Growing up in the province, my childhood friends and I used to enjoy camping sleepovers. On hot summer nights, we’d haul out banigs, folding beds and foam mattresses on the grass and “camp out” in our garden under a makeshift tent sewn together from my old protest streamers. We’d spend the night playing card games and board games like Monopoly, Cluedo and Pictionary and roast marshmallows and hotdogs in a mini-bonfire. Back then, we really felt like we were roughing it out. But there was always the security of parents just inside the house (providing us with real food), a decent bathroom and the option to move indoors if it rained.
Unwatermarked photos courtesy of Haranah Eco Park
It’s sad that there aren’t a lot of places with camping areas where you can enjoy fresh air and nature safely in the metro. You have to travel a bit to find these spots. One of the best rising destinations for this kind of “back to basics” experience is Tanay in Rizal. For families who want their own kids to experience the kind of simple joy of unplugging for a while, you might want to book a weekend at Haranah Eco Park, a privately owned and operated property ideal as a venue for field trips, team-buildings, ecotourism seminars, and family camping events.
I was recently invited for a media familiarization tour by the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) to stay overnight and visit some sights in Tanay, Rizal, which is a great destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Tanay happens to be my favorite weekend destination for motorcycle rides and biking. I had seen the sign leading to Haranah Eco Park during previous rides and was curious about the the place, so I decided to check it out.
Located just 1.5 hours away from Quezon City or 2 hours from Manila, Haranah Eco Park is an an easy getaway for day trips or weekend drives. The weather is much cooler, especially at night. Even though it’s sweltering in Manila, it can get really windy and foggy at night and in the early morning here. Getting here by public transportation is possible, but it’s better suited for those with private vehicles. Shuttle van or bus transport to the site can be arranged for large groups. I opted to ride to the destination instead to avoid traffic.
Currently, Haranah Eco Park offers a venue for comfortable camping. There are no hotel rooms here. The main draw is camping out under the stars in a refreshing venue overlooking the Sierra Madre mountain range. For first-timers who want to get the fun experience of camping, this is a good introduction. You’re not exactly roughing it out since foam mattresses are provided in tents and meals are prepared by their in-house chef. The tents are spacious and can fit 3-4 people each. For added comfort, you can bring your own sleeping bags, pillows and blankets. You can also bring your own tents and camping equipment. It can get really cold and windy here at night!
There are designated camping areas throughout the property. The main camping area right next to the meadows is very near the multi-purpose hall, shower area and clean and well-maintained comfort rooms.
At the entrance of Haranah Eco Park, there’s an admin office and clinic. For small meetings and groups, they have a lounge and view deck overlooking Laguna de Bay (capacity 15 people). To cater to corporate clients who want to hold larger seminars and conventions, Haranah has a large solar-powered Multipurpose Hall that can seat up to 200 people for banquet seating.
The solar powered multi-purpose hall has a lot of outlets for people who need to charge gadgets. However, since the signal in the area is not that strong for some networks, there’s no WiFi. The good thing is that this lessens possible distractions. This actually helps during team-building activities, because participants aren’t constantly on their phones. If you want to escape and forget work for the weekend, this is great since you can’t be reached by email and calls. If you want to write, you can actually work here without the constant chatter on social media.
The grassy sloped meadow serves as the main team-building area and gaming grounds where visitors can experience trying traditional Filipino games like patintero and kaba-kabayuhan. You can also bring kites, balls, frisbees and other sporting equipment to play here.
Visitors can hike through 5500 steps in a friendly nature trail that goes around specific areas, including the gardens and groves passing a native bahay kubo, small amphitheater area and herb and flowers areas and bird watching sites. For the more adventurous, there’s a steeper hike in the forest going to a small creek.
Other recommended activities include rock balancing, bird watching and herb and tree planting. I brought a hammock and just tied it up in the trees for an afternoon siesta, waking up just in time for merienda.
Be sure to bring a guitar, playing cards, board games and lots of chips and snacks. We got engrossed in the afternoon just playing card games, with a brief stop to take photos of the sunset.
After dinner, our hosts arranged for a bonfire where we roasted hotdogs and made our own smores over more group games.
Unlike the standard tapsilog / bulalo type meals you can find in other road trip restaurants along Marilaque, Haranah Eco Park specializes in healthier fare using fresh herbs and spices from their garden. Everything we had was really good. For merienda, we had this Aglio Olio pasta that looked very simple, but tasted so good especially with the addition of fresh basil.
There were a lot of seafood dishes during lunch and dinner, including fish fillet, stir-fried squid and breaded shrimps. Even simple vegetables like pechay and kangkong were transformed. Hats off to the chef! Meals are usually plated for small groups, but can be set-up buffet style for larger groups.
WHO / WHY YOU SHOULD CHECK IN:
Haranah Eco Park is ideal as a venue for field trips, team-buildings, leadership trainings, ecotourism seminars, and educational activities. It offers a refreshing venue where you can commune with nature, connect with your companions, and disconnect from city living and technological distractions.
I also think it’s a great place for families looking for an exclusive and secure camping site relatively near Manila for reunions or overnight bonding sessions. If you have non-adventurous relatives or friends who want to try camping for the first time, this is a very safe introduction. I know a lot of people who avoid camping because they’re very particular about the bathroom situation. Haranah’s bathroom facilities are very clean and well-maintained. There are several comfort rooms spread around the nature trails.
Outdoor brands who would like to hold events or product launches for media or VIPs could use this as a base for meals or overnight stays before proceeding to other sights around Tanay like Mt. Maynoba and Cayabu. It’s also a good spot for nature-inspired location photo shoots, birdwatching and stargazing not far from Manila.
- Day Tours will be held every Saturday starting April 8, 2017 (subject to availability).
- Guided tours depart at 11:00 am, 11:30 am or 12 nn.
- Day Tours include set lunch with fresh coconut juice for P1,000 per participant.
- Prior reservations must be made for all visits.
- For team-building packages and group events, please inquire directly. Contact info below.
HOW TO GET THERE:
The Haranah Eco Park is located near the old Radar Station of PAGASA about 300m away from the Marcos Highway and around 2km from Sierra Madre Hotel. It is about 1 to 1 ½ hour drive from Sta. Lucia East Grand Mall. Haranah Eco Park is operated by Haranah Tours Corporation. To avail of their travel and transportation services, contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
ADDRESS & CONTACT INFO:
Sitio Mayagay 2, Barangay Cuyambay, Tanay, Rizal, Philippines.