Gracia’s Garden — a safe haven in the beautiful province of Isabela
What started as a way to ease her anxiety with the help of her green thumb and her love for plants, Grace Manalo clearly turned the darkness into something special—a paradise in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic for the citizens of the City of Santiago, Isabela.
Gracia’s Garden is a place of both beauty and comfort, standing in the historical city of Isabela.
They serve the best food, ranging from their surprisingly hit combo dinuguan with bibingka, to the other amazing food categories we all know and love — pasta & pizza, sandwiches, chicken wings, all-day breakfast, and of course, their Genaro’s special.
Along with these exquisite cuisines, aside from your satisfied taste buds, your eyes will also wander around the beautiful sights of flowers, plants, and even enchanting murals. The ambiance of the garden is just breathtaking, filled with the allure of the gorgeous bougainvillea plant, the star of the show.
Grace has been in love with the plant for three years now, even before the pandemic started. She calls herself a plantita to a variety of her other plantae.
The past two years have been really hard for all of us due to the hardships brought by the COVID-19 virus. Indeed, Grace Manalo, mother of the celebrity chef we all know as Gerick Manalo, is a testament to that.
Back when there was no sign of hope, at the start of the pandemic when there was still no vaccine, Grace and her husband caught the dreaded disease. That led her to develop extreme anxiety — being hospitalized, not being able to get out, forced to be isolated. She sought after things that can ease her emotions.
“Nung pandemic, nagka-COVID kami ng husband ko. Wala pang vaccine noon. Sabi ko, ‘Ganon pala ang magka-COVID,’ kasi na-hospitalize din kami. ‘Yun bang anxiety, ‘yun ‘yung malakas pala na kalaban mo sa COVID,” the businesswoman shared.
The restaurant owner has been thinking about committing to the “plantita life” for so long, wanting to fully put her plants out there to let people see. Little did she know that contracting the virus will be the gateway to that and the chain reaction of blessings that continuously arrived, one after the other.
“Ayun, may awa ang Diyos, naka-recover kami. Sabi ng mga anak ko, ‘Ganon lang pala yung buhay, Mama, ituloy mo na yung gusto mo na ilabas yung mga halaman mo. Kung saan ka masaya, gawin mo na,’” she detailed.
Indeed, such challenges will make us realize a lot of things, that may be what we should truly do is to live a life free from doubt and cling to the things that bring us happiness. And Grace truly did — she listened to her heart — now, Gracia’s Garden turned out to be an absolute dream.
What made the idea work is not only her passion for plants and her love for food but actually, her desire to help people who experienced the same unfortunate things.
“Kung anong tuwa ko na makita yung mga halaman ko, ‘yun din ang gusto ko maramdaman nila. Kasi yun ang naging therapy ko eh… after ko lang magkasakit, kung ano-ano nanaman iniisip ko. Pero dahil sa mga bougainvillea flowers ko, pag nagpupunta ako sa garden, nawawala.”
Suffering from anxiety is definitely serious, especially in these dark times. Grace completely understands that after experiencing it firsthand. That’s why it became her mission to aid those who feel the same way.
“Naisip ko, ‘Bakit hindi ko ilabas ‘to?’ Kasi ganito yung pakiramdam ko. Baka sakaling may kapareho ako ng situation, makatulong ako sa kanila.”
Due to this need to give solace to those who need it, Grace decided to open the garden to the public. With no entrance fee, she lets visitors relish the beauty of her bougainvillea plants.
The entirety of Gracia’s Garden is made possible by not only Grace but her entire family.
The paradise-like beauty of the garden even features the art of her son, Gabriel. Colorful murals of plants and flowers stretch across the whole compound bringing life to the place with the accompaniment of the fresh bougainvillea.
Her husband, on the other hand, built a playground for the children to play with. They really wanted the venue to be catered towards all ages. No matter if you’re old or young, you’ve come to the right place.
Initially, Grace planned to just have a small cafe or restaurant to complement the ambiance of the garden, providing foods and refreshments to those lost in the beauty of her plants. Eventually, since the area was still very spacious, they decided to create an events place that could cater to more customers — an al fresco dining.
Due to the huge swarm of people visiting the restaurant, soon after, they needed to require customers to make reservations. And that’s where Renz comes into the picture, one of Grace’s sons. He became in charge of the bookings.
They certainly made something special that others could also see — a place that not only brings food, art, and enjoyment but also comfort.
People describe Gracia’s Garden as a space where their worries and the dark feeling of anxiety somehow cease to exist — a safe haven in the beautiful city of Isabela.
As the branches of the trees reach the sky and the wide color spectrum of the flowers bloom, it definitely heals the broken and gives a home to the lost.
The story behind the name of the garden is actually very genius and endearing, in a way that we think can paint a smile on your face.
“Gracia’s” from Gracia’s Garden is a play on words. Her name of Grace can be associated with the Spanish word for “Thank you,” which is “gracias,” and another from our own language, “grasya” which translates to “grace from God.”
Hence, the name of the place is a way of her thanking the Lord for another life. A new beginning after they contracted COVID-19, which, surprisingly, led to the creation of the restaurant.
If you wanna thank the Lord yourself or seek His refuge, one of the purest spots of Gracia’s Garden is their grotto. Here, you can pray, eat, and connect with Him.
“Our Lady of Lourdes has given our family so many blessings and miracles,” Grace shared as she mentioned that they displayed the image of Our Lady of Lourdes in the grotto where you can get a rosary for free, blessed by a priest.
If you’re seeking solace yourselves or just want the chance to unwind, you can make reservations through their Facebook page, Gracia’s Garden.
This article can also be a reminder for you to choose yourself, live your life, share your blessings, and most of all, find your peace as you seek His grace.
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