Wellness in Excess

Writer Stephanie Shiu | September 7, 2018

On the way to the restaurant, the number of ducks convened on the path is enough that I need to go around them. At the spa, three peacocks have already claimed their space in the lounge as I wait for my therapist. While walking in the rain, I nearly trample a dozen bullfrogs. It’s called The Farm at San Benito for good reason – a place both thriving and conducive to it.

Just 90 minutes from Manila, the 48-hectare holistic medical wellness resort feels a million miles from anywhere with its pristine air and scenery. Though an ideal holiday spot boasting exclusive suites and villas, nutritious fare and daily fitness offerings, its programmes are medically focused, designed to address health issues including diabetes, obesity, hypertension, hormonal imbalance as well as anxiety, stress and depression.

Among The Farm’s programmes are its renowned Detox D’Lite, De-Stress & Revivify, Beauty and Vitality, as well as health-focused Weight Management, Diabetes Prevention & Heart Health and Pain Management & Mental Health. Mine was a mix of the former, and I was lucky to have the liberty of choosing treatments to customise my experience.


“Do you have pets or eat sushi?” asks Dr Marian Alonzo, while examining at my live blood analysis under a microscope in our consultation. “No,” I answer with trepidation. “Just because there’s an organism – I won’t call it a parasite – can you see it moving?” I can, to my horror, magnified on the big-screen TV. A drop of my blood has been placed under the lens so that red and white cells, their variations and residue and all can be seen in real time.

Dr Alonzo points out irregularities, with ominous names like ‘membrane-compromised bacteria’ and fibrins, potentially due to a lack of antioxidants and a taxed liver. Her primary concern is dehydration, but she’s reassuring that it can be easily turned around with a few lifestyle changes. Although not a conventional tool for diagnosis, it’s motivation enough to make a real go of the next four days.

First is an acupuncture session with Dr Conrada Veruasa-Apostol (or Dr Radi). She uses Japanese-style needles, which are thinner than their TCM counterparts, to encourage the flow of qi. While the needles are in, she performs The Empress Facial Rejuvenation, forewarning, “Many ladies fall asleep and even snore during this treatment. Just let it go, it’s a release of stress.”

Stress management is the goal of the facial, using acupressure to relax the muscles and improve circulation, while a galvanic helps nutrients be absorbed by the skin. LED phototherapy, said to promote collagen and soothe inflammation takes place before an exfoliating diamond peel, and finally an ice stamp is used to close pores. As Dr Radi predicted, I was out cold for the entire 45 minutes.

The only active thing I did all day was circuit train with Princess. Don’t be fooled by the name, she verged on tyrannical with five sets of burpees, lunges, push-ups, sit-ups, lateral shuffles, cross jacks, squats and glute bridges, followed by a treadmill run and only 30 seconds rest in between. However the Hilot massage to follow after allowed me to pretend it never happened. The traditional Filipino massage is my favourite, at once stimulating and soothing the nervous system with kneading and stretching to eliminate post-gym soreness.


Feeling a twinge of guilt for yesterday’s excess, I join the morning walk with Olan who guides us around the surrounding farm land, as we take in the brilliant skies and lushness. It takes roughly an hour, and is guaranteed to make you feel better about spending the remainder of the day prone.

I’m back in the capable hands of Dr Radi for Aesthetic Acupuncture, where needles are focused on the meridians to stimulate collagen for a plumper appearance, while promoting circulation for radiance. She uses an electroacpuncture machine on the rest of the body to pinpoint blockages. Needles aren’t involved but the pressure can be just as uncomfortable due to its sharp, pointy end.

This afternoon’s spa time is dedicated to Little Yin Yang Dry Brushing, where the entire body is brushed with natural bristles to ramp up blood and lymph circulation while exfoliating. My therapist continues with Relaxology (combining reflexology and acupressure massage), for head-to-toe hedonism.

Prior to my Neurogenic Release session, I am asked to cycle for 30 minutes to fatigue the major leg muscles in preparation. When Dr Alonzo asks me to bend my knees, which should be shaking at this point, it’s clear I haven’t done enough. After heel raises and single leg squats, she’s satisfied I’m ready to attempt to induce the neurogenic tremors to release unconscious tension in the psoas muscle.

Dr Alonzo asks me to lie down with my legs butterflied, bum in the air. Nothing happens for a while until I begin to tire and consequently relax, inducing the subtlest of shakes. After experimenting with the angles of leg position this escalates into full-on involuntary tremors. Apparently a half hour session of this exercise can alleviate physical stress and tension in the form of tightness, numbness or weakness, which can be caused by traumatic experiences.

This naturally leads onto Psycho-emotional Clearing, in which Dr Alonzo uses a combination of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a psychotherapy treatment designed to treat PTSD; interactive sourcing where you replace a negative physical sensation with positive visualisation; and finally daydreaming (technical term, of course) to encourage theta brain waves which enhance intuition and creativity. When prompted to conjure a state of emotional distress, it’s surprisingly impossible. I can’t think of a more useful set of tools with which to tackle life.

The most important thing is laughter with friends, and ending each meeting with a good hug
~ Dr Rommel Tinio