By Prime SarmientoMarch 21, 2018


Puerto Princesa City—I went all the way to Palawan just to renew my passport. Anyone who had a hard time getting a passport here in Manila would probably understand why I had to resort to this.

The extra expense and the inconvenience annoyed me. That was my initial reaction. But I refused to let this inconvenience control my mood. So, instead of whining about this “injustice,” I reframed my mindset, and transformed this “enforced” vacation into an opportunity to visit Bahay Kalipay.

Bahay Kalipay literally means House of Happiness, a combination of the Tagalog word for “house” and Cebuano word for “happiness.” Bahay Kalipay (or BK) has long been known as a yoga and detox center. I’ve been planning to visit this place for years, but wasn’t able to do so because something else would crop up.

I didn’t sign up for any of BK’s detox programs, as I had no intention of spending all day meditating, doing asanas and eating raw food. I’m a city girl who needs my coffee and cable news TV first thing in the morning, so I have to stay in a B&B in the city proper. But BK is just a 30-minute trike ride away from downtown, and going there for two-hour yoga and meditation sessions is enough to calm my mind and soul and to set my intentions.

I also learned the concept of labyrinth walk, a form of movement meditation where I had to walk around a hut, while reflecting on my intentions and questioning my inner fears.

But, then again, who wouldn’t be more reflexive when one is in a hut amidst a garden of flowers, plants and trees? A place where one can savor fresh coconut juice (which comes straight from one of the trees here and not from a can) and eat a filing, no-guilt and all-natural raw mango cake?

“Ang ganda ng energy ng raw food,” BK cofounder and raw-food chef Daniw Arrazola told me while we had a merienda of mango cake and coconut juice in one of BK’s huts.

Daniw said the food’s “beautiful” energy comes from its “good” source. The coconuts are organically grown in BK’s garden. The cake is made of organic mangoes, cashews and pili nuts that were bought directly from Palawanon and Bicolano farmers. She stressed the latter, as sustainable farming and dining is not only about growing and eating organic food but also ensuring that farmers will get fair prices for their produce.

“When you get into raw veganism, you will [want to] know how [the crops] were planted, how the [farmers] take care of their plants,” she said.

For imported ingredients like sunflower seeds, Daniw researched online and found an online store that only sells organic and fair-trade products.

That Daniw is so meticulous about her sources and is more than giving her diners very good value for their money. She told me that, since she started being a raw vegan 11 years ago, she also started to assess her food choices and, in the process, learned that she needed to set a higher standard for her diet.

Daniw changed her diet to change her life. Back in 2007 she went to the Good Shepherd Convent in Tagaytay as she was weighed down by serious personal problems. The nuns introduced her to yoga, meditation and tai-chi. They also advised her to drop junk food, give up very sweet and salty food and adopt a vegetarian diet. She took their advice to heart and was, indeed, rewarded with a clear mind, healthier body and an easier way to deal with her problem.

A few months later she would meet Pi Villaraza in the same retreat center in Tagaytay. Pi has been known for facilitating a spiritual healing modality called inner dance. It was through inner dance that Daniw had an emotional breakthrough.

Pi also introduced Daniw to raw veganism, telling her about the clarity that he received after living as a hermit in an island off Palawan for two years, subsisting on a mono-diet of coconut juice and bananas. Daniw decided to give raw veganism a try, as she was on an inner healing journey then and would try anything that would bring her a peaceful and clear mind.

She started with just eating bananas, mangoes and other fruits that she can buy in the grocery. After two weeks, she reintroduced vegetables to her diet and started eating green salads. She was amazed not only by the light, healing energy that raw food bought but also the fact that she finally stopped feeling sad. She recalled that she was crying—not out of sadness but out of too much happiness.

Soon after, Pi became her life partner. Daniw then sold everything she owned in Manila, moved with Pi to Palawan and, together, they built a yoga and retreat center in a leased land in Barangay San Pedro.

Daniw recalled that she was building BK while going through her own inner healing process. It wasn’t easy, but she knew she had to go through it.

“I have to fix this place while I was still healing. Hindi mabilis ang healing process,” she said.

They started offering inner dance, yoga sessions, smoothies and some raw vegan dishes that Daniw prepared using recipes found in a raw food cookbook. Thanks to word of mouth (and perhaps the positive vibes that emanate from the center), Bahay Kalipay would soon attract healers, teachers and students from all over the Philippines and around the world.

A few years later, Daniw would take a step further in her raw-vegan journey by signing up for a raw-chef certification course in Thailand.

Daniw guarantees that anyone who dines in Kalipay Café can avail themselves of eco-friendly and fair-trade food. She made sure of this by personally visiting the farms and talking to the farmers themselves on how they grow their food.

Plastic bags, styrofoam and other forms of packaging are not allowed in BK, as the farmers either deliver their produce fresh from the farm, or  BK’s staff goes to the talipapa with a reusable bag or basket in tow. There’s a water filter and a set of drinking glass, so BK’s guests can drink potable water without having to buy bottled water.

BK also discourages food waste. Hence, anyone who wants to eat in the café has to reserve a place a few hours (or even a day) in advance as the staff will only prepare food for confirmed guests.

The food preparation itself is waste-free, as everything is either recycled or used as a compost. Daniw told me that the crust used to make the mango cake that she served to me was made from the pulp of cashew and pili nuts that were also used to make nut milk. The mango seed will be replanted, while the mango peel and the coconut husks will go back to the earth in the form of compost.

My interview with Daniw is in line with my goal this month to feature women in sustainable farming and dining, as March is Women’s Month in the Philippines. As a more plant-based diet is considered more eco-friendly, I thought it would be good to get the views of a raw-food chef.

It was an hourlong interview but, when I left BK, I got more than quotable quotes and a bite of that mango cake.  Because Daniw did share a lot of insights—not only about food and farming but about inner healing. For what it’s worth, I was thankful for the online passport-appointment snafus, as it pushed me to go to BK and in the process enjoyed its light and healing energy.

Original Article: