Back to basics. It’s generally used as an expression to speak about those ‘simpler’ days when chaos didn’t reign supreme. So, given the hectic nature of urban life, it’s no surprise that one of the booming and most interesting global travel trends right now is of luxury wellness resorts and retreats. Beyond spa treatments and lavish pools, travellers are now taking extended holidays where they are actually seeking to get medical treatments done in a more natural, often secluded five-star environment.
At the forefront of medical wellness, tourism is a resort called The Farm. I always envisioned any wellness place with that name to be a code for “fancy weight-loss centre”. But as I approached The Farm at San Benito, I realised that this isn’t just a farm – this is a healing village.
The Farm at San Benito was recently acquired by Nepalese billionaire Binod Chaudhary as part of his CG Hospitality, which also owns the Alila Hotels chain and properties like the Taj Samudra Colombo and Taj Exotica Resort & Spa Maldives in partnership with the Taj group. Located close to Lipa City in the Philippines, about 90kms due south from Manila and its airport, it is a one-of-a-kind, almost self-sustaining space, where white peacocks freely roam around the area as much as we do. Upon check-in, I was told about my scheduled itinerary, arranged for me based on communication I had already had with the medical doctors over e-mail.
Given the nature of the resort, most guests opt for specific treatment plans like detox, energy-boosting and rejuvenation. After sharing my most recent bloodwork and filling out a medical questionnaire they had sent me, I shared my concerns, issues and what I was hoping to gain from my tenure there in detail.
I’m always weary of wellness resort medical teams as many lack the experience and understanding of both allopathy as well as alternative treatments. Seeing the marriage of both worlds and being able to converse freely with qualified doctors who also entertain and encourage exploration of non-traditional treatments was a welcome change.
Of course, here treatment isn’t simply a medicine, it’s a way of life, and the resort teaches us to explore a healthier lifestyle. This starts with our diet and under the experienced hands of Chef Francis, the vegan restaurant, Alive!, truly brings the food to life. For me, as an avid believer in the #foodismedicine way of life, it was like home. With the majority of the fresh vegetables grown on the property, the almost-organic menu is a treasure trove of clever ideas and delicious treats. While the cuisine may have been in my wheelhouse, it was a delight to see guests embrace these original recipes and appreciate the freshness of each dish as a part of their The Farm experience.
My schedule was packed so I could experience the level of commitment and variety of treatments available there. I started off with a holistic consultation. A live blood analysis was taken to show how I was doing, highlighting my red and white blood cells, their variations and other residues. Based on the analysis, the doctor suggested a more detailed routine, and a detox treatment plan was designed, but they were open to adapting the course to better serve my needs.
I’ve highlighted just some of the treatments I underwent while staying at The Farm to share the variety and range offered, and the ones I found to be personally most effective.
Now, this normally would sound both painful and frankly boring, but when you get to the treatment room and look outside through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows into the jungle and then see that wooden bath beside the lovely massage table, you know this is anything but that. Starting off with skin kayud or scraping using two Mother of pearl shells, the therapist engaged my lymph system, used to remove the dead skin. After this, a Barako coffee pack was applied to my body. Meant to stimulate blood circulation and targeting and focusing on the kidney detox, I remained caffeinated for 15 minutes. I then showered and got into my soak bath, filled with greens meant to further aid in the detox and also revitalize my body.
The European Wellness clinic is a relatively new addition to the Farm culture. After my initial consultation with the EW specialist, I had the BioMedScan done. This was a diagnostic device that analysed my functional state in terms of my heart rate variability. The HBOT claims to be medicine’s most efficient method of transporting oxygen to cells throughout the body. When we breathe oxygen at normal atmospheric pressure, it is usually transported to the haemoglobin in our red blood cells. Under pressure though, oxygen actually dissolves in the plasma, cerebrospinal fluid in the brain and spinal cord, lymph, and other body fluids. Therefore it gets easily delivered to all tissues, including the ones with poor blood supply, providing them the best healing benefits of oxygen. As I sat in what felt like a space shuttle for nearly 40 minutes, I came out feeling both rejuvenated and refreshed. Being my first time, I can genuinely say I know why celebrities like superstar basketball player Lebron James and actor Keanu Reeves swear by this.
This is a massage unique to The Farm. It’s sensual in nature and attempts to enhance our physical, mental and emotional well-being, bringing relaxation to the mind, body and soul. The therapeutic and nutritive ingredients of the products are meant to enhance cellular repair and regeneration to keep the whole body, inside and out young and protected. With a floral foot bath followed by a cacao body wrap, a milk chocolate bath and then the hilot massage — this was probably one of the most lavish and longest massage I’ve ever indulged.
Stress can be the root cause of many diseases leading to faster physiological signs of aging. This facial, I can truly say, was like no other, focusing predominantly on the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for 50% of the stress in the brain. The hour starts off with an acupressure massage of the face, scalp, anterior chest, shoulder, ears, neck which relaxes the muscles and improves blood circulation. Mild LED photo rejuvenation is then used to stimulate collagen formation, sucking out dirt and toxins using the vacuum and then closing the pores with ice roller. It’s like a week’s worth of deep sleep reviving the organs of our body in just one hour.
A form of sensory deprivation known as REST (restricted environmental stimulation) was quite a challenge for me. As part of my Acqua Lymphatic Clearing treatment, I floated for 30 minutes in a pitch black, soundproof tank of water. Heated to body temperature, the tank is used to treat addictions, stress — and in my case — it was suggested to help with my occasional lower back pain. The experience itself was quite taxing for me until I found my meditative trance. After the tank experience, I took a steam and sauna and then a cold bucket shower. The combined experience in this order truly created a sensory/non-sensory experience like no other.
With an open basin where I strategically needed to place my backside, the colema is a colonic hydrotherapy process that removes pounds of impacted waste matters accumulated in the colon by pumping water (infused with aloe vera and chamomile, they keep the water as close to our body temperature as possible) into it, gently using regulated pressure or simply gravity. I was literally straddled with a plastic tube up my derriere and slowly watched waste make its way out through a plastic tube. I was massaged around my abdomen by the nurse during the procedure, meant to encourage muscle contraction — or peristalsis — to foster the final elimination of the accumulated wastes. My procedure was rather benign as she said I had some waste but overall my colon was clean.
For the rectal ozone therapy, the oxygen level in blood is increased to oxygenate the tissues in the whole body. While I can’t say it’s the first thing I’d have ordered on their treatment menu, it truly is effective.
As medical tourism and wellness-focused vacations become a mainstay, I hope other resorts and properties take a page from The Farm at San Benito. The healing village they’ve created is beyond just luxury; it’s about reflecting a lifestyle – one that encompasses the entire body, inside and out, from medicine to meals. With CG Hospitality rapidly expanding their portfolio of iconic hotels across Europe and beyond, it’s only appropriate that they now plan to open other outlets across the globe. Especially at a time when wellness is often being sold on just name and not experience, it’s important that travellers do their homework. At The Farm, while you might be medically taking a road less travelled, it’s one built on a solid foundation and is always focused on healing you.