MANILA, April 5, 2004 (STAR) An hour’s drive from Makati, there is a resort that is a repository of exotic trees and plants not commonly seen together in one place.

Durian is a fruit commonly seen in most supermarkets. Cashew is certainly a favorite snack. For sure you have seen an atis and maybe even the tree that bears it. But have you seen its cousin, the anonas?

Kamuning and Kamias are streets bisected by EDSA, but did you know that one is a flowering bush and the other a tree whose fruit was used for the sour flavoring of sinigang until Knorr, Maggi and Mama Sita came along.

And did you know that the mabolo is an exotic tropical fruit whose tree is the source of the famous hardwood known as kamagong? In America, cotton used for filling pillows is harvested from a bush, but in the Philippines it comes from a giant tree known as the kapok.

And for the habitués of Starbucks and Seattle’s Best – have you seen how a coffee tree looks like? If you pass Silang going to Tagaytay you probably have, but have you seen a chocolate tree? Chocolate, like coffee, is extracted from grounded roasted seeds of its fruits and grows in bean-size clusters. Chocolate seeds, on the other hand, grow inside the pod of the cacao. It is edible and is eaten like you would a santol seed.

These and other more common fruit trees such as avocado, bignay, chico, duhat, siniguelas, sampaloc, santol, kaimito, guyabano, papaya, banana, mango and the ever present towering coconut trees are labeled with their scientific and local common names, almost giving the place a Botanical Garden atmosphere, where it not for the resort’s ambiance provided by the swimming pools, the native cottages and the cozy huts and tree houses.

Doña Jovita Garden Resort is nestled in a 2.5 hectare property at the foot of Mt. Makiling located at km. 57 of the Calamba National Highway. Look for the giant fountain jar ( banga ) as your landmark. It is an ideal take-off point for short hikes to Mt. Makiling where one can enjoy a breathtaking view of Laguna Lake.

The garden resort has one giant pool, four medium-sized pools and two kiddie pools, one of which has a playground with cartoon mascots. All pools can be reserved for exclusive family use or functions for bigger groups.

The cottages vary in size, and can accommodate from eight to 20 persons for overnight or daytime stay. Day tour groups of 1,000 guests such as school field trips can easily be accommodated. Sports facilities include a pellet gun shooting range, billiards, table tennis, fishing, tug of war, mahjong, chess, darts, pony rides, volleyball, a half court and soon, a full-sized basketball court.

The resort provides portable grills for barbecuing, although most guests would rather enjoy dining at Tita Lettie’s Pilipino Restaurant, which offers all-time native favorites such as bulalo, kare-kare, crispy pata, lechon kawali and laing. Among the seafood dishes, tilapia sa gata is the leading favorite followed by crispy fried hito and kilawing tanigue.

Right next door to Doña Jovita’s tropical garden is its Mediterranean Annex. With just a short walk, the tropical forest atmosphere transforms into a manicured garden setting, interspersed with palm trees and flowering plants. The formality yet honey ambiance of Doña Jovita’s Mediterranean Annex has made it the venue of choice for weddings, debuts, and even corporate functions such as team building and management planning sessions.

Doña Jovita will be one of the resorts in Laguna to be featured in the summer issue of Philippine Airlines, Mabuhay in-flight magazine. It is a must-see place which cannot be imagined fully in a feature article. If you want to commune with nature and listen to birds chirping, Monday to Thursday would be best. But if you enjoy the sounds of people having fun and enjoying themselves, go on a weekend. Don’t forget to ask the front desk about getting you the famous original buco pie when you check-in. This way you avoid having to line up at the buco pie store.

* * *

Visit Doña Jovita Garden Resort’s website at www.donajovita.com or call (02) 807-0245 / 842-2057 or (049) 545-3740 / 545-6657.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved