I knew they had a beautiful place up there, but I wasn't prepared for just how beautiful it actually was. When we reached the estate, we drove past banana trees, papaya trees, coffee plants and a myriad of organic produce, a couple of ponds and finally up the gravel driveway leading to the main house. It was a simple wooden structure, typical of a hacienda house in the province, that belied the quiet luxury within. There were big windows everywhere, giving every room a bright and airy feel.
I let out an audible gasp when I caught my first glimpse of the backyard from the cheerful yellow terrace. Wow! was all I managed, dumbfounded. Beyond the neatly manicured gardens, the grounds stretched out towards Mt. Kitanglad in the distance. It was absolutely breathtaking!
I flipped when I saw the horses and ponies - there were nineteen horses, I was told later. I love horses, and have always dreamed of living in a ranch with some of my own. I was thrilled beyond belief and felt like a kid in a candy shop. The air up here was cool and smelled fresh and clean. The only sound was that of horses neighing in the distance and birds chirping. We toured the grounds and I spent a great amount of time lingering among the horses and taking pictures of them. They're truly beautiful and gentle creatures.
We spent the next two days relishing our surroundings, during which we slipped into a state of perfect contentment. There were long walks among the horses, aperitifs in the gazebo, cocktails in the terrace of cheese fondue washed down with wine from their extensive collection; a delicious five course dinner with the highly entertaining sister of a datu; gathering around the bonfire sipping home-aged rum from large oak barrels, under a thick blanket of stars - the sky was so clear I actually saw the Milky Way!; waking up to the sweet sound of children singing during Sunday school nearby; lingering over a breakfast of mango pancakes, jelly-filled buns from Davao, capuccino and fresh pineapple juice; horseback riding against a backdrop of majestic mountain ridges; and dozing off on woven mats under the shade of an acacia tree.
In the end we felt sad that we had to go, but extremely grateful for a taste of this piece of paradise. As my friend aptly described it, God's country.