Kilometer 90, San Jose, Batangas
"We join with the earth and with each other to bring new life to the land, to restore the waters, to refresh the air..." -- Excerpt from the UN Environmental Sabbath Program -- as printed on a postcard from the Casa Rap store.
Casa Rap is an old favorite. I once celebrated my birthday there with my family. And last year for my big 40th shebang, I had them deliver breakfast (hubad na longanisa, sinaing na tulingan, tawilis) to our farm in Batangas. I also ordered organic cherry tomatoes, cucumber and three kinds of lettuce from them plus their special dressing to serve for lunch.
It's hard to pinpoint my favorite thing about the place. There's the little curio shop with the most charming of items; the owner, Emma Alday, was trained by renowned potter Ugu Bigyan. There are the rustic gardens and pathways punctuated by little surprise nooks and corners, all filled with greenery that relaxes eyes, body and mind. Of course, there's the food, organic, not 5-star fancy but delicious and beautifully served. There's the tranquil ambiance that makes you feel you have escaped all that is urban and noisy and busy.
Maybe what I like best about this place is that though it brings you back to nature, it is a very progressive place. Every time we go there, they have something new to offer. Today, we were surprised by the new things that Sister Emma showed us -- a pigpen that uses a revolutionary method which produces no stink; container gardening that gives encouragement to those who want to go into vegetable farming even though they do not have huge tracts of land; the fact that they are now open for small corporate meetings; the restaurant-side store that has more merchandise to offer -- Batangas delicacies, organic vegetables, and gardening implements. But the most charming surprise was the food presentation. That's always been a special thing at Casa Rap, but this time lunch was served bento-style, so you get to sample a variety of dishes without spending and eating too much. These bento boxes are available for group dining, and depending on your choice of dishes the price can be adjusted. What was served to us could go for about 350pesos per person. And it is so worth it. We feasted on kalabasa soup, lato salad served with purple marigold (yeah I thought marigolds came only in yellow too) flowers, cassava ukoy with taro and thyme, pajo mango salsa, sinaing na tawilis, native chicken adobo, and guinatang sugpo. After all that, we still found space for ice cream with lambanog.
We moved on to a different place, but we had our take home, the suman sa lihiya that Casa Rap is famous for.
After all describing all that, all I could really say is what our balikbayan Tita Nene said, "Ah, talagang kasarap!"