To Renewing Workplace Harmony

A bestseller book about “how little things can make a big difference” talks of the importance of the number 150 in reference to the theory that for a company to achieve its goals, each individual must sustain a “genuine social relationship” with one another, which becomes a concern when people in the workgroup reaches 150.

The Filipino corporate setting however has always placed particular importance to strengthening relationships and prioritizing harmony at work. Because with our inherent desire to excel in the corporate arena, matched with our deeply embedded family values, always put relationships top of the list.

Our companies have done it various ways – beach outings, parties in the office, lunching out, even going to discos and karaoke bars. All to maintaining harmony in the workplace.

Going on out-of-town trips has always been the ideal suggestion, to give employees a distinctive atmosphere for a breather, literally, and relaxation.

This option however is not without business challenges. It would mean time away from the production. Also to expect is some hesitation from employees, especially those with young children, about going on long trips away from home. Then there would be the entailed expenses for such projects.

But no matter, it is all a must. Renewing workplace harmony, corporate planning, employee junket, production meeting, however its called, – it needs to be done one time or another. So it could as well be a blessing in disguise when The Forest Club opened its doors to all and sundry.

Imagine breathing in the scent of dew-damped leaves mixing with the natural perfume of the brown earth in the early morning after a night’s mist. A whiff of something fresh, newly-born and expectant, shooting straight to the nostrils, infecting all the senses, coming from the quiet rice fields nearby or maybe from the imposing mountains ever present.

Imagine waking up in the middle of a forest, with the chirping of birds, the gurgling of a brook and the humming of butterfly wings.

Imagine inhaling the aroma of local coffee being brewed somewhere or the aroma of sizzling hot fried eggs with white rice all around or a slice of wheat bread slightly burning on the sides just enough to melt the butter.

Imagine no more. This is only The Forest Club’s answer to the need for a corporate get-away that’s all too important to reenergize a team and to bring enthusiasm back to the workforce.

The facilities in the Forest Club are perfect: two conference halls, a large dining room, several break-out areas, two large sleeping suites and four cottage bedrooms. Its scenic atmosphere that readily rejuvenates encourages and inspires everyone to think deep and think big. Just what is needed to boost business.

It’s an enchanting place that enjoins one to relax and to expand the mind if only by naming the various species of birds and the exotic plants and trees or just count the fluffing of butterfly wings.

There is ample space for long walks under a seemingly endless canopy of greens and cloudy blue. There is enough space for everyone to play tennis, basketball and swimming. And the food, oh the food! The menu of Laguna specialties – fresh fish, vegetables and fruits in generous servings – is a Forest Club claim to fame.

All previous concerns are instantly settled. Just a couple of hours drive from Manila via the SLEX highways, visitors will be quickly transformed into an ecosystem that boasts of therapeutic outdoor hot spring swimming pools and Jacuzzis, a natural scenery that takes your breath away, and an economical way of providing a breather, a respite and, perhaps after a very productive business quarter, a much-deserved leisure.

One wonders how this perfect, enchanting, place came to be. Perhaps in the middle of moonlit nights, sweet flowers of hardwood trees like mahogany and kamagong bloom mysteriously leaving the air forever perfumed.

At the smallness of dawn, there are hushed activities of turtles and earthworms incessantly digging the grounds causing that early morning scent of freshly dug earth. And just as the horizon turns pink at dusk, there are sightings of various species of birds – turtle doves or orioles, robins or hummingbird, or even the ever-eccentric owls, plotting a conspiracy with the flora making this forest even more magical.

A legend of a man, who went by the name Antonio Roa Mercado, was responsible for growing this enchanting forest and transforming it into a Club that now beckons the weary, the dreamy, the adventurous and the contemplative.

Antonio Roa Mercado, Tony to many, was once a very busy corporate guy but because of a heart problem decided to start life anew when he was in his late 50’s after a by pass. With a patch of rice farm that he and his wife Monina discovered in Puypuy, in the outskirts of Los Banos, Laguna – the beneficence of Mount Makiling with rich volcanic topsoil, abundant rainfall, with a pampering gentle climate – he began the artwork on a reclusive forest, a garden, a hide-out.

He created a meandering brook and planted full grown narra trees. He planted trees of the old and new varieties, trees that flower in season and trees that are abloom throughout the year.

He built shelters and with the early birds in the lagoon, the herons, egrets, munias, doves, sun birds, rails, swifts, robins and squads of mayas, Tony spent many hours of sunrise alone, praying and thinking.

In 1996, Tony and his family decided to open the gates of his previously private paradise to visitors – to share the serenity, the unbelievable contentment, and the peace of mind that the place so generously provides.

Today, five years after Tony passed on, the Forest Club, under the care of his sons Wawel and Robbi Mercado, has blossomed into a full-grown recreation area, a perfect alternative to far-away weekend hideouts that provides the same luxury, exclusivity and privacy.

Today the Forest Club has remained dense and vibrant with trees, flowers, fireflies, birds and butterflies, ever serene in its sunrises and sunsets, a secret garden, warmly and kindly welcoming. A place to rebuild and renew life’s zest and pizzazz for whatever one needs it for.

Wawel Mercado
February 2006

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