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Do you want to build your own bed and breakfast?

By BṺM TENORIO JR., The Philippine STAR Published Jun 04, 2021 6:00 am

My dear friend Sonya Garcia, the “royal innkeeper” of Sonya’s Garden in Alfonso, Cavite, is a kind, generous soul. There’s mirth in her laughter, the sound of which is gratitude. The joyous lilt in her voice speaks of contentment. In her gardens resides God—the source of her strength and creativity and the primary reason her bed and breakfast is abloom, alive.

Like all businesses, Sonya’s Garden Bed & Breakfast had also been affected by the pandemic. During last year’s hard lockdown, Sonya made sure no one among her staff would lose his or her job.

The masseuse became a baker (because food is essential, Sonya’s Garden continued to operate through its bakery). The waiter became a gardener. The electrician became a greenhouse man. The laundrywoman became a lettuce farmer. And all went back to their designated places when everything became “operational again.”

Amid the pandemic, Sonya has never forgotten to share her knowledge, knowing fully that technology transfer is crucial in helping the economy bounce back.

 Sonya Garcia, the “royal innkeeper” of Sonya’s Garden. Photo by Büm Tenorio Jr. 

In her three-day “Master Class on Filipino Bed & Breakfast” to be held from July 29 to 31, Sonya will encourage participants with “idle land, a farm” or those “seeking retirement options or dreaming of having and operating their own B&B” to replicate the elegant style and sumptuous feel of Sonya’s Garden. In short, she’s sharing the business model of her paradise—its secrets, its joys, its challenges.

Now, that’s confidence and security rolled into one, as the true measure of success is when one is willing to share with others one’s passion and knowledge so others may learn and benefit from them.

Truth be told: Sonya’s Garden did not have a business plan in the beginning. “Yes, no business plan,” she says, her tone sincere and solemn. ‘I just surrendered to the pleasures of my guests.’

Sonya’s first three-day master class, which my best friend Christine Dayrit and I attended last December—because I have a dream of operating my own little B&B in Gulod with my less than 500-sq-m “idle land”—cracked my business side. I learned the many secrets of Sonya’s Bed & Breakfast.

From finding my soul of intention to discovering road mapping of the business that includes registration, government compliance, sanitation, sustainable organic farming, among others; from building a Filipino B&B to finding the business’ uniqueness; from marketing promotions to the best vacuum cleaner to use, all these and more secrets were bared to us.

 Elegant and airy is the living room of Lavender cottage. Photo by Büm Tenorio Jr. 

“A B&B offers the best of both worlds. It’s a cross between a luxury hotel and a private home,” explains Sonya. “It can be situated in a countryside, in a farm, by the riverbank, amidst cattle ranches, by the lakeside.”

The strength of a B&B is its highly personal service. “I mean, how glorious is it to be served homemade breakfast with fresh coffee? That’s B&B service.”

Truth be told: Sonya’s Garden did not have a business plan in the beginning. “Yes, no business plan,” she says, her tone sincere and solemn. “I just surrendered to the pleasures of my guests.”

At the end of the day, guests’ satisfaction is key in a flourishing business of B&B. And the satisfaction card is always a concern of the soul of the operator of the B&B. That’s the “business” called “the soul of intention.”

The soul of intention, Sonya says, begins with “gratitude as a form of prayer.” She adds, “I enjoy the luxury of a quiet moment with myself. I begin and end the day with profuse gratitude. I always have good thoughts for everyone and I wish them well.”

Putting up a B&B, clearly, is not all about ambiance or ROI; it goes deeper than that—the core of which is the generous intent to create a difference in the lives of those who will be guests of the bed and breakfast.

 Elegant and airy is the living room of Lavender cottage. Photo by Büm Tenorio Jr. 

As Sonya always tells her guests, “Your food is free. You are paying for the ambience and how well you get attuned to yourself when you are here. How well your heart and soul become free when you are here. How well your vacation aids in your healing or how happy your soul becomes.”

“A Filipino B&B is a business of bliss,” Sonya says. She reveals that it is an ethical and sustainable tourism enterprise that takes pride in heritage as it enriches the lives of others while protecting planet earth.

“A Filipino B&B celebrates the Filipino brand of hospitality. It contributes to economic growth. It has a low capital requirement. You can grow anything in your B&B from scratch if you put your heart and soul into it,” she shares. (Every year, she also offers a seminar on organic farming.)

Social fencing is another concept I learned from my three-day Master Class on Filipino Bed & Breakfast. It talks about giving employment to people around the area of the B&B. Almost all the employees of Sonya’s Garden are from the neighboring barangays in Alfonso. These are the same people who will defend and protect their place of work.

Social fencing is a concept that builds on trust—on the side of the owner of the B&B and the employees. Every person who works in Sonya’s Garden excels in trustworthiness because they know that trust, too, is a currency.

The men and women who work at Sonya’s Garden are highly rewarded as Sonya is known among her employees for her generosity.

She sends their children to school, from grade school to college, for free. She gives her long-time employees (many of them have been with her since Sonya’s Garden started operating in 1998) a piece of land where they can build their homes and, in their gardens, they plant organic greens that they sell to Sonya’s Garden. Sonya doesn’t mind; she’s the one who encourages them to tap into their entrepreneurial side.

“Sonya’s Garden has been in the business for 23 years now, and I want to share my blessings and all the lessons that I have learned with others who share my passion for a clean, green and healthy country lifestyle,” says Sonya, ever the gentle, gracious and generous soul.