“What the fuck is glamping?” a friend demanded when I told him about my itinerary for the next three days.
I suppose this reaction is apt. “Glamping” sounds like another word Tyra might’ve added to our cultural lexicon, when it is, in fact, an actual thing that people do, unlike “smizing” (which only Zia Dantes is a natural at, mind you).
To the uninitiated, glamping is an abbreviation of the words “glamorous” and “camping.” In other parts of the world, people get their glamp on in a private cottage in the heart of Hawaii or in a handwoven tent right on the Tibetan Plateau.
Glamping here in the Philippines, however, is slightly less Instagram-worthy, but that doesn’t make it any less of an experience. Here is a brief diary of my three-day glamping experiment.
5:00 a.m. I wake up in a haze. I had just broken up with my boyfriend of three years and three months last night and I feel strange. Is this what maturity and growth are supposed to feel like?
I won’t deny it; the choice to end things the night before was a strategic one. I had agreed to this glamping trip, which would take place over a long weekend in late November, because I wanted to haul ass to Tagaytay bright and early the morning after, before I got a chance to reconsider my decision.
7:00 a.m. Plan seems to be working out well. I upload my stories for the website beforehand since I won’t really be getting Internet access while I’m gone. I run around like a headless chicken because—surprise, surprise—I haven’t packed.
9:00 a.m. I meet my group in a gas station along SLEX. There are several groups from different media outlets who’ve been invited to this trip by different sponsors. Mine happens to be Claritin, which is apt, because at the moment, I’m allergic to sitting around and moping in bed. This is shaping up to be a really good idea.
Noon This is a terrible idea. We arrive at Nurture Wellness Village in Tagaytay and after checking in, we are led to the glamping site.
“It’s…a real tent!” I stammer to the PR specialist handling our group, my eyes agog at the Coleman tent pitched before me. Inside were two air mattresses and a gas lamp.
I had no grand delusions of having sleeping quarters akin to Taylor Swift’s tent in her “Wildest Dreams” music video, but I didn’t think they’d actually park us on the grass, Into the Wild-style, exposed to the elements. I mean, where was the glamour?
1:00 p.m. Before I can consider making up an excuse to check out early, we are whisked off to lunch in a covered pavilion. Several long dining tables are set up, fresh herbal beverages are served, and a buffet of organic fare is spread out. Okay, fine, this is not so bad.
2:00 p.m. I decide to take a nap while waiting for my spa appointment to begin. It is difficult to be whiny after I schedule this. Nurture Spa Village was named one of the “28 most relaxing spas in Asia” by CNN Go, so I know I’m in for a real treat.
4:30 p.m. Mitch, my therapist, does not disappoint. Massage therapists out in the province always have a stronger, more intuitive touch than masseuses in the city. That I was strong-armed into forced intimacy with a woman I had just met—a hilarious writer named Gina Abuayan with a peculiar hatred for Jose Mari Chan—by sharing a couple’s room with her is a transgression easily forgiven.
8:00 p.m. They screen a movie in the dining hall after dinner. We watch The Spectacular Now, a teen film starring an alcoholic Miles Teller and an emotionally frail Shailene Woodley. Miles’ character walks around high school with a flask of whiskey, and Shailene is cast as the school pariah, which requires a suspension of disbelief I cannot summon. I finish the movie anyway because what’s the alternative? Go to my tent and…stay there?
9:30 p.m. There is another movie lined up, but I pass in favor of having the ladies’ room all to myself. The last time I had to use a communal bathroom was when I stayed in a college dorm, and I still have emotional scars from that period in my life.
Small miracles, the ladies’ room is empty, and the floor is mopped dry. No track marks or stray (used!) sanitary napkins in sight. I freshen up, and head to bed.
7:00 a.m. I wake up refreshed, and surprisingly well rested. The lump in my throat that was there the previous morning seems to have dissolved. I can only credit this physical change to the fresh air and drastic change of scenery.
At breakfast I find out that the second movie was actually good. Dammit!
10:00 a.m. We gather for a Vinyasa yoga session led by Flow Retreats organizer and certified yoga instructor Monica Eleazar-Manzano. She is joined by Minister of Mushrooms and The Green Mind TV host, Marco Lobregat.
I’ve never practiced yoga outside of a studio before and I have to say, the experience is invigorating. Why had it never occurred to me to perform a sun salutation with an actual view of the sun? As Monica slowly guides me through a modified version of the Utthita Hasta Padangustasana pose, I feel completely in tune with my body.
Could it be? Am I actually feeling myself becoming one with nature?
11:00 a.m. Maybe not. After yoga, I am overcome with the intense desire to consume the entire bag of Lay’s Oven Baked Sour Cream & Onion potato chips in my tent. That it’s oven-baked means it’s healthier and more natural, right?
11:30 a.m. Just realized that Marco is supposed to be giving an organic juicing demo right at this moment at the dining hall. I rush out of my tent, take my seat in the back, and try to chew my junk food as noiselessly as I can muster. I can feel Marco wordlessly judging me out of the corner of his eye as he explains the benefits of blending his fruit juice as opposed to cold-pressing it. I finish the bag, and scrape out the crumbs with my fingers. I am shameless.
3:00 p.m. I am scheduled for the Ating Tuklasin Organic Farm Tour, which I am actually looking forward to. It’s a stone’s throw away from the village, and it’s there I see the fattest, plumpest chickens in my entire life. I simply cannot compute how these hens only consume organic vegetables.
The farm’s owner Cathy Turvill explains how, when they were setting the farm up, they had to consult an albularyo (witch doctor) so as not to upset the engkanto (enchanted spirits) who dwell there. It sounds crazy, she admits, but it didn’t hurt to respect tradition.
With the amount of folklore and superstition that’s tightly woven into the collective psyche of this country, I’m thinking maybe vegetables aren’t the only things they’re feeding these fat chickens. (Maybe they’re full of secrets!)
5:00 p.m. Before dinner, Monica leads the entire group through a mandala workshop. With an etymology rooted in Sanskrit, a mandala is a visual aid that comes in the form of a circle, to represent wholeness. According to Monica, it’s a “cosmic diagram that reminds us of our relation to the infinite, the world that extends both beyond and within our bodies and minds.”
To be honest, the practice is a little too hippie New Age for me, but I decide to be a sport and go along with it. “All around us are mandalas,” Monica observes. I look around, suspiciously keeping an eye out for any mandalas that might be lurking in dark corners.
5:30 p.m. This is our time to draw our own mandalas. I take this as an opportunity to reflect on the major, life-altering decision I made just the other day—one that I’ve thus far done a pretty good job of pushing to the back of my mind.
Monica says that while making our mandalas, a mantra would come to us naturally. For her, it was “Why walk when you can fly?” Such wisdom; I only hope I experience a similar epiphany.
6:00 p.m. I finish mine. The mantra I write is “Change happens little by little, and then all at once,” which is obviously in reference to my adjustment to singlehood. I also realize my mantra is a variation of a line from Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises: “Gradually and then suddenly.” What’s worse is that I’ve never even read that novel.
My mandala inexplicably resembles a mitochondria. I may not be an artist, but at least I’m an inventive plagiarist.
7:00 p.m. After dinner, it’s either sleep or subject myself to an acoustic night at the activity center. Guess which one I choose.
8:00 p.m. Zzzzzzzz…
6:00 a.m. Gina and I are the first ones up for Yin yoga this morning. I later find out that acoustic night was not so bad because it was actually my tablemates who took over the mic, and their voices (and song choices) actually weren’t half-bad. Dammit, foiled again!
8:00 a.m. After breakfast, I head back to my tent because to be honest, I think I’ll kind of miss it—which I didn’t at all expect. My air mattress really is comfy and my tent is so well ventilated. I take a nap instead of fighting over the two shower stalls in the ladies’ room. I have taken a bath exactly once since I’ve been here. I refuse to be ashamed by this.
Noon As the staff takes away my bags, I hand over my key to the front desk. My friend, the one who couldn’t comprehend the concept of glamping earlier, asked me what I had learned during my three days here.
I think about the damp grass that cushioned my tent, the sun salutations I performed in the open air, and the fat chickens that I saw waddling around in their coop. Just a week ago, I probably wouldn’t have agreed to this whole thing at all, much less drawn a mandala without rolling my eyes.
“I came here for a very specific purpose,” I respond. “And I think I got what I came for.”