by: Jenny Bugarin-Tan
Life, love, relationships, work are driving you crazy?
It gets crazier for all the right reasons when I went to a holistic retreat home, discovered a not-so-secret temple and much more in Silang, Cavite
Driving helps me clear my thoughts and allows me to be in control, so when my friend invited me to Silang, Cavite for The Secret Workshop – a three-day retreat and workshop on personal development. I accepted her offer without putting much thought on the purpose, since I was just excited to get out of the house and drive from north (where I live) to south. We wazed and braved Manila’s Friday hellish traffic on a sunny morning and reached our destination mid-afternoon.
The retreat house sits on a quiet village of winding roads, bridges and greens. I immediately spotted a concrete picnic table by the front yard and mentally marked it as my personal spot for the next two days (and imagined myself sitting all day with my lappy, smartphone and Patricia Highsmith’s The Tremor of Forgery with me) and if in case I get bored, I reminded myself that Tagaytay is only five minutes away by car.
My mental notes and escape plans, however, became completely useless after the workshop under the tutelage of Mario Now, a young and charming polish guy who has been in the Philippines for over three years and had previously settled in the island of Siquijor. Mario learned to speak some Visayan and fell madly in love with malunggay (moringa) and coconut. Find out more about Mario here.
As I went through group sessions, affirmation exercises and learn about practical techniques on self-awareness, my worldly worries including my best-laid escape plans turned out to be just some silly excuses to cover up raging emotions when I am upset, sad, hurt, mad, tired, pressured or suffering from increased anxiety at home, at work or during a bright wonderful day with my husband and kids that turned sour after my perfect expectations and needs weren’t met.
Group sessions are not structured, with Mario allowing participants to be flexible and relaxed unlike in usual teambuilding workshops of numerous slide presentations and endless motivational speeches and lofty promises to overcome personal disorders, acquire wealth, wellness and whatnots.
Mario likes to engage and many times would veer away from the technical processes and allows us to discover ourselves through the magic of sharing, laughing, learning, co-creating and listening. My personal take away: mundane things, positive thoughts and even negative emotions like anguish and awful life experiences are gifts waiting to be unwrapped and given to those who are open, aware, unassuming and in touch with their inner selves.
There was never a dull moment among us, 10 participants or complete strangers of different backgrounds: media, airline, multinational corporations, information technology, college graduates, aspiring entrepreneur and a fashionista. We shared experiences on love, happiness, lust, politics, business, pleasures, life goals, failures, loss, death of pets – just about anything under the sun and over the moonlight on a cold breezy night while we eat, sing, hum, dance or as we sit by the picnic table or lay flat on the floor with pillows in our backs under the porch one late night and we can only hear crickets sing or be disrupted by a playful wasp or a cold wind as we watch motivational videos and documentaries from Mario’s inspiring collection. In between, we would ruminate on Mario’s personal journey, triumphs, mistakes, failures and stunning but grounded visions about life, love, relationship, work, money and success.
For two days – and I counted 51 magical hours, we were just ordinary beings in a rare but special place or moment that is devoid of any pressures, worries, pains, expectations and escape plans. We were ridiculously happy, fulfilled, determined, inspired and filled with pure joy and warmth of newfound friendship, respect and love.
As we drove back to the retreat house owned by Mario’s ever efficient partner, Shan, from the Manila Buddhist Zen Center temple, we passed by rows of herb gardens (and I’d smell arugula and mint inside my head), rows of wild flowers, stray dogs, barren lands, towering trees, dark alleys, sharp curves, broken roads, speeding bicycles, clueless passers-by and narrow bridges.
Shan and Mario were in the other car before us, patiently guiding us and occasionally hitting the breaks to wait for us. As I drove past the house gate to park my car and prepare for the closing activities on mid-Sunday afternoon, I saw my old self doing exact the same thing two silly days ago but felt very much different. Here is where my most awakening experience and now is my transformation. I am officially me.
If I were to put value in peso for the two full day workshop and superb home-cooked free meals, I’d owe Mario and Shan a lifetime of financial debt and then I’d be making decisions filled with regrets, counting days of filled wallets but empty heart and may just be driving in circles until I ran out of gas or worst, lose all sense of direction and purpose.
It was priceless and if you attend any of their sessions (TheHolisticRetreats.com) and willingly pay the reasonable fees, you are actually helping them help you enrich thousands of other people’s lives such as your husband, your wife, your kids, your family, your parents, your loved ones, your significant other, your best friend, your business partner, your officemates, your pet, your exes, your frenemy or even strangers and many other people, places and things around you that are nothing but gifts from the universe waiting to be unravelled, discovered or re-discovered, loved, needed and accepted.
To know more about their up coming workshops, visit theholisticretreats.com.