Day Retreat – BK Meditation Center – Tagaytay, Philippines

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

Getting There

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

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 Event

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.

The Food

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.

The People

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.

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Yoga Barn Panglao – Guest Teaching Volunteer Program – An Interview with Barbara & Steve

My most recent post was about my experience guest teaching at the Yoga Barn Panglao, which is located on the utopian island of Panglao, Philippines. I am so impressed with the way that the guest teaching program is run that I decided to ask a few questions of the barn to get a better understanding.

I am a teacher who daydreams about teaching in paradises all over the world and might even want to run my own studio one day, so I was curious to learn more about their guest teaching program. Barbara and Steve warmly replied to my questions, so for your benefit and mine, I provide their answers below regarding their unique volunteer program.

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Barbara & Steve of the Yoga Barn Panglao


 

KBY (Kara Bemis Yoga): Where did the idea originate to freely host guest teachers?

YBP (Yoga Barn Panglao): One of my teachers taught me about the importance of non-attachment. When it comes to asanas we all have our preference for a style or particular teacher. For the good and growth of my regular students I love to give them the chance to practice with different teaching styles.

It’s also great to see teachers used to working in big city studios getting inspired all over again by the beauty and magic of the Barn itself. There are two types of non-resident teacher programs at the Barn.

The Guest Volunteer is for experienced teachers who are here for a short time and just want to share their skills and passion for a class or two.

The Intern Volunteer is a program aimed at freshly certified teachers who feel they need more practice or are a little shy about leading class or perhaps they just need some experience for their CV [resume]. For them we offer coaching, support and guidance and the chance to use a great space. For the new teachers as well as us here at the Barn it’s all about sharing, deepening our knowledge and teachings skills.

KBY: How does it benefit the barn, the community, and the two of you as managers?

YBP: These kind of programs take a lot of commitment from Steve and I [Barbara], but we really love to see our local community growing and getting a wider understanding of what Yoga really is about, and for us, we improve the business with the help of the volunteers, plus we get to meet some awesome people!

KBY: Who qualifies to guest teach?

YBP: Anyone who is an experienced Yoga or Meditation teacher, dedicated, passionate and wants to share can volunteer as a Guest Teacher. The volunteer intern [program] is open to those who have just finished their YTT or those who have been out of teaching for a while.

KBY: What is expected of a guest teacher and what is the general exchange for them?

YBP: From my own experience as a traveling yoga teacher, I learned that a flexible mind is more useful than a flexible body when it comes to teaching students of different levels, nationalities and attitudes! Guest teachers learn from the experience of serving, teaching and sharing and they get to do all of this surrounded by nature on a beautiful tropical island.

KBY: What’s the best way for an interested, certified yoga teacher to contact you and what sort of information should they provide?

YBP: Contact us before hand; we will want to know about you, about your experience, what you hope to gain from your time with us and how we can help each other.

Contact: info@yogabarn-panglao.com


 

If you are a certified yoga teacher who would like to keep your skills sharp while traveling, maybe looking to travel on a budget, and are willing to exchange your teachings for yoga classes, then guest teaching is perfect for you. Whatever your reason, you’re sure to leave with a new anecdote to tell your friends and family about that time that you taught yoga in the middle of a Filipino forest.

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Pure magic

Yoga Barn Panglao – Guest Teaching Experience

It has been a goal of mine to teach internationally after leaving my longterm home of South Korea. This idea of mine is nothing serious, I don’t expect to become a big name teacher, nor do I want to, but I do have a desire to use networks of teachers and social media to find teaching jobs here and there while I travel. I want to do this to keep my skills sharp and to experience different kinds of studios, and meet new students.

But where to start? It’s a daunting task to reach out to strangers and ask if you can teach for them. Who am I to them? I often think that I’m just a small fish in a little pond, but I’m now preparing to swim upstream and test bigger waters.

Of course you start with google searches, which is what I did before my recent trip to the Philippines, and I was happily surprised to stumble upon Yoga Barn Panglao, a picturesque studio set in nature on the island of Panglao, Philippines. It’s not uncommon to find yoga studios on tropical islands, but what is really unique is to find a studio with managers that openly accept guest teachers, and that’s just what I found at the barn.

Through my google search I discovered a tab on their website entitled Volunteering. I clicked on the page to find an outline of the opportunity they have for guest teachers to share their teachings in exchange for classes. This was exactly what I was looking for!  What was exceptionally perfect for me was the final description that read: No minimum volunteering time is necessary, key to my 10 day visit over the holidays.

Teaching

Teaching back “home” in Busan.

Emails were exchanged with the kind Barbara of the Yoga Barn Panglao and she instructed me to speak in person with their interim teacher who was holding down the fort for a month while Barabara and her partner, Steve, returned home for the holidays. Once I arrived on the beautiful island of Panglao, I attended the first class I could and met their substitute teacher, Emilie, my resume in hand, and we worked out a  teaching slot for me. It was perfect. I was instructed on how to manage things for my Wednesday sunset class: where to turn on the lights and fans, where the props were kept, and as for signing in students, Emilie met me there and took care of that.

The class itself was great. I was able to experience teaching a set of entirely new students and took on the responsibility of making them comfortable, confident, and safe. The second story platform studio is well equipped with mats and props, and I was even thoughtfully left with natural insect repellent for myself and students. And don’t forget that location! It was a dream come true to be able to lead a class in such a serene  setting surrounded by the sounds of crickets and shimmering, shining stars.

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Yoga Barn Panglao

The prior correspondence with Barbara was an experience in and of itself, as I felt the waters out of the bigger yoga world, polished my resume, and shifted into a warm, yet professional exchange. Barbara did a great job of melting away any and all of that business-like coldness and we were able to communicate openly and comfortably via email before my visit to the island.

If you get the special opportunity to visit Panglao as a yoga teacher, I highly suggest that you contact the kind people of the Yoga Barn Panglao and start a conversation about guest teaching. They’re warm, friendly, open and professional. And for you as a teacher you will get the rare opportunity to teach in the paradise of Panglao, growing your resume all the while.


 

Yoga Barn Panglao, How to Get There:

You could walk from Alona beach, but it will take at least 30 minutes or more. A cheaper and more comfortable option is to take a habul-habul, or motorbike taxi there. The first time I took a habul-habul the driver didn’t know where the barn was, so make sure t0 screenshot the image of the map on their facebook page to show the driver, or have them ask a local how to get there. It should cost about 25PHP from Alona beach.

Address: Bolod, Poroc 3, 6340 Panglao Island, Bohol, The Philippines