TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle
Hidden Garden has been an open secret to tourists who have visited it already and those who have heard about it from the word of mouth. If you happen to arrive at its unimposing gate and have no idea what’s inside, you wouldn’t think there’s a gem in it, but once you have heard stories about it, then you would be certain there’s more to dig than what seems from its facade from the road. Certainly, it is not a secret garden but a hidden garden. From its gate, you would only suppose that its a garage of a typical house in the country although the festive vibe brought by the colorful ceiling draping would get you curious, yet still wouldn’t give you a hint of what’s to discover inside.
Gate and the colorful ceiling draping
The time that you would be certain that there’s a garden inside for real is after passing through an entrance where a posted wooden signage says ‘Welcome to Hidden Garden’. This would lead you to a somewhat lobby which is decorated with capiz windows, capiz lantern, ‘banderitas or stringed colorful festival pennants, varnished bamboos on walls and furnished with hardwood benches and chairs. The place is also filled with native handicrafts like jarlettes, jars, potteries of various shapes and sizes, wooden sculptures and other native collector’s item which some are for sale, while some are for display purposes only.
Hidden Garden’s Wooden signage
Souvenir Shop cum lobby
Just a few steps from the lobby you would start to see the garden where tons of flora and ferns are literally everywhere. Pay attention to every area as this place is also particular with little details and adorned with interesting display such as small sculptures. It is also dotted with fountains and beautiful clay pots that complement the foliage. Plants and trees make the surrounding shady thus enticing you to sit on chairs and benches scattered around. Each nook is charming enough that would make you want to stay to feel the place, in fact, others would even avail their Nipa huts and cottages to feel a little exclusive while resting in the area.
Fountain under Nipa roof
As you explore, you would see lover’s corner where Hidden Garden is spelled using colorful letters attached on yellow painted bamboos. This space is seemed to be intended for those who would like to take pictures with the name of the place as its backdrop. If you walk some more, you would be passing through a charming shady walkway where bamboos and plants are blocking the heat of the sun. As you walk along, local dishes are introduced to you as their images are displayed along the way. In a little while, an area that makes you appreciate provincial life is found as it says ‘Enjoy the life in the Province’ which is fitting as it is exactly what this place effortlessly evokes.
Provincial life signage
Hanging plants and a bench
At the far end of the compound, you would see succulents, ornamental plants, bonsai garden, herb garden, and the plant nursery. If you are into horticulture or have a green thumb, you would surely find this gardenland as a wonderland and would inspire you to design your small patch of ground back home with the plants and flowers that you see here. The good thing is you can actually take home the ones that you liked here and grow it on your own as some plants are available for sale.
Staying in the place itself is already relaxing and the ambiance certainly complements a wellness area hence it is not surprising to find a spa inside that offers services at a fair price. According to some stories, the owner has decided to start a garden after suffering from an illness and what has started as a garden therapy for him eventually blossomed and has been made known to others thus visitors started to pour in and became one of the popular stops of tours in Vigan. Eventually, he decided to to make it into a real business. If garden therapy has been effective to him, then it must be good to share it with others and might as well add therapeutic massages as well to offer total relaxation to every person that visits the garden.
If you get hungry while exploring the garden or you just simply want to dine in an authentic garden set up, this compound also has restaurants. You may opt to dine on tables under pergola frames that shades you from the sun’s heat and rays or you could also eat on the different tables scattered in the huts and different corners in the place while admiring the view. Aside from the main restaurant, they also have coffee corner and empanada corner should you want to have a lighter meal.
Al fresco Restaurant
Antique looking tables and chairs
Tables under pergola
This place is really about details even in its hidden areas. If there’s a theme I have observed to consistently elicit, it is that hidden spots are not taken for granted as they are designed and adorned really well. Just another good example of this is their clean nature-inspired restroom. It has a nipa hut wall on one side and a glass wall on the other that somehow makes you feel it puts you on a voyeuristic view. Rest assured though that it is secured because it has a barrier that prevents others from seeing you. The glass wall gives the restroom a fresh ambiance as it allows you to have a view of the plant outside while it is floored with stones and adorned with jars and provided with alcohol and liquid soap.
Lounge beside the restroom
Inside the restroom
One of the commendable efforts of this establishment is that it never forgets its neighbors. While exploring the place you may see donation boxes, and you may think that giving here would represent showing appreciation to the owners but actually, the money that would be collected from the donation boxes would benefit others as it is used to buy rice and noodles to help the poor and needy people in Baranggay Bulala and other neighboring barangay. So if you happen to see a donation box when you visit this place, be a blessing unto others and give. Help the owners to help others as well.
Discovering what is hidden results to surprises, some would be less desirable, while some are just so good. The hidden things unfolded to me in this hidden garden have truly made me appreciate it all the more. It might be called a hidden garden but its impact on the community and to people from other parts of the country is not. It is hidden but its not a secret. Hidden garden is really about sharing that makes it truly inspiring.
Should you want to visit this place, Hidden Garden is at Barangay Bulala in Vigan City, Ilocos Sur,
Disclaimer: This post is not sponsored. All expenses were shouldered by the author. All photos are from Kaycie Gayle