First-time in Rapha Valley
I have heard of Rapha Valley a lot of times. Ever since I settled back in my hometown in Bacolod City, Philippines, the town of Don Salvador Benedicto or DSB has become one of my favorite destinations in our province of Negros Occidental. Yet, I never found the opportunity to make a visit to Rapha Valley. (READ: Cooling It Off At Don Salvador Benedicto)
I have also heard Dr. Albert Jo (Doc Albert), who owns Rapha Valley with his wife Marilou, speak in two occasions about health and wellness. Those talks piqued my interest of Rapha Valley even more as I wanted to taste his healthy organic recipes and see his farm. Doc Albert was a medical practitioner and Marilou was a pharmacist until both focused their energies on Rapha Valley and their businesses. Doc Albert goes around the country talking about health and wellness and the importance of choosing our food wisely.
Finally, the right time has come. My fellow SunStar columnist Betsy Gazo invited me and fellow Negrense Blogger Jojo Vito to spend a night in Rapha Valley. I got excited when I heard the news. We decided to hitch with Marilou and it was a great opportunity to know more about the place while we traveled for about 46 km for over an hour from Bacolod to DSB. (To get there, one can either drive by private vehicle or take a Ceres bus to Don Salvador Benedicto.)
It was market day when we got to the town proper. We drove a few meters until we got to the street that would lead towards Rapha Valley. Portions of the road were unpaved so we had to change vehicle.
Upon entering Rapha Valley, a wonderful sense of tranquility seems to envelop the place. We went straight to Rapha Café where we bumped into Negros Occidental Provincial Tourism Officer Christine Mansinares and Bacolod City Tourism Officer Elma “Butch” Gerasmo who visited the farm that day.
It was almost noon so the first order of the day was to try their food. Doc Albert personally prepared the food they served to us, from the welcome snacks to our lunch to our dinner and to our breakfast the day after. While feasting on the sumptuous healthy food, we exchanged interesting stories.
According to Doc Albert, Rapha Valley has been around for about seven years already. When they first came to DSB, they loved the cold breeze and the mountainous landscape that they wanted to build a home in this locality. Now, several people find their way to Rapha Valley, whether to enjoy a meal or to stay for a day or more.
Healthy Organic Veggie Food
We had our meals at the Rapha Cafe, which is naturally lit during the day, opening to great views surrounding the property.
Welcome Snacks: Organic Black Rice Puto with Bloodless Dinuguan and Tanglad Tea
As we arrived, we were welcomed with this interesting snack. Doc Albert, whose grandmother made the famous Manapla puto, prepared this rice cake from organic black rice. He added coconut milk and honey to flavor. Since it is a Filipino delicacy to eat puto , or rice cake, with dinuguan, or pig’s blood, he created a bloodless dinuguan by using Carob plant, which is native to Spain, mixed with herbs. He found his inspiration in one of his travels. Our food was paired with a cold beverage of tanglad, or lemon grass, tea.
Lunch: Pancit Negrense, Bulkan Kanlaon and Hibiscus Lemonade
Since we had snacks before noon, we decided to have late lunch instead. We got the Pancit Negrense, which can be shared by four persons. According to Rapha Café’s menu, Pancit Negrense is “a combination of pancit and bean noodles with kadios, vegetables in season, mushroom and maluggay (moringa) in tanglad, batwan and coconut cream sauce.” Ours had tamarind leaves, batwan (which is a souring agent indigenous to Negros Island), zest, and kadios. The side dish is Twisted Herb Bread Sticks with Tapenade.
Dessert was Bulkan Kanlaon, wherein the chocolate bursts when we pushed the peak downwards. It’s a “gluten-free kamote kahoy (cassava) and cacao tablea cake sprinkled with toasted cashew and bursting with cacao and honey lava in every bite.” I downed my portion of these sumptuous meal with a glass of Hibiscus Lemonade which is “freshly prepared from hibiscus flowers with kalamansi and honey.”
Dinner: Black Rice Bread with Tofu Cheese, Herb and Flower Salad, Guilt-free Rapha Adobo, Kalamansi Squares and Turmeric-Tanglad-Cinnamon-Ginger Tea
We began our dinner with our first course, which was black rice bread with Indian wheat. We dipped our bread on tofu cheese soaked in garlic oil. It was a great start to a delectable dinner. Next up was the colorful and attractive Herb and Flower Salad which has guyabano and toasted sesame seed dressing.
The main course was the Guilt-free Rapha Adobo which was “adobo flakes serve with organic red rice cooked in spices, herbs and black sesame seeds with pickled cucumber, raphanus and papaya on the side.” By the way, the adobo is made of veggie meat that’s why it’s guilt free. The red rice was soaked for three hours and has chives, turmeric and pandan.
Dessert was Kalamansi Squares or “grated cassava mixed with coco milk, flavored with kalamansi juice and rind to give a creamy semi-sweet and sour flavor topped with cashew cream.” I liked the mint leaves placed on top which made the squares extra yummy. Our beverage was iced tea made of turmeric, lemon grass, cinnamon and ginger. We capped our dinner with a hot tea with mint and herbs.
Breakfast: Mixed fruits, Esperanza for me, St. Benedict’s Veggie Ham for them, and Shisig for us all
My breakfast for the second day was Esperanza, which is composed of red rice, red snapper flakes, and poached eggs. Betsy and Jojo had St. Benedict’s Veggie Ham instead. Marilou ordered Shisig for us, which was composed of Shitake mushroom sisig. But before we enjoyed our breakfast, we first had fresh pineapple and papaya fruits. Also, we had a shot of kefir in the morning before we visited the organic garden.
Rapha Café serves Alkaline Ionized Spring Water (Kangen). The barkada dishes that can be shared by four persons range from Php575 to Php655 (prices are subject to change without notice.) Side dishes range from Php40 to Php80. They also have kids’ meals, snacks (like the Rapha Pizza), desserts, juices by the glass or by pitcher, and hot beverage.
Right next to Rapha Café is the private area leading to the Casitas and the Cuartos. Ours was an Executive Suite with a vibrant interiors. I like the violet/purple, gray, brown and white color palette inside our room. The Jos and their team were the ones who did the interior design and I would say they did a great job. There were two double beds and a private bath and toilet. I liked the idea that the edges of the toilet floor was like a small canal filled with white stones.
There are also eaves at the top wall of the room that allows the wind to flow freely. I assure you, there’s no need for an air conditioner because the cold breeze is enough to lull you to sleep. Take note, however, that Rapha Valley is a sanctuary so silence is observed in this area.
We also checked the Cuartos which have a terrace that provide a wonderful view of the small valley and the landscape at the horizon. The Family Suite has a bigger space area that is ideal for 4 to 6 persons, and even up to 8 persons.
Here are the costs for the Casitas and the Cuartos:
- Family Suite (4 persons) – Php4,7999 and additional Php850 per extra person
- Executive Suite (3 persons) – Php3,599
- View Suite (3 persons) – Php3,899
- Cuartos (2 persons) – Php2,799
The room rates are inclusive with breakfast. Rooms have television, hot water, coffee, hot shower, shampoo, soap, body lotion, beddings and towel.
Amenities, Plants and Sceneries
Doc Albert and Marilou toured us through their organic farm, making us familiar with the plants, vegetables and flowers they use in their dishes. As we roamed the gardens, Doc Albert would pinch a leaf or two for us to taste, such as the arugula, mint, garlic chives, dill and other plants we’d pass by along the way.
Rapha Valley is more than just an organic farm. It is “Your Destiny to Wellness.” Apart from Rapha Café and the Bed and Breakfast, it also provides a Day Tour Package. Groups can arrange for an organic farm tour and can book Doc Albert for a seminar, which can be accommodated in its Tent Restaurant (apart from their Rapha Café). They have a briefing area, right near the gate, and the Santol House, where guests and visitors can hang out and enjoy the view.
They have a Cleanse and Energize Program. Groups can bond and do other activities like hiking, bonfire, bird watching and star gazing. We went to their bonfire camping area, which has a scenic view of Mt. Kanlaon and the nearby mountains in DSB.
For two days and one night, I found bliss in Rapha Valley. It is a place where one can commune with nature and cleanse one’s body by taking in healthy organic food. Moreover, the amenities and the accommodations make it feel like a home away from home. Rapha Valley is a sanctuary for those who wants to rejuvenate and to feed the body and the soul.
Groups, at a minimum of 15, can make an appointment at Rapha Valley at least two weeks in advance. Walk-ins can come from Friday to Sunday only and eat a meal at their weekend restaurant. For more details, contact Rapha Valley at the following information:
Km. 48, Brgy. Kumaliskis
Salvador Benedicto, Negros Occidental
+63 34 473 0816
+63 921 613 7928
+63 917 829 2023
Exchange rate at this time of writing is USD1=Php49.65. We paid for our meals but some of the food were on the house, as well as our accommodation.