FOR the first time after a year since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the little ones in our family traveled outside the confines of our home.
The road trip took over two hours and by the time we reached our destination, they heaved a collective sigh of relief to finally step out on solid ground. Riding a car, a normal everyday experience in the past, now seems to trigger some unfamiliar motion sickness.
However, all the discomfort quickly dissipated as we entered the Taglucop Strawberry Hills (TSH), a strawberry plantation cum family-friendly resort situated in Marilog District, Kitaotao, Bukidnon.
The 27,000 square-meter land originally began as a private farm of the owner Atty. Ferdinand Taglucop. The lawyer-agricultural engineer and his wife Jennifer wanted their four kids to be more exposed outdoors and introduced them to the beauty of farming. They chose strawberry farming as it was starting to emerge as a novel crop in Mindanao back then.
After presenting our medical certificates at the entrance, we had a brief stop inside the Mushroom House before heading off to the restaurant area where a particular section was reserved for our group.
It was our family’s first time to dine outside our home since the pandemic so we were cautious on where we could eat safely and comfortably as one big household. We chose TSH because prior booking was required, and no walk-ins were allowed. Furthermore, breakfast, lunch, and snack day trip visitors had specific time slots to avoid overcrowding, especially in the open-air restaurant area.
We savored the strawberry welcome drinks as we nibbled on the appetizing cheese, cold cuts, fruits, and crackers from the grazing platter. The heavenly aroma of meat from the brick oven wafted in the air and before we knew it, it was already time for lunch which consisted of creamy mushroom soup, fresh salad, sweet potato fries, mushroom tempura, and perfectly ‘pugon’-roasted chicken and ribs.
Aside from the farm’s fresh mushroom and strawberries, the farm-to-table experience also highlighted its very own lettuce and grapes. We capped off our sumptuous lunch with decadent strawberry panna cota.
A guide led us to the farm’s famed strawberry fields. She explained that the TSH’s strawberries are everbearing which means they have fruits every time (no season) but with the constant number of visitors, they are not yet sufficient to allow all their guests to experience strawberry picking at any time. Depending on the availability, organic mushroom and hydroponic lettuce picking may also be arranged.
During the tour, we dropped by the glamping tent area and even peeked inside a luxurious premium tent with an outdoor jacuzzi. The guide assured us that the glamping tents, tiny stays (tiny houses with two units), and common areas are meticulously disinfected after every use.
How we wished we could have experienced glamping under the stars and the ATV trail adventure, but our online distance learners had classes the following day. So, TSH definitely deserves another visit from our family!
Tiny house living
Just like the Taglucops, the owners of The Red Barn (TRB) Davao in Eden, Toril first developed their 1.9-hectare property as farmland for family use. Eventually, the patriarch built the now iconic red barn just for fun and added three tiny houses where his family could stay and relax.
Being fans of the hit show “Tiny House Nation”, it was a dream come true when we learned that my sister-in-law booked an overnight stay for the whole family at TRB Davao.
Prior to our visit, each of us had to fill up an online contact tracing form, something I appreciated as it showed that the owners were strictly following health and safety protocols. No walk-ins were allowed. And the courteous staff would only come near us when it was time for meals or for requests, all while wearing masks and observing proper social distancing.
Our big household booked all three tiny houses during our stay with a maximum of four people staying in each house.
My husband, daughters and I stayed at the Blue Tiny House, which was the smallest of the three houses. It had an electric fan, microwave, refrigerator, plates, utensils, reading materials, emergency light, and a first aid kit. In the back section, there was a private room with a single bed. We did not get to sleep in this room though because we were eager to try the loft area which holds a double-size bed and a single bed.
There were even slippers for guests to use indoors.
My siblings and their kids stayed in the more spacious Orange and Green Tiny Houses which had two double beds on each side of the loft. All the houses were impressively clean, disinfected (even UV-sterilized), and had thoughtful personal touches that made you feel you were visiting a close friend’s guest house. It was evident that the owners were well-traveled, too, because their impeccable standards in providing almost hotel-grade amenities were on point.
My young nieces and nephews had a memorable mask-free time blissfully feeding the rabbits at the Rabbiton, playing with the ducks along the pond, swinging, running freely around the expansive field, and jumping to their hearts’ content at the trampoline.
As I saw their happy faces, I couldn't agree more with my dear friend Stephanie Ong when she said that “Local is the new international and normalcy is the new luxury”. So true, indeed!
In the evening, TRB’s in-house cook expertly grilled the meat and seafood we brought for dinner. While eating and relaxing at the picnic area, we enjoyed the calming warmth of a bonfire. It was a magical chilly night full of cheer as we played charades, roasted hotdogs, and indulged in s’mores.
The following day, I woke up before dawn to catch the sunrise. I then enjoyed walking leisurely along with the vegetable garden whilst being greeted by the cacophonous crowing of the resident roosters. The friendly staff also taught me the right way to harvest lettuce, one of the many perks of being an early riser.
After our hearty breakfast, we took countless family photos at the quaint red barn, much to the chagrin of our restless youngsters as they begged to play in the flower garden before we left. In the future though, I hope that when they look at our snaps, they will fondly remember this priceless moment as among their most treasured childhood memories during this unprecedented time.
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