What started as a quest for elusive red cogon turned into a semi team-building, plant-buying trip to Laguna with chefs Juan Carlo Estagle, Kathy Sion, Carrie Madrid, my friend Lia Guerrero and my daughter Carmela.
We were all fortunate enough to have the opportunity for a side trip that turned into a reunion when we visited the garden café of a remarkable woman who fashioned and tailored my wedding gown.
Our trip started with a visit to Vic Chin's farm in Calamba, Laguna, located at the back of Ding Hao Chinese Restaurant. Vic is known for his flawless, healthy plants. He is a champion grower of beautiful orchids and ornamental plants. We were fortunate because Vic Chin is the brother of chef Kathy Sion.
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Vic gave us a tour of his nursery farm and a thorough lecture on his new fertilizer mixture. He unselfishly shared his secret ingredient behind his almost-perfect plants. Vic advised us to put powdered milk into his fertilizer mixture. His fertilizer mixture comes with complete step-by-step instructions on how to use it. It is no wonder his plants are flawless, fresh looking, and healthy.
From Vic's nursery, we proceeded to Indigo Bay, the new place of plant sellers in Calamba, where I was able to find the red cogon, the main reason for this plant trip. Since chef Kathy was with us, the seller gave it to me for free! How lucky could I get!
It was almost lunchtime, so I suggested that we try the food at Patis Tesoro's house in San Pablo City; her Patis Tito Garden Café was an hour's drive from Calamba. My daughter, Carmela, called to make a reservation. We were lucky enough to get accommodated that day, as they usually need three days’ notice for reservations. When we arrived, our food was ready.
Upon arrival, we were pleasantly greeted with a refreshing Lipote juice. Madonna, the assistant of Patis, told us that the Lipote berries were harvested from a tree in their garden. He then showed us the tree. Lipote is a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant, anti-cancer, and good for diabetes and hypertension.
I was delighted when Patis approached us at our table. We had a bit of chitchat with her; after a while, she recognized me, and I told her that she made my wedding gown. Our little chitchat became longer after that.
Patis mentioned that she is getting ready for an exhibit. She asked her assistant, Madonna, to get her paintings. We learned that she sells some of her work, and I was astonished to see her magnificent works of art. They were vibrant, with bold patterns that would impress anyone that would personally witness it. Each of us bought one, and luckily, she was there to sign the pieces.
The place was so enchanting with good food and great company that even chef Carlo could not help but be inspired. In fact, he conducted his online class amid the lush garden. He had two baking classes that day. It just goes to show that chefs are good at multi-tasking and can have fun simultaneously, especially in the new normal.
It was a day worth the long drive, spending time together being enthralled by fascinating flora and fauna. We were treated to an excellent artisan escape with our visit to the Patis Tito Garden Café. We enjoyed the day so much, and we were like kids on the loose!
And these are the days that matter, the small pockets of time that make you think that life in all its beauty and glory is a delight to be lived. After all, I know how bleak the times may seem, especially with this pandemic over our heads. Slowly and surely, nature and its beauty will find its way back into our lives once again.