SILANG, CAVITE, November 3, 2005 (STAR) RENDEZVOUS By Christine S. Dayrit - The early morning mist rose above the hectares of neatly lined rows of green- and purple-colored lettuce. The crisp, nippy breeze kissed the red, plump cherry tomatoes hanging on their vines. While the rain outside was unrelenting, the leafy vegetables inside the fully computerized greenhouses remained safe and warm. Soon, the sun rose from behind the hill illuminating everything in its path inside the soil-less lettuce plantation of Basic Necessity Farm in Silang, Cavite.

No wonder, come rain or shine, the freshest lollo rosso, arugula, green and red romaine, oak leaf and coral lettuce remain bountiful in this temperature-controlled environment. Basic Necessity proprietor Lyndon Tan toured Supreme Court Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago and I around the impressive eight-hectare facility. To celebrate Justice Santiago’s birthday, whom we fondly call Tita Elo, we had a country-style breakfast of Italian peaches and cream, salami, Eggs Benedict, and brie with butter croissants, french toast and orange-limone muscat wine on the farm grounds.

After savoring the gourmet delicacies, Tan, a 2003 TOYM awardee for agriculture and food technology, enthusiastically showed us the latest addition to his pre-packed, vacuum-cooled lettuce called "SaladTime." The pre-packed, pouch-size, ready-to-eat salad with specially prepared lite vinaigrette or thousand island dressing was launched early last week. Weighing just 65 grams per pouch, it comes in mixed greens and mixed greens with arugula (excellent for weight loss), and are sold at Mini Stop and Price Smart branches, and leading supermarkets. Not only that, this salad comes with a disposable fork.

Feeling light as a feather, we proceeded to our destination of royal pampering. While nature unleashed torrents of rain, boisterous thunder and lightning outside, we were cocooned in a nest of wellness at the newly opened Ylang Ylang Spa at the luxurious Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay. The name ylang ylang embodies a vision of homegrown beauty and wellness facility for royal rejuvenation.

In our spa suite, majestically perched on a ridge overlooking the picturesque Taal Volcano, a state of nirvana amid tropical splendor pervaded. The completely renovated Taal Vista Hotel of our childhood, reeking of newly acquired opulence, boasts one of Asia’s most remarkable panoramas, included in the Traveler’s Life List of 1,001 Places to See Before You Die.

An extensive spa menu includes a list of heavenly indulgences, such as aromatherapy, shiatsu, Swedish, east and west combinations, warm herbal oil massage, and the warm stone massage which we opted to try. The inviting description reads: "Smooth hot stones strategically placed on the body combined with fragrant oils. The stones made of natural volcanic Hawaiian basalt bring relief to sore muscles and result in deep relaxation."

Close your eyes and imagine this: You lie on your back, gazing out into the cloudless sky framed by swaying palm fronds, at the lake within a volcano within an island, as a lavender scent wafts in the air, kissing your lightly oiled, exposed skin. Faint music fills the air as smooth and warmly heated oval-shaped stones are gently placed between your toes, your palms, around your shoulders, the nape of your neck and your forehead. The pace of your breathing slows, you acquire an inner connection with your senses as the heat seeps into your muscles, creating a deep state of relaxation. The therapist’s hands glides the smooth rocks over your body, untangling the knots in your tired back, easing the tendons in your legs. Imagine, too, the deliciously refreshing touch of chilled verbena-scented linen, the perfect balance to the warmth that has invaded the limbs.

No, you’re not in heaven, but you’re close. Having experienced lithos massage (lithos is ancient Greek for rock), you will certainly crave for more of this popular treatment. History records that stone therapy draws on a rich tradition dating back to ancient Greece. In the Hawaiian tradition practiced by the Kahunas, lava stones are wrapped in leaves for healing treatments. Russian bathers have been known to lie in baths lined with smooth, heated black stones, soaking up their radiating warmth. Chinese healers have been using heated stones to relieve tired muscles for 3,000 years and ayurvedic "swedana" treatments utilizing luxurious heat have been around for long.

Lithos therapy or stone massage uses "circulatory calisthenics," because the heat encourages relaxation and loosens tight muscles. Stone therapy boasts cleansing powers, the pressure from the weight of the rocks encouraging lymph circulation and detoxification.

The powerful yet soothing rock therapy is used in top spas throughout Asia Pacific, from from Australia to New Zealand, Southeast Asia and even the Himalayas. Spa aficionados are even more attracted to natural treatments. However, you cannot try rock therapy with just any old pebbles. The rocks used are natural marvels, highly polished, smooth, and individually designed with a particular therapeutic use for a special part of the body. (Shamans or holy men from Hawaii blessed the rocks that were used on us.)

Stone therapy is gaining recognition worldwide for its versatility. It can be combined with any treatment including reflexology, acupressure or even aromatherapy – applying essential oils to the warm stones magnify their strength. For those already convinced by the benefits of massage, stone therapy can be expected to double the reward. While the therapist’s hands work on one area, the carefully placed rocks work their magic on another.

Emerging from our nest of royal pampering, Tita Elo and I proceeded to the Flavors of Spain 2005 gastronomic experience at the cozy Café on the Ridge, adjacent to the hotel lobby where winsome Malca Villanueva and Liza Morales welcomed us. Fuego Hotels and Properties, in cooperation with the Spanish Economic and Commercial Office, kicked off the event with cocktails and the presentation of exquisite jamon iberico. We savored an exquisitely prepared Spanish lunch buffet by chef Mikel Arriet, who whipped up assorted pintxos, paella valenciana, filloas de pescado con salsa de setas, fabes con mejis y azafran and other tasty Spanish treats. Overflowing sangria quenched our thirst as desert lovers feasted on churros con chocolate, crema catalan, cheesecake with mint or flao and panchinetta (pastry with cream). The weekend sojourn, celebrated as close to Mother Earth as possible, proved a memorable one despite the weather. Yes, when it rains, it pours – great salads, Spanish cuisine, sangria and lava rock treatments in the company of gracious people who celebrate life to the hilt.

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For more information on Saladtime, call Malyn of Basic Necessity at 809-9620 and 809-0699, or send e-mail to

For inquiries and reservations at Taal Vista Hotel, call 886-4325 or log on to

E-mail the author at

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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