(STAR) RENDEZVOUs By Christine S. Dayrit - Whatever we sow, we reap. Planting, an instrument of grace, is like painting. You only know what will grow and discover the palette of colors you have planted when it blooms. Traveling is no different; unless you embark on that journey, you will never realize what surprises will unfold.

Over the weekend, my traveling companions and I experienced a truly fascinating paradise in Davao called Eden Nature Park. The architects of this mountain sanctuary are gracious couple Chito and Fe Ayala who built this nirvana as true stewards of creation.

While many have gardens in their backyard to make their green thumb inclinations come true, this couple has an entire forest of 40 hectares wherein they planted thousands of trees over 35 years ago. In fact, our friend Dr. Renato Labadan, a soil science expert from Cornell University, said the Kyoto Protocol authors ought to acknowledge the Ayalas’ environmental activism by rewarding them with carbon credits!

Unlike most gardens and forests, Eden Nature Park is 95 percent manmade. Nature has ordained this haven with impeccable weather, constant rainfall and very rich soil. Every square inch of Eden is a part of God’s master plan. Thus, all that your senses experience have been preordained to grow.

Perched on the upper slopes of majestic Mt. Talomo with heavenly Mt. Apo looming behind, the park is situated 2,500 feet above sea level. Once a logged-over area and orchard in the ‘70s, the resort is surrounded by the only pine forest in Davao City and is a superb alternative to the hurried pace of the city life. Eden Nature Park epitomizes how man can recreate nature and rebuild a lost environment.

The secret of Eden also lies in its humanistic management where acts of kindness are returned tenfold. Tita Fe, Tito Chito and son Mike Ayala also have several corporate social responsibility (CSR) projects like education, livelihood, cooperatives and more Complementing the bio-diversity of this emerging rainforest, the resort maintains a successful wildlife conservation home that shelters a number of deer, Indian peacocks and birds.

Aboard a golf cart personally driven by Tita Fe, we had the privilege to tour her gardens. My only brother Mark, who is an excellent chef, listened intently as she generously shared magical recipes and combinations for her greens and herbs as well as the history of these valuable epicurean seasonings. As the aroma of precious herbs wafted in the air, our whetted appetites longed to taste the cilantro, basil, thyme, cinnamon, rosemary, garlic and chives combined with succulent chicken, lamb, fish and tender meats. Perfect complements for salad dressing: simply take your pick from the countless rows of hydroponic lettuce, tomatoes, tropical fruits and macademia nuts grown here.

When Tita Fe collects herbs from her garden, gathering the goods that Mother Nature has so generously bestowed on her, she shares the explosively delicious flavors with the diners who sample her gourmet recipes. All the pre-packed vegetables at the café of Eden are freshly harvested from her gourmet garden. When she opts to include garlic, cilantro, arugula, or sweet basil to flavor a meal she’s cooking, she contributes to her own nourishment, well-being, and pleasure. Her love of herbs is a tangible expression of self-nurturance.

Eden is a vast sanctuary where one can enjoy the lush forest and lavish plantations, authentic tribal village, cozy lodges for honeymooners, families and corporate outings, campsites for the amateur and seasoned camper, challenging obstacle races and playgrounds. Children and adults will love the Indiana Jones-style vertical swings that stretch from one side of the garden to the other. An outstanding feature of Eden resort is that any urge to respond to the call of nature is promptly answered by more than 40 well-maintained male and female washrooms close by.

From the mountain, I was transported to the seaside resort of Buenavista Island, another Ayala brainchild. Ever dream of owning an entire island by yourself? Dream no more. From the jetty at Samal Island, a speedboat whisked us off to Buenavista Island on Small Ligid Island that you can rent all to yourself. Measuring four hectares during high tide and doubling in low tide, Buenavista Island is perhaps one of the country’s most private island resort. This innovative concept in vacations is unique for you can have this whole island to yourself or whoever you want to be with while you are served like royalty with only the best cuisine like fresh seafood and salads and luxurious accommodations. Air-conditioned villas and cottages with the finest linens and white comforters plus outdoor bathrooms with all the lush flowers and plants will truly delight you. You could even pitch a tent under the stars or bask in their pavilion if you wish.

Our dear friend Yvette Lee, an ace photojournalist and scuba diver, swears that Buenavista Island is a diver’s paradise. She enthused, “There is a fabulous slope filled with sea fans, bushes of red whip corals and soft corals that drip like pastel candle wax.” Her encounter with the delightful denizens included pinnacles or underwater monoliths like giant chess pieces placed strategically off a drop jutted from the wall. At the Aundanao Fish Sanctuary, different varieties of gorgonians and bigmouth mackerel, sweetlips and butterfly fish can also be found.

Experience Davao’s delightful sanctuaries. A photographer’s delight, a painter’s dream, a poet’s inspiration. Indeed, Eden Nature Park and Buenavista Island are living testimonies of what man can do to recreate nature and preserve the environment if only he chooses to do so. After all, whatever you sow, you will also reap.

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For more information, call Eden Nature Park at (082)296-0791 or visit; and Buenavista Island at (082)299-1020 or e-mail

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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