Bernardo's Hideaway was a charming and pleasurable surprise. Hidden in San Juan in Batangas, Philippines, it is a gem of a place that is worth discovering. Located in Laiya San Juan, Batangas, it is a mere two-hour drive south of Manila. It is a lush, serene and secluded private estate and family-owned farm/resort.
I was lucky to have been ferried and shown around, as well as, looked after by the lovely owners and hosts of Bernardo's Hideaway. My day started beautifully with a trip to nearby Villa Escudero, which is another place worth a visit from Manila, and ended with a delightful dinner and a wonderful evening in the farm/resort with my congenial and hospitable hosts.
The next day was even more enjoyable than the previous one. It included a quick mountain trek and a refreshing swim in a waterfall; an uplifting ride in a native motorised bangka, which is a narrow banana-shaped boat hull with bamboo outriggers on both sides; snorkelling in the delightful, balmy ocean; indulging in more scrumptious food; and a dip in the outdoor pool.
There are three cabanas in the farm/resort, which provide enough room for a group of thirty-five people. The cabanas are huge; at least eleven people can be accommodated comfortably in any one of them. They are gorgeous, clean, uncluttered, cheerful, and naturally airy. There are two queen-sized beds with a pull-out bed on each side and there are two other separate beds with pull-out ones of their own in each cabana.
Whether travelling with a big group, a small one or as a couple, the cabana is perfect and conformable. It has a private bathroom and its own front veranda.
Inside the cabana
The farm/resort has a gazebo that can be used as an area for dining, getting-together, games-playing, reading, or simply lounging amidst the verdant, tranquil nature of the place. There are also, a beaut outdoor swimming pool; a billiard's table room; a half basketball court; a handsome pavilion; a kids' tree house; and an area for a game of table tennis or frisbee. All facilities incorporate beautiful native Filipino setting.
As guests of Bernardo's Hideaway, full access to and use of a private beach may also be provided. The private beach is ten to fifteen minutes away from the farm/resort. Floating bamboo huts with a table and benches are in the water, just off the beach. These can be used for a picnic, as a swimming anchor and for other water activities. The private beach is also a snorkelling area; its waters are clear and clean, and are brimming with tropical reef life and fish.
Night time in the farm/resort can be just as wonderful and wondrous, if not more. Imagine contemplating the waning moon or stargazing while having a twilight dip in the pool. The farm/resort will cater to reasonable night requests, such as, camping and bonfires.
To top it all, meals are included with the rates. The food I had the pleasure of trying was carefully prepared, delectable and was truly Filipino. The specialty of the house is the home-made suman, which is a glutinous rice cake, cooked in coconut milk and other special sauces, wrapped in a palm leaf, and served with native hot chocolate.
If my experience sounds nothing short of enchanting, it is because it was. Try it yourself, next time you find yourself in Manila. Get out of the city, head towards Batangas and to this beautiful place. You just might find it as I did and have a similar, refreshing experience.
Bookings are essential. Detailed driving directions are also on the farm/resort's website.