Glamping has steadily gained popularity in the Philippines over the past few years. This is especially true for families and friends who have been drawn to this outdoor activity being an excellent choice for bonding and nature tripping.
A portmanteau of glamorous camping, this is for those who want to commune with nature minus the hassle of setting up a tent or starting a campfire. Unlike its rowdier version, glamping offers conveniences such as a pre-pitched tent with air beds/mattresses, blankets, and pillows—all while still basking in nature’s majesty.
Glamping spots can already be found around the country, from those with high tourist traffic to more off-the-beaten paths like Zamboanga del Norte. This Mindanao province is still relatively off the tourist radar despite being blessed with a wealth of natural beauty and rich history.
Not known to many, it has world-class dive spots, exciting trekking sites, and a unique relationship with our national hero.
In recent years, the province has made efforts to capitalize on tourism and one of the most popular attractions to date is the high-altitude SFJ Organica Farm, which is known for its mountain vistas.
Western feels in western Mindanao
SFJ Organica Farm is located in Brgy. Bagong Baguio in the municipality of Sergio Osmeña Sr. It is a pioneer in producing quality organic products in Zamboanga del Norte, with land in that area ideal for growing crops similar to those in Luzon’s Mountain Province. The farm grows organic lettuce, tomatoes, and other produce in its four greenhouses which are sold in nearby areas.
“Around 2016, we saw the potential of the farm because it is very cold in that area,” shares SFJ Organica Farm business partner Kathlyn Uyehara-Hamoy, who started the venture with her two best friends. She says that it can go as low as 20 degrees on the farm.
“The owner, Seth Frederick ‘Bullet’ Jalosjos, the lot is his father’s, but it was only he who was interested in farming,” Uyehara-Hamoy shares. “Me and my husband, Britz, the three of us are best friends. We’re really into farming.”
The three of them would travel to look into other organic farms in and out of the country. “We studied lettuce production and other high-value crops on how to manage them and how to grow them properly,” Uyehara-Hamoy adds.
The 12-hectare property is perched at an altitude of 1,000 feet above sea level and nestled at the heart of lush mountains. In the five years since its inception, it has grown to become a popular glamping spot in the region.
It has enough space for six tents and four container vans/rooms with contemporary industrial aesthetics. The farm also has a manor, which serves as a common area for guests to play table soccer or just lounge on the plush couches.
“SFJ is more of a western (style), with industrial homes. My husband designed those. The manor has a western country feel, with a touch of Mediterranean with the fountain,” Uyehara-Hamoy, a professional industrial designer, shares. “What Bullet wants is that when you enter the farm, when you see it, you don’t feel that you’re in the Philippines. He wants SFJ to transport you to another time and place.”
All container vans including the external bathrooms are fully furnished and newly renovated. The glamping tents and the Italian fountain are newly installed. The farm is home to horses, peacocks, goats, love birds, and a cockatoo. An alpaca couple shipped from Australia, Oreo and Hash Brown, also live at SFJ.
Sustainability efforts for farmers
When you go glamping at SFJ Organica Farm, you are also able to lend a hand in the farm’s sustainability efforts.
“SFJ’s advocacy is really to help farmers to earn more by teaching them how to do it properly using quality seeds and training them how to do organic farming,” Uyehara-Hamoy says.
Many farmers, she says, aren’t adept at marketing and buyers purchase their goods at a low price.
“Sometimes, they don’t earn at all. Like growing lettuce, it’s very expensive. The seed itself is very expensive,” Uyehara-Hamoy explains. “The inputs that you have to put in, although it’s all organic, but still it takes a lot of time and effort so they don’t earn at all if they don’t have the proper training and the right market.”
What the owners plan to do this time around is to have the farmers plant only lettuce. They’ll buy those at an above average market price so that the farmers can earn. In the process, they hope that farming would be made more appealing to the younger generation.
“If they earn they will keep on doing it and the youth, their children in that area, can also feel that they can make money out of farming,” Uyehara-Hamoy says. “It’s not a job because you weren’t able to go to college or high school so you end up as a farmer.”
Uyehara-Hamoy usually goes from one school to the other and talks to high school students about keeping the tradition of farming alive.
“You don’t have to be all nurses, you don’t have to be all teachers,” she says. “You can also be a farmer. This time we want to change that mentality starting with the farmers now. Next is the youth, we want to encourage them not to leave their land in the area where they belong and start to learn about the soil, the right practices to make farming sustainable and so that they can earn as well.”
A training director at the TESDA-accredited Integrated Business Skills Academy (IBSA), Uyehara-Hamoy handles Organic Agriculture Farming where she teaches personality development, proper hygiene, and safety to the farmers.
“Not because you’re a farmer you go straight from your bed to the farm. You also have to take care of yourself,” she says. “Wear the proper PPEs to protect your skin. Doesn’t have to be expensive, you can wear something from the ukay-ukay or old clothes as long as it protects you from the sun, the rain, and others.”
Plans for expansion
The owners plan to further develop the 12-hectare property for farm tourism. Currently, less than seven hectares has been developed.
“We plan to have other herbs as well and other high-value crops. But we’re still contemplating the market needs. We have to check first because it has to be market-driven. It would be a waste if nobody buys them,” Uyehara-Hamoy says.
She shares that plans are underway to expand the glamping site so it could accommodate four more tents and four more container vans.
To get to SFJ Organica Farm from Zamboanga City, guests can come by private/chartered vehicle via Pagadian City. Public transportation is available via the Zamboanga-Pagadian Rural Transit Bus to Pagadian then by van rental to the municipality of Sergio Osmeña.
Guests coming from Dipolog can come via private/chartered vehicle directly to SFJ. Public transportation to Sergio Osmeña is available.
From the Sergio Osmeña transport terminal to SFJ, guests can go by motorcycle or habal-habal.
The farm offers day tours at Php250 for adults and Php150 for kids including use of the archery grounds. Horseback riding for adults is at Php200 and Php100 for kids. Enjoy their glamping tent package for only Php750 for adults and Php350 for kids. All rates are per person. An overnight stay in a container van costs Php3,500 for a family of four. Accommodations are only available for advance booking.
The picturesque surroundings of the farm make it a popular spot for photo shoots. For Php5,000 you can book the farm for your prenup or other shoots with access to one of the container vans for preparations.
Guests should bring their own food, cooked or ready to be cooked. The farm provides complete picnic amenities, a grilling station, and use of kitchen utensils free for all guests.
Some organic produce are available for orders. A kilo of organic tomatoes is at P50.00, while lettuce of any variety is priced at Php250.00 per kilo.
Fully vaccinated guests should bring a valid ID with photo, a Letter of Acceptance/Certificate of Coordination from the LGU of destination, and their Vaccination Card. For those who are unvaccinated/partially vaccinated, aside from the first two requirements, guests must present a negative antigen test result dated at least three days prior to travel.
For more details, bookings, reservations, and other inquiries,visit SFJ Organica Farm’s official Facebook page or contact 09124336544.
Outsource the Planning
For a seamless trip, you may leave the planning to DOT’s accredited tour operators in Region 9:
- Itravel Tourist Lane
(062) 991-1174 / 0917-722-6410; firstname.lastname@example.org
- Buenas Travel and Tours
- Travel Max Tours
(062) 990-2100; email@example.com
- Happy Campers Tour and Leisure
- MTR Travel Specialist
0930-061-1690 / 0997-745-2957; firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
All tourist destinations in Zamboanga del Norte have health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.