This farmstay will help you reconnect with nature—while giving farmers jobs

Marinduque has been quite under the radar when it comes to its treasure spots. For most, this island is just a home to the famous Moriones or Morion Festival, a religious event held during the Holy Week. Unknown to many, this charming province has more to it than just this religious festival. Its idyllic beaches, caves, mountains, and wide greeneries are worth the land and sea travel.

Yes, there’s still a lot of this island that the rest of the Philippines is still yet to uncover, one of which is the farm stay that is recently getting attention—the Panuluyan Farmstay. Nestled in the deep part of Barangay Masalukot in Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, it’s is an ideal spot for people looking for a place where they can experience rustic farm living. It is not a resort but a farm stay, where guests can experience what it’s like to live in a farming community.

Panuluyan was the brainchild of Lenlie and Donna Lecaroz. Although Lenlie was born and raised in Manila, he spent all his school vacations in his home province of Marinduque where he traces his roots. Donna, on the other hand, grew up calling Baguio home.

With their shared desire to empower farmers, Lenlie and Donna decided to leave their lives in Manila and move back to Marinduque to live there seeing that they have to be on the ground to make an impact. Their daughter, Lalli Kier, followed through and decided to leave her corporate job to help manage Panuluyan.

The farm stay is part of the proof-of-concept model created by Lenlie and Donna to help their community in three ways through what they call the Panalo sa Tatlo Model.

First is through agriculture, by planting and harvesting cacao and abaca. Second is through creating products to sell from their crops thus adding value. Third is through community tourism by hosting panauhins or guests on their farms.

According to the farm stay’s gabay-in-chief Lalli Kier, the long-term vision of her parents is for their partner farmer families to be able to put up their own “Panuluyans” in their own lands and earn through hosting. “Panuluyan’s design is meant to be doable and duplicable for our partner farmer families, which is why we chose to go with a kubo, something most already have in their lands.”

One of Panuluyan’s aims is to create livelihood for the people in the farm and the community, hence it’s not run by a Hotel and Restaurant Management graduate but by members of their partner-farmer families, who have been upskilled and risen to the challenge.

No wonder you can feel the authentic, warm, welcoming vibe when you set foot in this lovely sanctuary. There’s a ready gabay or guide ready to welcome you and tour you to the place, alongside customary sweet hellos and welcome from the other staff.

If the west has their bed and breakfast, Panuluyan has their “Banig and Breakfast,” which is part of its accommodation options where guests can sleep in an open-air kubo laid out with banig and overlooking the mountains of Santa Cruz and Maniwaya Island. Be warned, though, that this place has no air-conditioner. Instead, you can enjoy the cool mountain breeze. How’s that for a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of the city?

Aside from banig-and-breakfast, Panuluyan also offers day tour where guests can just enjoy the semi-al fresco kubos situated on the higher part of the place. It also has Farmilya Kubos, upgraded kubo with living and dining areas and a fully-equipped kitchen for up to six persons. Those who love to go on an adventure may opt to stay in a tent in the specially designated tent-pitching area. Alongside the accommodations, Panuluyan is also set to open its Bahay Cacao Cafe, a chocolate-making studio and café to showcase its own produced cacao.

Foodies will not be disappointed with the local delicacies and specialties served at the farm stay’s Azotea Eatery. It also has the so-called Cacao Specials, which incorporate cacao with both savory and sweet dishes. Their inihaw + cacao offerings have that unique, delightful flavor, especially with that cacao grill rub that adds flavor to the usual inihaw. The restaurant also offers Coco Leche Flan with shaved dark chocolate on top and uses fresh coconut milk and free-range eggs from the farm. Its take on the local pancake is called sinaludsod, paired with the signature hot tsokolate. And if you want to have a taste of the local Marinduque favorites, Azotea Eatery offers local food like tinuto laing and pinaltok, which is ginataang bilo-bilo.

More than the view, the ambiance, and the food, it’s that warm, welcoming experience that will leave a mark in your heart once you visit Panuluyan Farmstay. It’s that familiar feeling you get when you visit a family in the province. You’re not treated as a guest, but as a part of the family. That is the feeling and experience that the people behind Panuluyan aim to instill in its guests.

Next time you visit the island of Marinduque, make sure to drop by Panuluyan Farmstay and enjoy the relaxing vibe of the place.

This story was first published on Manila Bulletin.

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