Raspberry Picking in The Philippines, Bangkong Kahoy Valley, Dolores Quezon
One word: RASPBERRIES. LOKAL raspberries, known as sapinit or sampinit, found here in The Phils. Not just found here but picked here by YOU! Here's the kicker: you don't even have to fly or drive that far. In Dolores Quezon there is a magical place called, Bangkong Kahoy Valley where you can stay and eat those suckers to your heart's content. Bangkong Kahoy Valley is located between Mount Banahaw and Mount Cristobal. I wondered if air that fresh was even allowed just two and half hours away from the metro. I kid! But seriously, my soul (and lungs) were reveling in unadulterated Mother Nature.My friend Alma always finds these gems and lets me either copy her itineraries or tag along. Guys, you need to find yourself an Alma. We packed our families up and drove just under three hours (stopped at Casa San Pablo) to escape overnight at Bangkong Kahoy. Even with harsh weather conditions the magic started the moment we arrived and didn't stop until our last sip of sapinit juice.
Bangkong Kahoy was created by and continues to be run by a Filipino environmentalist returning to his homeland to preserve a piece of this unique nature. Dion Pullan was a teacher in Australia for years and after losing his wife and some coaxing from his children, returned home to heal and start this beautiful project. He even sold both of his homes to get Bangkong Kahoy up and running. We got to chat with him for a few moments; he's the real deal. Here's an excerpt from the article written by choosephilippines.com:
"Philippine Wild Raspberries or Sampinit are known widely by locals as sweet-tart tasting red berries from a thorny type of weed that grows in the Mountains of Quezon. These wild berries are runners and are known to be invasive to other crops growing in the area. It was initially mistaken as wild strawberries because of their resemblance to said fruit. However, further studies have confirmed that this was indeed a local variety of Raspberry.
"Mr. Dion Pullan, an environmentalist and a balikbayan from Australia, saw the potential in this wild crop. He wanted to cultivate this plant in order to increase the production of Sampinit and come up with an iconic produce that is uniquely from Dolores, Quezon. After initially earning flaks from the locals for this unusual idea of growing the plant, he was able to successfully propagate Sampinit by planting stem cuttings of the wild plant in prepared soil plots. This became the start of Sampinit’s local production."
I loved reading this study by UP Los Baños on the health benefits of Sapinit, "Sapinit is rich in anti-cancer phytochemicals including leucoanthocyanins, anthraquinones, saponins, deoxysugars, free fatty acids, hydrolysable tannins (inhibitors of HIV duplication), unsaturated steroids, and benzopyrone nucleus." Beyond the excitement of having fresh organic berries here, to find out they are also contain elements that are anti-cancer and prevent Alzheimer's is pretty freaking cool.
The berries are remarkable but so is the scenery. The mountains are vast and we were nestled into a Bangkong Kahoy Valley. It was so lush and plentiful. Pictures almost don't do it justice, you must go for yourself. We liked this place so much, even with bad weather conditions, we are itching to go back again with good weather. Hope to see you there.
Beyond just the nature, berry picking and exploring there were also activities such as horse rides, zip lining and bridges. You have to be twelve to zipline, unfortunately. The kids played on golf carts, motorcycles and with the staff's darling daughter.
The berries popped up all over the grounds and you could pick and eat them right there. You can also pick to take home. I brought back half a tupperware and it was only 100php. I think the price is 400php per kilo. The juice is only 150php and the jam is similar in price. We even found mulberries in one location.
I cannot rave enough about the food. It was plentiful, organic, freshly made and ridiculously cheap. You will not find a more economic meal. BK is most famous for the mushroom burger and for good reason. Oh my word! They served us four, FOUR, plates of berries our last merienda. Meals vary from 80-200php.
There was an 'honesty store' on site where you could pay cash into a box and take your local organic vegetables according to the price.
The accommodations we stayed in were nothing fancy. We went with the intent of a step above camping. There are bahay kubos that are exposed and would be so fun to 'camp in. They even have an upstairs. In the lodge there are nicer rooms with great accommodations and even a fire place and tv. Our total stay over night including meals was just over 6000php.
Thanks for the most excellent memories Bangkong Kahoy. We will be coming back for more very soon.
Things to know:
Bangkong Kahoy was very active and responded fast via Facebook. I would recommend communication and reserving through FB.
It took just under 3 hours driving. Absolutely use Waze and even print of a map before hand. Dolores was having some major road construction that created detours not on Waze or Google maps.
Sapinit eason is from January to March.
Bonus: It was chilly! Downright cold a lot of the time. Pack extra clothes and blankets. *The temperatures here are as cool as Baguio. The low at night was 21C and the high during the day was 26C.
Stargazing is supposed to be epic in these parts.
Bring a kite as the wind and the valley would be so perfect. "Let's go fly a kite!"
You can buy juice and jam and berries to take home with you. Before you leave arrange to have a bag of berries already picked for you. :)
Boardgames and other activities would be good for nighttime as the grounds are really dark and not well lit.
There is almost not cellular service or internet connection.
You absolutely need to make reservations in advance.
I would only recommend this for an overnighter because the car travel would be too long for my personal enjoyment.