When is the last time you experienced the feeling of a childlike sense of wonder? The older I get, the more I find myself trying to regain that sensation. Somehow it seems a little more difficult to obtain.
Travel can help to ignite this feeling, but only when it’s travel without expectations. The sensation of wonderment occurs only when you are least expecting it. It happens when you let the chatter of your mind slip away, when you stop digging up the past or anticipating the future, when you start being mindful and appreciative of the present.
This is a post about a place, but it’s also about a memory. Sitio de Amor was one of the many lodgings we stayed at during our recent Philippines trip, but it wasn’t part of the original plan. And if you’ve read this post, you know that plans are prone to change frequently when you’re traveling, especially with a big group!
The night we stayed at this “farm resort” was the same day we did the Pagsanjan Falls boat trip. We actually had no idea where we’d be sleeping that evening, as our planned hotel had cancelled on us. As a group of about 25 people, it wasn’t easy to find accommodations last minute. When we finally arrived at Sitio de Amor, we had been driving for over 3 hours from Pagsanjan, and it was after midnight. Down a dark side road, a huge cast-iron gate stood before us, a vast empty field laid beyond. It looked deserted and uninviting, like something out of a scary movie. After letting ourselves in through the gate, a woman with a flashlight greeted us and gave us a tour of our potential accommodations. We were all tired and cranky. The prices seemed high for what we were getting (a mismatch of futons and mattresses laid on the floors of communal living spaces), but we didn’t have much choice, and we couldn’t appreciate the beauty of this place in the darkness. We split off into groups and selected our rooms for the night.
What happened next is that instead of giving into exhaustion and going to bed, a few of us stayed up and decided to take advantage of the situation. So we did what anyone would do in the Philippines… we drove to the nearest store to buy some beer. Seven of us sat on the “porch” of one of the bungalows, which looked out onto an (empty) lagune. We wiped down dirty plastic chairs and divyied up Red Horse and whiskey into little paper Dixie cups. When the cups ran dry, we decided to go out and “explore” the property. Like little kids, we snuck down to the empty lagune, up and around palm tree covered paths, and towards an ancient under-construction building on the property. We walked on creaky wood floors through spooky rooms filled with antique furniture, religious relics, mirrors, and a lone bicycle, eventually ending up on a large terrace that looked out onto the star covered sky. Someone mentioned that it was easy to see a shooting star in the Philippines, and for a few minutes, we all gazed up in silence and waited. We didn’t end up seeing a shooting star, but just that sense of feeling like it could happen, of stopping to appreciate the infinite possibilities in the universe, brought back that childlike sense of wonder for me.
I wanted to stay up to watch the sunrise, but we eventually got tired and headed back to our respective rooms. Luckily I awoke just a few hours later, right in time to take in the “magic hour” of morning light. It was my second feeling of wonderment on the trip (but not the last) – Sitio de Amor (the “City of Love”) was magnificent in the daylight. I walked back to the same under-construction building, taking in every detail of the rooms we had walked though with caution in the dark, seeing it all in a new light. I stood on the same terrace that we had looked for shooting stars on, and I took in the warmth of the morning sunlight. Gratitude radiated out of me.
Originally I had intended to write more of a review post on Sitio de Amor, but I ended up telling you a story instead. I thought it might have been a good one to share.
If I were to write a review (and you can always read some on Tripadvisor), I think it would be a little mixed, but overall I very much enjoyed our one night/half day stay at this “City of Love”, and would be happy to return there some day for a longer visit. We were able to enjoy a fresh breakfast, the beautiful grounds and the serene pool during the daytime.