It was very early on a Sunday morning and I was on a van ride heading north with people I had never met before—but I was excited for the weekend that was waiting for all of us. We were on our way to a Camp Coco Mindful Days Retreat which, that weekend, would be held at the beautiful Zambawood in San Narciso, Zambales.
Zambawood in San Narciso, Zambales
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We stop by at a gas station for early lunch, and there I got to talk with my fellow participants. Questions like “Where are you from? Why are you here?” were asked, and the answers were varying. Some were just getting out of long-term relationships, some are seeking respite from the stresses of work, while some are fulfilling self-promises of trying new things. One had even flown in all the way from Visayas just to be there. We hadn’t even reached our destination yet, and connections were already being made; stories were already being told and, most importantly, being heard. It had been a while since I was last at a retreat, but I am reminded why going on retreats every once in a while is important—we all need to feel connected, whether with other people, with nature, and most often with ourselves.
Therese Castillo, founder of Camp Coco
Camp Coco is a wellness and lifestyle brand founded by Therese Castillo, a psychologist with a passion for sharing the gift of mental wellness and mindful living. Together with her partner yoga instructor, Carina Silerio, the two conduct specialty programs like mindful retreats, wellness workshops, and more. They even hold Sleep Workshops (yes!), designed to help people with problems sleeping (or just anyone who wishes to relax) attain a good slumber.
Carina Silerio leading a mediation session
When we finally got to the location of the retreat, all the participants were immediately enchanted by the place—Zambawood, a beautiful villa nestled between the pine trees of Zambales, a short distance to the beach—couldn’t be more perfect for our little weekend escapade. There, surrounded by beautiful nature, it felt as if healing, for those seeking it, was inevitable.
For our first activity, we gathered by the pool where mats were already laid out for us to sit. We were asked to draw a card, each with a different question on them. Mine said, “What is the best surprise you’ve ever had?” and I smiled as I knew the answer right away. Therese also asked us to answer three questions on a piece of bright-colored post-its:
Why are you there?
What is your expectation?
What are you most afraid of and what are you most excited for?
And then we faced our partners to share our responses with each other. There was a level of joy in being faced with those kinds of questions—and an even bigger one in being pleasantly surprised with the answers that pop in your head.
That first activity set the tone for the rest of the weekend—looking back now I can see that the mindful retreat really was all about reflecting and recognizing where you are. That is, after all, where mindfulness starts. And we all really need that sometimes. With this rushed life we all live, it is so easy to lose our footing. It’s certainly nice—necessary, even—to reflect from time to time and recenter ourselves.
One of my most favorite activities that weekend was the five-year mapping, where you would write down the theme and what you think was the best and worst about each of the past five years of your life. It was a task that seemed daunting at first (where do you even begin?) but in the end, it felt nonetheless refreshing. That through the ups and downs of your life you’ll see that there was a plan all along— that all those little things have led you to a here and now.
One of the participants, working on her five-year map
My five-year map
In the evening we gathered by a bonfire at the beach, coincidentally under a bright full moon, roasting marshmallows and hotdogs on a stick after a bonfire activity with Therese that brought a happy tear to everyone’s eyes. After that lovely, solemn moment came a lot of laughter and jokes shared between people who were strangers to each other just that morning. I remember looking up at the full moon that night and thanking the universe for the company. I had once again felt that I was right where I was supposed to be.
Watching the beautiful Zambales sunset
I won’t tell you everything that we did that weekend—one of the best things about it is in the not knowing what was in store for us. I’m not going to take that away from you, should you decide to go. But, for yourself, I really hope that you do.
Camp Coco’s Mindful Days Retreat isn’t just good for the mind and heart, it’s good for the body too as their retreats come with some yoga sessions—nothing strenuous though, so if you’ve never done yoga before don’t worry. Carina, Camp Coco’s resident yoga instructor, makes sure the movements are fit for everyone. They’re gentle, slow, and mindful, which is what I can say for the rest of the retreat, too.
Relaxing yoga by the beach
At the end of the retreat, I asked one of the participants, the one who flew in from out of town, if she thought her trip was worth it. With a smile she said yes, yes it was. And then another told me that he doesn’t expect to find instant change just from one weekend like that, no matter how peaceful it had made him feel. Things don’t work that way. But small steps make a difference still, and sometimes that’s what matters. Making the small steps.
Join Camp Coco for their next Mindful Days Wellness Retreat on October 17-18 at Zambawood, San Narciso, Zambales. Check out their website and social media links below for more info on the upcoming retreat, and their other programs and activities.
Camp Coco Wellness Alternatives
Classes offered by Camp Coco
Sleep Well Class
Workplace Themed Adventures
Individual Well-being Consultation
Yoga with Carina
For bookings: (0998) 9710248
Classes offered by Yoga with Carina
Private yoga classes (one on one)
Kids/ Teens/ Family yoga classes
Yoga for people with Cardiac and Cancer and other life threatening illness