By Jessica Pag-iwayan
In the pursuit of a healthier and more sustainable world, people are now customizing their diets and turning them into lifestyles. Take veganism, ketogenenic, and intermittent fasting, for example. What do these have in common? More than what one is eating, it’s the awareness or mindfulness of consumption.
But changing one’s eating habits is easier said than done. Even in a paradise setting like The Farm at San Benito, it’s a struggle to eat the ideal: a plant-based diet. Can you believe some people resist, even avoid this world class eco-luxury holistic medical wellness resort just because of its menu?
Nestled in a lush green jungle, with mountains in the distance and peacocks roaming the lawns, the 48-hectare-wide haven in Lipa, Batangas, champions natural holistic healing by diagnosing, cleansing, nourishing, repairing, and sustaining during your stay—so your body returns to a balanced state. One of the healing components is the organic plant-based, wholefood, vegan cuisine, as showcased in the Alive! Restaurant.
Raj Uttamchandani, director of The Farm at San Benito said that although the food is proven healthy, “A lot of people were afraid of trying The Farm because of the pure vegan [cuisine it offers],” he told Manila Bulletin Lifestyle. Hence, they have opened Pesce to address this name itself, Pesce, which is Italian for fish, offers vegetarian options while still including seafood as a source of protein. These are food choices for pescetarianism or pesco-vegetarianism.
“Pescetarian people are also vegetarian and fish eating [individuals]. Because fish is another source of protein like seeds, legumes, nuts, and tofu,” explained Francis Tugnao, executive chef at The Farm.
Each dish at Pesce features a type of seafood as the star. There’s a wide variety of mouthwatering items like a Caesar salad with grilled grouper fillet, brick-oven baked salmon roulade, wood-fired oven-roasted mackerel, penne and crab meat, salmon and tuna ceviche, and bruschetta vegetable mixto. The menu is well-curated, and is inspired by the Mediteranean Blue Zone diet. “Blue Zones” is a term that refers to geographic places where people live longer than any other part of the world.
“Our menu is still connected with the wellness industry. It’s the longevity of life. It’s about the Blue Zones. It’s about the people who live over a hundred years like in Greece and Japan. People in Okinawa, they live more than a hundred years because of their diet, they’re having mostly fish and fruits,” Tugnao said.
Organic, wild-caught, and sustainable
Aside from pescetarianism’s health benefits, The Farm also boasts about its organic, wild-caught, and sustainable ingredients. For the vegetables, the resort allotted several hectares of land to grow their own and make sure it’s free from any chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers.
“My ingredients are all organic. I have three farms here, 10 hectares,” he said. “I’m planting okra, eggplants, and all these organic products free from genetically modified organism (GMO), pesticides, and insecticides.”
When it comes to fish and other seafood like prawns and lobsters, The Farm gets their supplies directly from the port, or partners with coast guards to make sure that every order is fresh and wild-caught.
“We get it from the port, sometimes I get my lobsters in Nasugbu, from coast guards. It’s expensive but they dig deep. Everything is local,” Tugnao shared. “The fish is wild-caught. I cannot serve cultured fish like tilapia, bangus, or prawns that is cultured because they are feeding them GMO feeds. It’s against our philosophies.”
Starting them young
When The Farm initially started in 2002, Tugnao and the resort’s medical chief, Dr. Marian Alonzo, said that their visitors were dominated by senior citizens and the sick. In fact, their first restaurant, Alive! “was supposed to be a cancer patient restaurant.” But today, their weekend accommodation is always packed with young people championing the sustainable lifestyle.
“There are a lot of young people coming here, and they are now aware of what they need for their body, which is surprising,” Tugnao said. “Before, it was a lot of seniors, sick people coming here. Now, young people come here for overnight and they prefer to eat vegan food.”
Alonzo also said there’s more awareness now among young Filipinos that they are encouraging their family members to follow the path of eating healthy and living sustainably. “I’ve been with The Farm since 2002, and [they are] the ones who really embraced it influenced their family and friends.”
“There are those who embraced the lifestyle, there are those who come here on a regular basis because although they want their meat, they also want to somehow cleanse their body,” she said.
The original article was first published here.