When we were invited to visit a botanical garden in Bohol, we thought we would just be visiting a vacation home that had a large garden. Yes, the Tarsier Botanika is a botanical garden, but it is also more than that; it actually has a ranch and riding school and an exotic dining place. It also has a bakery that sells organic bread, a bags and accessories boutique, and of course, a garden that is at par with the most beautiful gardens in Europe.
At the time of our visit late last year, owners Patricia and Nicolas Moussempes had just decided to open portions of their 10-hectare property to the public. Our party was composed of Roni and Richard Merk and their daughter Manna, and Beth and Al Quinn (the stage and movie director). We all looked forward to the three days we would spend there.
As a high-end vacation spot that could contend with the best private resorts anywhere in the world, Tarsier Botanika offers peace and quiet and a stunning view of the Bohol landscape. It’s barely an hour away from Bohol’s popular tourist attractions. Guest cottages are still under construction and they’re scheduled to be finished by mid-year.
Our hosts Patricia and Nicolas had met and made their fortune in Hong Kong where Nicolas had stayed for 50 years (Patty was a resident for 30 years). They wanted to build their retirement home away from the urban jungle and after surveying the possibilities, chose Bohol.
Nicolas’ domain is the three-hall museum that showcases an art collection with a conglomeration of periods and styles by famous and unknown artists. Nicholas says he isn’t particular about the name of the artist; the painting or artwork just has to catch Nicolas’ eye. “In fact, I would prefer that they not be by well known artists,” he tells us.
The collection ranges from a fallen tree that has been carbon dated 150 million years old to an original Vermeer of a view of Rome painted in the 17th century, various wooden horses, calligraphy, and many more. The collection is as interesting as his taste in books displayed in the library. And his taste in food from a kitchen Patty oversees with a team of two assistant chefs.
Practically everything in Tarsier Botanika is under Patty’s personal supervision. During our stay there, we woke up in the morning to the smell of freshly baked bread and brewed coffee. During breakfast, we were with the company of two large dogs, Susie the boxer and Bismark the German Shepherd. We met the other dogs when we later headed for the pool for a refreshing wake up swim. Sebastian the Retriever and Brigitte the Labrador treated us to their own race in the pool.
Patty comes to joined us in the pool. She has already been to their Equestria ranch area to check on the 11 horses acquired from Manila and Australia. The stable is inhabited by ponies, rescued horses, and a calesa horse. Elsewhere, Patty has a mini zoo where black apes, a rescued bear cat, a macau, the cuscus (family of the kangaroo), leopards, civic cats and other farm animals live.
There are intermittent classes in the summer for yoga, horseback riding, scuba diving, ballet classes, martial arts, baking lessons and arts and crafts.
Despite all these, it is obvious that Patty’s prime interest lies in developing the Botanika Park. She tells us the first phase is the garden, then the birds, and we suppose whatever catches her fancy involving nature. She had experimented with plants that can survive by the sea. We were fascinated by the combination of colors and plants with sculptures and jars, which she acquired from trips abroad. We told Patty her garden reminded us of Yves Saint Laurent’s place in Marrakech in Morocco. He had purchased the property originally owned by French artist Jacques Majorelle, took up residence, put up a museum, and came up with a world famous garden that attracts tourists worldwide. In Patty’s garden, we loved the enclosed pergola where plants, paintings, a chandelier, tables and chairs share space.
Three days were not enough to take in all the wonders of Tarsier Botanika. We went for a quick shopping trip to Phillip Tarsier, which is their boutique of bags and accessories made of local material, sold in the US and locally under Evelyn Muassab whose lolo is pure Syrian. As expected, everything reeked of good taste.
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