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We came here to Kinabuhayan Café and B&B way back in 2005. Owned by movie production designer and self-taught chef Jay Herrera, it is one of the destinations of the Viaje del Sol art and culture tour of the Southern Tagalog region. It is located in the Herrera family’s ancestral estate and sits at the toe of sacred Mt. Banahaw.

The second photo shows a 3-storey treehouse built on and around a tall and ancient sampaloc (tamarind) tree. It’s so high up, the mountain breezes provide free-flowing natural air-conditioning while you snooze!

You can tell by the offbeat arrangement of artwork and decorative objects that you are in a very creative space. No corner is left unimagined or artistically put together. A broken blue vase half sunk in a duck pond. Mountain breezes play music on the wood and metal chimes which hang from every cabana. Ornately carved wooden chairs and tables usually found indoors are set out in the open.

We stayed in two cabanas — the ground level area has only 3 walls. What should be the 4th wall is left open. A room-sized net provided the buffer from mosquitos while allowing the mountain night air blow cool and fresh. No TV, no phones or cable (I’m not sure if Jay provides wifi now) – just the pets and other creatures and your traveling companions to provide entertainment. Each cabana has its own ensuite toilet and bath, which has no roof. In the morning, the sun shines right through while you take your shower and other ablutions.

If you wish to stay overnight, you can. For FREE! Simply pay for the day’s 3 meals – lunch, dinner and breakfast, which Jay prepares himself. Each meal costs around P500.

The food Jay creates and serves are singular in every way, using locally-grown ingredients. He made us a fantastic dinner with tricolore pastas made up of Penne Arrabiatta (with hot chillis fresh-picked from the Kinabuhayan garden) + Spinach Fettucine with Laing as sauce (Laing is a classic Southern Tagalog dish made of gabi or taro leaves and stalks cooked in fresh gata or coconut cream and chilli) + Fresh Papaya Salad that looks like pasta but is actually made of sweet and semi-ripe (manibalang) papaya fruit, shredded and topped with salsa. He even makes his own desserts like this one that we had: Sweet yam (camote) – baked, caramelized, and diced – topped with fresh coconut cream and chocolate sauce. Accompanied with wafer-thin
crisp camote chips! And the breakfasts are simply hearty and wonderful.

To contact Jay Herrera, you may call or text him at +63916.2215791

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