450 people working every day for three years: That is what it took to create the extraordinary place called The Farm at San Benito, along with the resolve of a man, Eckard Rempke, who was stubbornly committed to his vision of creating a place of healing unlike any other in the world.
When I envision the Garden of Eden, this is the picture in my mind. Lush vegetation, beautifully manicured landscape, meandering walkways with surprises at numerous turns – you get the idea. There was an Ayurveda center here, a Bali lounge there, an orchid atrium, fountains, flower gardens, vegetable gardens, birds chirping, peacocks strutting, small lakes, pools, water features – and at night, walkways and gathering areas lit by candles. This kind of masterpiece could only be created in an area where labor costs allow such an undertaking. Here in the Philippines, that is the case. The only other place I have seen a similar setting is at Begawan Giri in Bali.
And that’s just for starters. More about the program tomorrow.
At the conference here in the Philippines I kept coming across Tony de Leede and his infectious enthusiasm for the new Gwinganna Lifestyle Retreat, which he opened a mere six months ago. I met him in New York shortly before the opening of the retreat when he stopped in to meet our team at the Spa Finder office.
Tony is a salesman, and he made sure in a scant 20 minutes that I was aware of the Gwinganna concept. Other than having trouble pronouncing the name, I did “get” the concept and was anxious to see how it would develop. It sounded a bit like the California Golden Door or Cal-a-Vie destination spas (right down to the small number of rooms – 40) in the Australian bush with an organic and eco-friendly focus. Since I have some experience with this, I volunteered that he would probably have to be patient in terms of building occupancy.
Well, catching up with him here at this spa conference I find out that they are going gangbusters. Not only have they already had some sold-out weeks – but Hugh Jackman has apparently become a raving fan. He has already been there several times and wants to buy property in the area so he can visit more regularly.
Hmmm…I am a Hugh Jackman fan. My new suspicion? As soon as Hugh starts talking Gwinganna (hopefully he can pronounce it), that organic lifestyle retreat might be really hard to get into.