Over the Lunar New Year holidays, I was fortunate enough to be able to take a short three-day-trip to the Philippines to warm up one last time before leaving cold, wintry Korea. Three days is not much time in the mass array of islands that is the Philippines so my friend and I did some research and decided to visit a lake district just south of Manila to cut travel time. Just a simple two hour bus ride and we were out of bustling Manila and in the diversely green hillsides of Tagaytay.
In a quick Google serach of yoga in Tagaytay, I discovered that there is a Brahma Kumaris center there, and fortunately for me they were hosting a day retreat on the day of my arrival. It was perfect. I sent my email registration and soon received an acceptance email that outlined the theme of the retreat – Heal the Heart and Feel “The Circles of Love,” so themed because of the Valentine’s holiday coming around the corner. As Amy wrote before, residents at BK centers refer to themselves and others as Brother & Sister; in my acceptance email, Sister Tim Tim answered my inquiries about the retreat like this: “The facilitation of this event is free as our service to humanity. However, for your snacks, lunch and use of the facilities, there is a contribution of 500pesos per person. You can bring your own notebook and pen with you should you wish to take notes.”
“The facilitation of this event is free as our service to humanity.”
– Sister TimTim, BK Meditation Center, Tagaytay
How to get there from the Tagaytay bus terminal, which is more of a gathering of trikes waiting to take customers to destinations, buses don’t actually stop and park at the terminal, but instead stop on the side of the road so passengers can disembark; be sure to tell the bus driver in Manila that you’re going to Tagaytay and he’ll know when to have you get off.
Once you get off the bus, grab a trike and tell him to take you to Magallenes Drive. He’ll know the name of the road but may not be familiar with the center, so keep an eye out for it. It’s a white building on the right-hand side of the road, with a blue Brahma Kumaris sign hanging from a light post. It will take a few minutes of driving on Magallenes Drive to get there. From the bus terminal it should cost about 150 PHP for transport by trike.
The center is beautiful. The atmosphere is peaceful from the very second that you enter the blue-lit entrance-way after ringing the doorbell. Visit the front desk and inform them of your visit. If you’ve registered online beforehand then that’s great, they’ll have your information, but if you didn’t, or bring a friend who hadn’t registered then ask if there is still space and more likely than not they’ll say yes to having added participants.
My friend and I toured the area after registering and were joyously surprised by the beauty of the center. They took care to display an array of thriving local fauna in the garden and even in the indoor areas. The center facilitates a dining area, a large hall where our retreat was held, a meditation hall, the main lobby with toilets, and even has a residential area for participants and guests to stay overnight. A Sister asked upon our arrival if we had a hotel booked already, which we did, but I imagine that via email you could inquire about the cost of overnight stay.
The Day Retreat was from 9am-4pm. Before it started we had some coffee in the dining area, then everyone grouped in the main hall to start the day’s activities. For the first few hours we were divided into random groups in which we discussed topics about love – it was a good opportunity to get to know some local Filipinos.
In the afternoon there was a guest speaker who took over for the rest of the event. She was Timmy Cruz, a TV star turned singer, who entertained us with songs aplenty. At times the event felt a little on the long side, due to travel (an overnight flight with only little sleep on the concrete airport floor,) but the vibe of the event was warm and inviting, and the people’s warm energy (and multiple cups of coffee) got me through the seven hour schedule.
Go for the food, stay for the meditation – it was good. Another energy booster was the frequent breaks for food. In the morning we had a heaping pile of vegetarian pancit (pictured below,) a Filipino staple, and banana for a snack; lunch was veggies, rice, a soy-meat in sauce, and desert of pandan flavored jelly; afternoon snack was a sweet cassava cake (pictured below.) All food at the center is vegetarian and delicious. What a great deal, especially for this budget traveler, to pay the event fee of 500 PHP (roughly $10 USD), get atmosphere, learning, amazing food, and good company.
Meeting local Filipinos was the best part of the event. Previously, the primary interactions that I had had on my past two visits to the Philippines were with service industry workers, who were very friendly, but I didn’t really get to know any locals. Having conversations together during the workshop event and casual chats over coffee was nice and enjoyable, especially after so much time spent in Korea where the language barrier doesn’t allow for conversation with locals as easily.
There was a mix of people who were attending their first BK event like I was, and there were some people who frequented the center often. Of the people who were attending for the first time, many said that they would like to return, and I think I’d put myself in that category, too.
Brahma Kumaris is a meditation center that hosts meditation classes, retreats, and seminars and has locations dotted around the Philippines and the rest of the globe. If you get the chance to visit the Tagaytay BK center, take it. The experience was nothing short of delightful: beautiful, natural surroundings; delicious food; and warm-hearted people.