By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
In Hinduism, Vaikuntha is the name of the celestial abode of Vishnu, one of the three main gods of the religion who is responsible for protecting and maintaining life on earth.
Meanwhile, in the local setting, Vaikuntha is the name of a natural forest farm nestled in the Sierra Madre mountains. It is located in Barangay Daraitan, Tanay, Rizal and is just a breath away from the border between Rizal and Quezon Province.
According to Shai Tamayo, the farm’s proprietor and a holistic nutritionist, it is more than just a farm that produces naturally-grown herbs, fruits, and vegetables.
“Vaikuntha Forest Farm is a place to learn, unwind, heal, detox, get fit, and meditate. It’s not the regular tourist destination. I like to call it an eco-destination. More than a destination, it’s an experience you don’t get just anywhere,” she said.
Once a month, it hosts events where guests can participate in yoga, survival training, emergency preparedness, wilderness rescue, first aid, as well as the common farm tourist goals of rest, relaxation, and detoxing.
‘Delightfully natural albeit rough and tumble’
When Tamayo said that the farm offers an experience that most guests can’t get anywhere, she was referring to the natural scenery and back to basic encounters that make the farm unique.
“It’s off-grid so you won’t find concierges and attendants anytime all the time. A couple of hours after the sun goes down, the staff goes back to their homes across the river–a mountain away. Of course, we live there, so we will always be there to take care of guests, like a host family will take care of you while you’re a guest at their home,” Tamayo said.
Vaikuntha Forest Farm has a few small private rooms and a communal type of lodging that can be rented as a whole cottage. Although they don’t have private bathrooms, the farm has compost toilets to relieve the guests while also finding a way to give back to the earth.
Banking on the idea of following natural practices, the farm strictly prohibits smoking, gambling, and drinking on its premises because its proprietor and staff would rather their guests be intoxicated with the mystic mountain air and the wonders of nature in their surroundings.
Tamayo shared that the farm doesn’t have amenities like karaokes and such because they would like their guests to enjoy nature’s choirs and orchestra since it’s a rare treat especially in modern situations.
“We now have a bit of solar power going, but it’s still not a bright-light destination because we give due respect to Mother Nature’s downtime. We would like our guests to experience darkness as a good friend and because we would like our guests to enjoy the magic of a diamond-sprinkled sky and the fantastic live firefly shows, or to bathe in the moonlight,” the farm’s proprietor said.
Aside from implementing such practices, the farm also imposes a strict vegetarian rule and encourages its guests to follow suit even if it’s just for the duration of their stay. Tamayo assured, however, that guests will be supplied with simple yet filling meals made from the natural produce that grows on the farm.
The farm was established in 2007 when Tamayo began dabbling in farming. Eventually, it got closer to its goal of becoming a sufficient organic pantry.
“Our aim was, and still is, to live off the land by planting everything we need to eat and what we need to preserve our health like natural medicines and such. We are not only passionate about organic and natural–we live and breathe it,” Tamayo said.
She added that Vaikuntha Forest Farm is a genuine retreat place where guests can take the road less traveled because there’s a lot more to see in the forests and the mountains surrounding the farm.
All that’s left is for the people to leave the city behind and enjoy a few days of going back to basics and communing with nature in the most authentic way possible.
In the second part of the article, the farm’s proprietor shares the natural farming practices that the farm follows and how they learned from the challenges that came their way.