Imagine waking up in a wood and nipa hut, going out and feeling the fresh cool air on your face, and seeing leafy greens vividly coloring stretches of farmland, with Mt. Banahaw in the distance. You then walk to another hut with a view of the greenery around you for a breakfast of fried danggit or liempo, salted egg, sauteed ampalaya with eggs, rice, fresh papaya, and brewed coffee – all delicious yet healthy, as these are organic. Later, you plant tiny lettuce seeds, harvest fully grown lettuce and warm chicken eggs, and pick fruits like dragon fruit. You are guided as you make a colorful salad and a pizza using the farm’s organic produce.
This experience is typical when you visit Costales Nature Farms in Majayjay, Laguna. Founded by IT specialists turned farmer-entrepeneurs and husband and wife Ronald and Josephine Costales, this farm of over ten years has become known for its organic produce, supplying stores like Healthy Options, hotels like Shangri-La, and restaurants like Italianni’s. And they teach organic farming too! Costales has also become known as a farm tourism destination, and has even become a model and mentor for other farms in becoming tourism destinations as well. Costales is in fact the first agri-tourism destination recognized and accredited by the Department of Tourism.
All-healthy and organic, straight from their farm!
Costales is the place where you can indulge without guilt, as all their food is healthy. They have crisp, fresh green lettuce, a staple of organic farms indeed, and healthy but delicious green juices, arguably a staple of wellness retreat centers. But they have organic eggs, too. Pork. Beef. Chicken. Typical Filipino food like tapa and longganisa which you wouldn’t typically think of as healthy but is.
Below is our welcome drink at Costales called the Sexy Juice, made mainly of greens like the rare ashitaba. Why sexy? It’s perfect for slimming as it makes you feel full for five to six hours and you won’t have to eat so much.
I practice a pesca-vegetarian diet as much as possible, but when presented with organic options like Costales,’ I am only too happy to try. The meat has a clean taste and does not leave an unpleasant heaviness in my stomach, which is usually my experience with meat. And, it tastes great! My meat lover friends also only have high praises for it.
Costales’ meat and livestock also have no odor because of the organic feeds the farm uses.
Each meal during our stay was a healthy delight. My favorite is their fresh tilapia raised in Costales’ own fish pond. They have a freshness and flavor usual tilapias do not have. It was also a treat for me, as I rarely eat tilapia, also because tilapias raised in typical locations like Taal Lake threaten the population of tawilis, another fish I like eating.
Some of their food and their products are also available for sale at their store near the entrance. I love their salad dressing! I took home some, along with bunches of lettuce.
A taste of farm life through tours
What makes Costales a farm tourism destination is also its farm tours, which can be a quick field trip for curious students, or a longer one for those who want to experience more.
I personally appreciated our meals at Costales more when we went around the farm and saw what was happening behind the scenes.
We watched how the lettuce were meticulously planted and cared for as seedlings (we even got to plant some!), realized what makes the soil rich and the crops healthy (the cute rabbits’ waste produce great amounts of nitrogen, the worms for vermiculture, and the vats filled with blends of EMs, or Effective Microorganisms, a core technology Costales uses not only to make the soil rich but also to counter bad bacteria, which explains why their organic livestock and their meat do not have any unpleasant smell).
We picked fruits, harvested organic eggs, saw how chicken, pigs, and buffalos are raised in an organic farm, and harvested lettuce – my favorite part, yes!
Below are some photos of our farm tour:
More farm-related activities
Beyond the farm tour, we had other fun activities, too, like tupig making. The farm’s late co-founder Ronald Costales loved tupig, a sticky rice with coconut from northern provinces, and wanted interested guests to experience making and eating it fresh. Costales’ animated staff taught us how to make it, and though our creations weren’t perfect, we enjoyed the process. We wrapped the sticky rice mixture in banana leaves and roasted them on a grill.
Of course, another obvious activity would be salad making, given Costales’ abundant fresh produce.
Using Costales’ fresh vegetables too, the friendly staff guided us in making pizza. The dough and cheese have yet to be made organic among Costales’ repertoire, but this is the goal in the future. They hope that their cheese especially can later on come from the buffaloes they are raising.
We also made fresh herbal tea simply by steeping tarragon and spearmint in hot water and mixing in honey. The tea was a soothing ender after we ate our creations.
Respite with nature
Aside from experiencing farm life, you will get to commune with nature too. Costales Farm is located in Majayjay, which enjoys cool fresh weather. Aside from all the greenery around Costales, mountains also serve as a dramatic backdrop to the farm. Costales is a perfect place to just breathe in the fresh air and savor the natural beauty around you.
You can also have meals with a view, as we did. There are huts were you can eat while taking in the scenery. The hut where we dined has a view of Costales’ fish pond.
For a longer time communing with nature, best to stay overnight, like we did. Sleeping at Costales’ simple charming huts with beds draped in white mosquito nets will prolong the encounter with nature as these are built with native, natural materials. Outside the huts are small porches where you can sit and take in the view of Costales’ farmland.
In fact, Costales co-founders and husband and wife Ronald and Josephine Costales started the farm with their desire to commune with nature. Having lived parts of their childhoods in areas close to nature, they wanted to settle in such a place as they grew older. Ms. Josephine particularly fondly recounted how she and her family picked fresh vegetables and raised chickens when she was younger.
Coming from the corporate world and both working in the tech industry, the couple built the farm to settle in nature. Soon, though, their farm became more than just their retirement haven, becoming a supplier of organic produce to supermarkets and health stores and a farm tourism destination. Costales even garnered awards from national government agencies for its organic farming and farm tourism.
Teaching and sustaining farmers
Not just a farm or tourism destination, Costales regularly trains aspiring farmers as well as farm owners who want to shift to organic farming.
Aside from offering short-term organic farming courses, Costales also offers longer courses accredited by theTechnical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Costales is a training and assessment center for the course Organic Agriculture Production.
Not only does Costales teach, but it helps ensure livelihood for struggling farmers as well. The farm works in partnership with the Department of Social Welfare and Development for livelihood programs. Costales also buys produce from farmers under their tutelage, or help them find buyers for their produce.
Rising to the call
What makes Costales Farm extraordinary is not just its organic farming recognized for its quality but also for its founders rising to the call of service, sharing the gift of organic farming with others, teaching aspiring farmers, and becoming an inspirational model for farm tourism.
Costales’ beauty and promise of an authentic farm experience are enough to make guests come, but its service and advocacies are what make the place truly worth visiting.
So why not pay a visit, even for just a day? Better a weekend, though.
Costales Farm tours start at P260. A tour package with an overnight stay is P2,510. You can view their packages on their website. You can also just come to Costales to eat one of their organic meals and savor the view.
How to get there:
Costales is located at Barangay Gagalot, Majayjay, Laguna.
From Edsa, ride a bus bound for Calamba. Get off at SM Calamba and ride a van bound for Lucban. The van will be passing by Costales; just ask to be dropped off. A landmark would be the small San Isidro Labrador Chapel.
From Alabang, go to Festival Mall at Filinvest and ride a van bound for Lucban, which will also pass by Costales.
This is my entry to the Pinoy Travel Bloggers blog carnival on 2017 Upcoming Destinations hosted by Gretchen Filart-Dublin of Filipina Explorer.