthy diet and hydration, oxygenation, immune boost, cleansing, natural therapies, and spiritual connections.

Since reopening, it has been offering again holistic, medically-supervised programs with therapeutic massages as its signature service, albeit scaled down due to the quarantine rules.

Lest it be confused as a medical facility, Nurture is a typical vacation place ideal for couples and families, with its Cordillera-inspired cottages punctuated with indigenous Filipino motifs.

Less than a kilometer away is its Farmacy which teems with medicinal plants for common ailments. The popular farm tours to this natural pharmacy, as well as physical exercises, will resume soon after safety guidelines are put in place.

Nature Wellness Village

Sonya’s Garden Country Bed and Breakfast. Tucked in the woods of Alfonso town, this iconic hideaway blazed the trail in farm tourism with its green, green grass of home. The not-so-secret garden of Sonya Garcia has expanded in the past 22 years and has become a must-visit for those who love farm-to-plate food and celebrations away from the rapidly-urbanizing ridge road.

The 1.5-hectare property has hacienda-like cottages, restaurants, Panaderia with premium baked breads, Sensuous Spa, stores for organic harvest and botanical bath products, a farm dotted with greenhouses, and a private garden for wedding proposals and intimate couple’s dates.

Its sought-after buffet is back, although in the form of refillable servings to avoid personal contact and food wastage.

For a complete close-to-nature experience, stay at the Spanish ancestral house-themed rooms adorned with antiques and curio items, both at the main resort or at the greenhouses across the street. Units are bereft of TV, internet, and aircon, so you can savor the natural ventilation and spend quality family moments. Worry not, as Wi-Fi is available in common areas.

Even if this getaway has grown exponentially into so many things, the gardens remain its centerpiece, which will surely delight the newly-minted “plantitos” and “plantitas” of the pandemic era. If it is your lucky day, you will chance upon the amiable owner and get a crash course on gardening, farming, healthy living, and “how to leave a better planet when you found it.”

With these retreats, the Ridge will surely be a more relaxing road trip worth returning to.