Norzagaray’s Secret Haven: Sometimes we need to disconnect in order to reconnect with what matters

There was one evening from one of my travels where I met with newfound friends in a lovely local pub to catch up on each other’s island activities. We sat on a bamboo chair, ordered a Greek pizza, a bucket of beers, and started talking. Halfway through the night, I thought something bizarre about the pub. I looked around and realized it was the sound of people talking, laughing, communicating, making eye contact, and touching. As usual, the pub wasn’t silent. But only because no one had their head in a smartphone; everybody was talking!

Sometimes I asked myself when did we stop getting excited about meeting up with our friends because we had so much to tell them?

Nowadays, our friends already know everything that has happened to us at all times because we always put it out there: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and heaven knows what.

And every once in a while, offline is the new luxury.

This week’s getaway is a very serene camping ground hidden in the mountains of Norzagaray in Bulacan. It is called The Secret Haven because it is roughly a 30 to 40-minute trek from the jump-off point.

In our case, we started hiking at 9:30 in the evening because why not hike at night, right? The journey by foot on the rocky trail going to Secret Haven didn’t hurt much because most of the tracks are downhill.

Arriving at the campsite requires PHP 150 entrance fee which is an undeniably good deal for a place like Secret Haven. To say that it was the best spent P150 so far since 2021 began.

We began setting up our tents and lighting up the bonfire for some smores, BBQ, and hotdogs.

And nothing’s like sipping brandy in the middle of nowhere with the absence of cellular data.

This place, boys and girls, encourages everyone to drop their gadgets and disconnect.

You know life is full of essential pleasures, such as waking up early and realizing you have hours of sleep, listening to a favorite song on repeat, or even being outside when the weather is just right, so the concept of having to choose between one of these pleasures and a mobile phone can be at best challenging, at worst nearly impossible.

It’s nice to spend the rest of the night talking to each other from sharing funny experiences from the past to something serious like history and even up to answering relevant questions pretending that one is a beauty queen.

They say that the clock ticks a little bit slower when you are outside of the city, when you are lyinh under the vast Milky Way, with nothing but god-knows-how-old tall trees around to protect you.

But unexpectedly, pleasurable events like these boost dopamine release, which causes our internal clock to run faster.

The next morning, we woke up around 7 from a power nap because it was already 5:30 a.m. when I said good night and fell asleep.

But what is sleep when the real beauty of nature, which we didn’t quite saw in the dark, started showing around in the morning sunlight?

So I got up, got myself a cup of hot instant coffee, and started exploring the nearby river while waiting for our breakfast to be delivered.

In a world of algorithms, #hashtags, and followers, know the true importance of human connection.

Ilog Banahaw is a ribbon-like body of water that flows silently and it is actually shallow enough for people to wade across.

For the water temperature, my friends said it was bearable to take a dip in. But since I am forever a sucker for waters that is not warm enough for my body to accept, it is still pretty cold for me. Haha! The good thing is I managed to swim and it felt liberating. At least for me.

We basically spent the whole morning swimming from here and there, laughing while stone skipping, and going to the nearby cave.


Taking some digital downtime will increase our ability to resist the call of the social network siren, or the magnetism of the message maven and instead focus on the “now”. As Ellen DeGeneres said: “All we have is here and now. That’s why procrastination feels SO good. Procrastinate now don’t put it off.”

No posting, no liking, just living.

We are living, breathing and extraordinary human beings with five sense, so let’s find new ways to reconnect with ourselves by making space to be able to be fully present.

By embracing rather than erasing solitude, we will be able to live a more conscious and mindful life where we can allow the “now”, and through presence gift ourselves back to ourselves and to those who have a special place in our lives.

We are here, now.

Let’s live the moment and rediscover the joy of mindful living in a digital age by finding a new way to reconnect with the poetry of life.

So, anybody has plans to stare at their phones somewhere exciting this weekend?

Reference: “unplugged: how to live mindfully in a digital world” by Orianna Fielding


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      Marron Santillan

      Thanks you so much, Michele! It’s so nice to get out with nature every once in a while. It makes us grounded and happy. Thanks again!

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