The house of happiness

"Quit it. Stop it. Stop the stopping. Start the starting. Really. I mean, really. Because you know what? Days turn into weeks, weeks turn into months, months turn into years so fast you will not know what happened. But you will know what did not happen. And you will feel true remorse. So let's avoid that, shall we? Get going. Go for it." - Neale Donald Walsch

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan - I first came to Bahay Kalipay in July 2010. Situated in a quiet spot near Hagedorn beach, my first visit was for a different purpose: I was working a highly-stressful corporate retail job and was being bullied by my team; I was scared and tired of being scared. I was near a breakdown. I needed to feel that innate goodness in people again.

That time, I had joined a yoga retreat, facilitated by Monica Manzano and teacher-to-yoga-teachers Clayton Horton. It was also my first encounter with raw food (fresh organic fruits and vegetables not subjected to heat in order to keep the enzymes alive) and, much to my surprise, I loved it. I loved the raw pancakes, seafood marinara, vegetable sushi, and the green smoothies we were served every morning. (Eventually, I would learn that there's also raw lasagna, un-fried rice, and even peanut brittle and refrigerator cake. Yum!)

Fast forward to 2012. I had been away for a year, after having a raw Christmas in Bahay Kalipay in 2010, I focused on fixing my life in the city for a whole year. But, like any vocation and path, it kept calling me back. It was my intuition. And now that I am braver and more mature, I decided to heed the call.

I returned to Bahay Kalipay just this month, staying in Puerto Princesa for a whole week, alone, determined to re-connect with myself anew (alas, I was bullied again by much older colleagues in my last employment pre-Rappler). My friends Pi Villaraza and Daniw Arazola understood my complicated thoughts, and gave me my space.

Solar lights at Maia, which they also have in Bahay Kalipay.

Solar lights at Maia, which they also have in Bahay Kalipay.

While I spent my first three nights at an inn, I spent my first two days in Bahay Kalipay and Maia, a sustainable eco-community bound by sacred simplicity that Pi opened to people who were ready to live a simple life. There, I found British mixed martial artist Tom Woodfin, Irish-American life coach Mary Raynor, and Maia's head healer, Mahiitosh Eguia, among others. (Watch out for Pi's video blog on Tom and inner warriorship, the healing modality Tom teaches, here in Rappler tomorrow.)

Bahay Kalipay was conducting a week-long detox retreat, and an Easter yoga retreat was about to start. Health concerns made me go on the detox retreat; the yoga retreat was an added bonus. Facilitators were former pioneering Myx VJ Kaz Castillo (who would later in say that it was an insignificant part of her life) and James Boag, kirtanka and yogasana teacher from Mysore (who I would happily realize is fluent in Sanskrit; he would share parts of the Bhagavad Gita and translate them in simple language that allowed all of us to appreciate the Mahabharat). 

The door to my room at the first floor of the yoga shala.

The door to my room at the first floor of the yoga shala.

I decided to move to Bahay Kalipay for the yoga retreat and the duration of my stay in Puerto Princesa. Because I was not feeling well, Daniw gave me a room at the first floor of the yoga shala. My room was so cool that, even without a fan, it felt like I had air-conditioning. The best part was the sound of the birds singing at dawn and at dusk. Their sounds were so clear and resonant that you could almost make out a melody from their orchestra, with Mr. Gecko as guest singer. I can also clearly remember resting in a hammock at the shala one afternoon; the sunlight hit my face but the breeze held my cheeks. When I closed my eyes, I could hear not just my heart beat, but also the Earth's.

One of the best parts of my stay is eating the raw dishes lovingly prepared by Daniw's kitchen crew (Ate Mayet and company), paired with the comedic talent and light company of her new apprentice, Aya Pamittan. The love from the kitchen cascaded to the tables, where the energy was so light and loving, that conversations were easy (among my new friends were co-city-dwellers Elaine Nicolas and Audi Guerrero). And if any one wanted to eat consciously (reflecting and eating on the source, taste, and energy of the food while eating), they were given their space; no questions, no judgement.

Aya preparing our raw lunch.

Aya preparing our raw lunch.

Vegetable sushi
Miso soup made from carrots and squash

While our days were filled with yoga classes (yogasana, ashtanga, and yogasana respectively), our nights were filled with kirtan, a call-and-response chanting led by James. Daniw described it as a form of yoga through devotional chanting. Our kirtans would start slow, after a talk from James and Kaz on the day's topic. Once we start and the energy picks up, we would find ourselves accompanying the chanting with Bahay Kalipay's wooden instruments. On the last night of kirtan, we were joined by Mary, Sarah, and Mahiitosh from Maia, and guests Neo (from Taiwan) and Isabel (from Brazil). Neo and Kaz picked up on the energy and started dancing to the kirtan. Our circle felt like an electric and energetic fireball, to quote Jack Kerouac, "exploding like spiders across the stars." (On the Road)

Kaz begins the morning of ashtanga.

Kaz begins the morning of ashtanga.

I paused during yogasana to take this beautiful photo. I really thank James for introducing me to it. It's the yoga for me.

I paused during yogasana to take this beautiful photo. I really thank James for introducing me to it. It's the yoga for me.

Three days and two nights of the yoga retreat was too short, much too short. It was the first time in a long time that I didn't want anything to end, that I allowed myself to just be happy without being worried if some one would be unhappy that I was happy (which was always the case in the city; sadly, crab mentality is still alive and well in Philippine society). I was free to be me; I felt good again. I loved myself, I was free.

But the main difference this time is that I went back to Manila with the kind of peace that I was confident will never leave me. I not only found it again, it found me again, too. I have that quiet voice inside that can shush the noise outside. Nothing can rattle me anymore, no one can bully me ever again.

The theme of our retreat was "Love. Forgiveness. Sacrifice. Rebirth." And I was able to accomplish all: I learned to love myself, forgive myself for putting myself first (Mary calls it "positive selfishness"), sacrifice the career options that would have paid well but killed my spirit, and be reborn. This is the new Kai. And I love the new Rappler me. - Rappler.com

(For more information on detox and yoga retreats plus other activities, visit Bahay Kalipay's Facebook page.)

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