May 10, 2007

Picnic in the forest

Picnicking and swimming in the river was something we did a lot of when I was younger. This is one of life's most simple of pleasures, a back-to-basics activity that is so rewarding and enjoyable. We didn't need much, a small basket with basic picnic fare, a cooler for our drinking water and sodas and Mother Nature.

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

The Forest Camp
Telephone: (035) 423-4017
Telefax: (035) 422-7027
E-mail: ; website:


Watergirl said...

Duhats are a favorite fruit too! Time to go to the market and buy me a kilo for shaking with salt.

Anonymous said...

I just realized, maybe the reason I'm not such a nature girl is because I didn't grow up going to a province every summer. My dad does have a province, but we'd only go for the fiesta. Besides, it was more like a little city, really. And you also made me realize that I've never gone swimming in the river, either!
Nor have I seen halo-halo in a buko. Is that common in Dumaguete?

christine said...

Mila, I loved them both with salt too. My aunt had a duhat tree that made me long for one in our backyard. Let me know if you find some and where k.

Katrina, the buko halo-halo is common in other places too like Bohol, and I suppose in the Visayas. I don't know why it isn't as popular here,it's great! What fiesta was that and in what province?

My dad loved the outdoors. I guess that's why if you go through our old albums, you'll notice that 90% of the pictures are taken mostly at the beach (we spent so much time there), and the rest of the time by the lake, river, bay. That's why we're all such outdoorsy people, but the summer heat has been getting more and more unbearable each year no?

Oggi said...

The contents of your picnic basket, sineguelas, halo-halo in buco, and the gorgeous setting! I'm so envious!:D

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful way to spend the day! We have to go on a proper picnic soon :) If only this heat would go away, but no rain, kingdom for some nice sunny but cool weather!

Duhat reminds me of childhood too :) And macopa...

Anonymous said...

Ugh, the HEAT this summer! It really has been getting worse every year. But I do I dislike the rainy season more.

My dad's mom's family was from Lucban, Quezon (most live in Manila now, though). When we were young, we'd go to the Pahiyas fiesta every May 15. I haven't been for at least a decade. Now I hear it's become a huge tourist thing and crazy crowded -- thousands of people, photographers, etc. It's not a town you'd go to to see nature, but the food's really good. :-P

christine said...

Oggi, with your skills in the kitchen I'm sure you can put together a mean picnic basket! And make your own buko halo halo! It quite possibly might even come out better. :)

Yes, Jo, a proper picnic without any rain! We do a simple one with the kids and my folks in the park in N. Forbes once in a while. It doesn't have to be somewhere far. Of course it's always a good reason for a road trip though. :)

Katrina, the heat is horrible, it's become unbearable to be in the kitchen near the stove or oven. Last week I made cheese bread and even with the fan on, I was suffering.

The Pahiyas! That's one of the fiestas we sponsored some time ago that I didn't go to. I love how colorful that fiesta is, and how people really go all out to decorate their houses. I still hope to see it someday without having to endure the traffic to get there.

ness said...

Went to Forest Camp but wasn't able to take a picture of their buko halohalo. Searched the internet and found your picture which I borrowed for my weblog entry for today. Hope it is okay with you.

Thank you very much!

christine said...

Hi Ness! Yes, go ahead. :) They're so good no?