Stay at Alomah's Place in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon - Recommended Organic Farm for Groups! Optional Overnight Camping Experience in Dahilayan!

One of the loveliest experiences I had during this first CDO-Bukidnon trip has got to be our overnight stay at Alomah's Place in the adventure park zone of Barangay Dahilayan in Manolo Fortich. I owe my first encounter with a Pinoy cowboy and cowgirl living in a picturesque landscape and my first sleepover in a tent floor to ATI (Agricultural Training Institute of the Philippine Department of Agriculture) and of course, Mr. Benjohn and and Mrs. Grace Alombro-Mahistrado. =) They gave us a walkthrough of the market challenges they faced as farmers and how their farm evolved in less than a year into what it is today with the assistance of ATI and suggestions from different people they first opened their place to. The guided ecotrail tour that followed the next morning (read about it in my next Alomah's Place post) made me think about seeking out more natural adventures as best as I can (coz it's my kind of high here in the Philippines instead of today's swinging contraptions). Alomah's Place is an agri tourism site in Bukidnon, easily accessible an hour or two away by car from Cagayan de Oro. I would gladly bring my mom or friends here for some bukid-life R&R, no-frills bonding, tents-and-all camping or casitas if they wish, no-signal retreat time or plenty-of-quiet-corners recollection training. And if you a thrill-seeker and really came here for the Dahilayan Adventure Park, I would recommend that you stay here (very affordable) and also make time for the Dahilayan Forest Park.

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We left the Cervantes Farm in CDO at around 2 p.m. and got here around 4 p.m. It was dark and raining that time and we welcomed the change in itinerary from direct farm tour to intro time indoors first until dinner then an early morning walk the next day. My photos here are a mix of the 2 days just to give you an idea of what I'm talking about in a more consistent manner - dark for the first day then bright sunshine-y day the next =)

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We were housed in a cool 2-storey structure which has the "tent floor"... hehehe.

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There was ample parking space for our rented van (contact me if you need rental van with driver like our CDO-Bukidnon trip). The only catch with this type of accommodation is that the bathroom and shower area are outside (see the door next to the van?). There were 2 for women (tabo style) and 1 for men. Tiis ganda with cold water also but you'll get used to it haha. There are two other accommodations shown down below in this post.

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All meals, bonding time and karaoke happen downstairs. The common area was homey and we were immediately served with unlimited lettuce salad (their main produce) with Alomah's flavorful signature dressing made with cane sugar, vinegar, salt and sprinkled with sesame seeds (bought 2 bottles home at P75 each).

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They don't serve coffee here, only Alomah's soothing 3-in-1 do-it-yourself hot, fresh herb tea (I put tarragon and java mint cuttings in mine, perfect for the gloomy weather). I also munched on the sineguelas (Spanish plum) that we got on the road (at P100 per 3 tumpok or mounds). It was my first time to try this fruit - I liked the green ones better, it tasted like semi-sweet green Indian mango.

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As we settled, Ms. Grace started telling us about their life story. Mr. Benjohn watches his wife with pride saying that this is part of the learnings they got from the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI). Although quite shy and initially not used to broadcasting their struggles and achievements in public, they are taught to speak up in front of groups and their guests. After all, who better to tell us more about this remarkable place than the owners themselves.

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Fresh out of school, the couple got married right away and he started doing salesman jobs and odd jobs to make a living for them and their children. Eventually, he worked as a farmhand in the neighboring Monterey cattle farm. They saved enough to buy this piece of land initially hoping to integrate farming with their passion for horses and landscaping. They planted good-quality lettuce and transacted with a middle man to sell their "organic" produce but this relationship didn't last long as the payments became harder to collect. They got to a point when they were forced to think of other ways to pay the workers they employed and to liquidate so many kilos of lettuce orders by personally going to the market and educating the buyers themselves about going the benefits of vegetables grown without chemicals and pesticides. Their hard work and mano-mano awareness campaign did pay off.

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Today, they are still in business with another middleman who keeps his word and distrubutes to the city. But they have ventured into creating markets, farm tours, salad dressing production, catering to farm guests, trainings, camping sites and accommodations. Things started to change drastically after the ATI director visited their place. They attended trainings and continued to apply them when they went home. One of the things that changed was the shift to agri-tourism. Instead of giving away products for free, Ms. Grace said that they are encouraged to ask for a disturbance fee. P100 is not much for us visitors I tell you. It's a constant struggle she says, to not only believe in your product and continue developing it, and yourself, but also to teach others to value more the things they paid for (because somebody also cared for them). I'll tell you more about the camping sites, how they came to be and some of the accommodation options in their farm below. The day tour and the flora and fauna I discovered with pictures you can check out in my next post. Time passed and more than an hour has passed unknowingly.

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We went up the tent floor to settle in before dinner. During that time, I was in a bit of struggle going up with my luggage (many thanks to Kuya, should have packed lighter haha).

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All the exhaustion turned to excitement when I saw where we were sleeping that night! I loved this idea - still part wilderness, unique and comfortable at the same time (perfect for our first night). There was no airconditioning and we didn't need any since it was a little chilly around here. One of the first things we did was scour the perimeter for outlets hahaha. Found some in the center and around three to four more. Our chargers seem to fall off though except for one each so bring like a rope or ziptie and octopus haha.

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The tents could fit 2 each comfortably and had a comfy thick mattress, pillows and blankets.

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We were also given towels and there's plenty of space for the luggage.

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Dinner was simple, balanced and basic for me with something to warm our tummies. 

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After taking a cold shower, I succumbed to sleep after failed attempts at any phone signal, much less any luck with WiFi. I was able to get through for a bit when I woke up at around 4am haha. 

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Let me tell you that I was most happy when I slept here during the trip. My sleep was interrupted when nobody turned off the lights and karaoke at 2 am (and so I went down and closed everything) and when I had to go down to go to the bathroom twice or thrice but I still slept comfortably mind you. Maybe it was the lack of signal and the calmness that this farm provided. I welcomed the abrupt detox and how my body quickly adapted with one of the best sleeps I had for the year so far. 

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I wasn't expecting a 5-star hotel but if it hadn't rained that day, we would have camped under 500+ stars... I hadn't camped like that yet - mine was always hurried going up some mountain and catching some sleep so that I could get down... Ms. Grace told us that they were approached by girl scouts to rent this place as a camping site. Initially, she was a bit unsure due to the lack of amenities like the outdoor CRs only for 100 of them but the organizers were not swayed and told them they would handle it. She said that some of the all-teacher participants complained and Ms. Grace said she would never forget what the speaker told them - that as girl scouts and as troop leaders who were tasked to be in charge of the younger scouts in their next camping trips, they needed to experience all of these so that they know what to do, esp. in times of shortage or trouble. They were also not allowed to borrow like knives or utensils from the kitchen because they were supposed to be prepared with their own gear. Hay... I wondered how I would turn out if I had this kind of training like my sister... I kind of liked the sound of it now... I was actually inspired to borrow the kitchen's only takure (water kettle) for a warmer bath and to test it out. I was NOT bitter when Ate said no after I heard Ms. Grace hahaha.

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The tents looked similar to ours honestly and we shared a common plight to go to the bathrooms lol. They get a bonfire also. The tents were raised, most likely for the rain. Maybe all you need is a flashlight and all-weather jacket over there to survive the night ;)

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There's another bigger conference area or hall behind this with a training session while we were there.

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And then there are these modified nipa hut casitas with a veranda outside =) Do you see how they've done with the place, the tourism / business opportunities and what is possible for your own farm?!

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They have their own bathroom then I was counting maybe 4 to 6 could fit in here. I'd stay down there next to the CR and the TV haha.

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The second floor was very maximized. I would love to stay up there except I don't like having to go upstairs. But then again, this is an upgrade in terms of shared toilet space divided by the room occupants so I believe this is the best option for gals used to the city.

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Bring your own soap and I suggest a plastic bag so that your stuff doesn't get wet.

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There's a mini store next to the farm entrance by the way.

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If I would plan another trip, I would allot more time here to purposely slow things down. The huts are far away from the crowd areas for a more peaceful sleep.

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But for me, I was totally fine with the tents. From the day before, I could already see pretty much the playground I was going to explore the next day from one vantage point (we had a 360-degree balcony!) so that got me excited. Hehe. I watched the sunrise from this point also.

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Let me take you on a farm ecotrail and more of that sunrise on my next post! 

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Farm Details:
Dahilayan 8703, Manolo Fortich,
Bukidnon Province, Philippines
+639177153560 / +639088972466 / +639168844374

To visit the different ATI-assisted projects (Organic Farming Learning Sites), you can drop by or ask the ATI Regional Training Center nearest you or inquire through:
Call -
982AGRI (982-2474) for Metro Manila calls
1-800-10-982AGRI (1-800-10-9822474) for provincial toll-free calls using PLDT landlines
Text -
For Smart and Talk & Text Subscribers, send a message to 391-DA (391-32). 
For non-Smart Subscribers, send a message to 0920-946AGRI (0920-9462474).

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