The Forrest Camp is a 2 hectare property situated along the Banica River which flows clean and pure through Valencia (a municipality about 9 kms west of Dumaguete City). Before this resort was opened to the public in 1990, my dad would take us to his friends private property through which this same river cut through further upstream. I loved swimming among the rocks and playing with my cousins in the current. Sometime in the late 90's I took a bunch of my friends from Manila up there to experience this simple joy, and they loved it. For most of them who knew only what it was like to swim in man-made pools, the sea or a lake, it was a truly an unforgettable experience.
On the morning of Easter Sunday, Basil (my grandmother's loyal cook) and my aunt prepared a picnic basket for us and we set out to Forest Camp where my cousin had reserved a hut for us by the river. There was pancit, pork chops, puso (rice packed and cooked in coconut leaves) and brownies and assorted beverages. We picked up a box of sans rival cake and half a date & walnut dacquoise from Sans Rival and off we went.
Forest Camp is a lush tropical oasis that would make a nature-lover weak in the knees. All the huts are built with indigenous materials such as bamboo and nipa, and come with picnic tables and chairs which you can rent for a small fee. Available also are provisions for grilling. Aside from the picnic area, there are also cottages and guesthouses for overnight stay, camping grounds, a main hall which can accomodate up to 250 people, a tree house, a restaurant and a mini suspension bridge. All of this is surrounded by natural pools, a waterfall, towering coconut trees and bordered by wild forest. It is obvious they took great care in preserving the natural surroundings and built around what was already there. For the more adventurous, Forest Camp offers guided treks to Casaroro Falls and Lake Nailig as well as ATV rentals.
Despite the large Easter Sunday crowd, the experience was almost Zen-like. The green landscape so soothing on the eyes, the hypnotic sound of the leaves on the trees rustling in the wind (albeit pierced by the occasional squeal of a kid splashing in the river) and birds chirping merrily, the experience heightened by the sound of the cascading water. Oh and the delightful food too, of course!
I happily nibbled on a bag of juicy sineguelas, (this and duhat/lomboy are fruits I will forever associate with summers in Dumaguete). Even after our heavy brunch and sinful desserts, I couldn't resist ordering a buko halo-halo after seeing it being enjoyed by a group of people near the restaurant. I love halo-halo and having it in a buko (coconut) is a treat I don't have very often. It was the perfect ending to our lovely picnic in the forest.
Buko Halo Halo