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Wellness retreat is expanding

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While plans are vague, The Farm at San Benito is looking into villas, magical wishing mango tree willing

By Joseph L. Garcia, Senior Reporter

THE FARM at San Benito in Batangas has been chugging along with expansion plans.

According to one of the owners, Rajan Uttamchandani, during a tour of the property on Dec. 14, the resort (which had been hailed as the country’s Best Wellness Retreat by the World Spa Awards in October) has gone from just over 20 rooms in 2018, to more than 60 today. Furthermore, in the future, the property plans to expand from the 11-hectare space which they currently occupy to make full use of the 52 hectares The Farm sits on.

They’ve already started: businesswoman and philanthropist Pinky Tobiano has already built a villa on the farm, with nine more villa-sized spaces allotted for their brand ambassadors. “We don’t envision selling more in the first phase,” said Mr. Uttamchandani. “When we do develop the larger real estate in the back, there would be some expansion plans to bring in tourists and foreigners to also invest in the Philippines,” he told BusinessWorld. But plans are still somewhat vague. “We don’t know yet, to be honest, we’re still conceptualizing the master plan for the larger property.”

Right now, they’re looking to develop 26 or 27 hectares more. “We’re looking at an international wellness community,” he said. “The idea is to really expand, but to expand with a purpose.”

LONG TERM PANDEMIC GUESTSThe Dec. 14 tour was ostensibly for their Christmas tree lighting, but it was also a way for them to celebrate the property’s 21st anniversary. The Farm was founded by Eckard Rempe in the early 2000s and was acquired by CG Hospitality Holdings Chairman Binod K. Chaudhary in 2018. “In the ’90s, nobody was talking about wellness,” said Mr. Uttamchandani.

“I think the pandemic really propelled people taking care of their bodies and health,” he said, remembering that they pivoted to medical solutions during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing in their first guest during the lockdowns in July 2020. A number of the pandemic guests were long-term, with some staying up to one and a half years. “After the pandemic, they realized that their real wealth is your health. Why not invest in yourself? The joke is, if you spend a night here, you extend your life by a year.” He gave his own body as an example: he once stayed for four days and left six kilos lighter. “These are all medically proven,” he said of the resort’s treatments. “These are European machines that do the diagnostics.”

The pandemic also skewed guest nationality figures: while guests at The Farm were once an equal 50/50 mix between domestic visitors and foreign guests, 70% of The Farm’s guests are now locals.

MAGICAL WISHING MANGO TREEMeanwhile, with the land around The Farm about to be redeveloped, Mr. Uttamchandani talked about the alleged mystical properties in the area. Its German founder had believed there is an energy source at the foot of the Malarayat mountains where The Farm is located. Near those mountains sits the resort’s storied tree, about 300 years old, where the property’s 15 or so peacocks come to roost. “That 300-year-old mango tree is said to have strong blessings. I can give you personal experiences. Things I have wished for on that mango tree — no biases — have come true. But you have to do it with a clean heart,” said Mr. Uttamchandani.

Celebrity ambassador for The Farm, actress Iza Calzado, who was present for the tree-lighting, said that she has wished upon the mango tree herself. “A lot of the things that I wished for came true,” she said, saying that she first visited The Farm in 2011. She recalled that with her husband, Ben Wintle, “We also wished for something. Actually, someone,” she said, introducing her daughter, Deia Amihan, who was celebrating her first Christmas party at The Farm.

The Farm at San Benito is hosting a New Year’s Eve Dinner and Countdown at its restaurants Alive! (which had just received its Halal certification), Prana, and Pesce.

Joseph Emmanuel Garcia




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