By Ces Drilon
Going on a wellness retreat has been a yearly tradition for Nepal’s lone billionaire, Binod Chaudhary. Fifteen years ago, the pursuit for health brought the adventure-seeking Binod to the Philippines. He booked a detox program at The Farm at San Benito, a world-class wellness resort in Lipa, Batangas.
What started as a week-long holiday in 2007 became a long-term commitment for Binod. His son and Chaudhary Group (CG) Hospitality’s managing director, Rahul, remarked with a laugh: “The wellness program turned into an acquisition!”
In 2008, Binod acquired a major stake at The Farm. The resort was a welcome addition to the Chaudhary Group’s expansive portfolio, with interests ranging from banking, electronics, infrastructure, telecoms, hospitality and food. CG Food is the maker of Wai Wai Noodles, which has sales of over a billion packets in India alone. Binod was touted the “Noodle King” because of the brand’s success.
After building The Farm’s brand over the past decade, Binod is ready to expand its reach overseas. He has an ambitious plan to put up The Farm in at least five different locations abroad. “One should happen right away. In Nepal, my home country, we will have a smaller version of The Farm at The Miraaya on the Golf Course. This will have a deeper spiritual component. The Farm is ready to be taken to any part of the world,” he said.
Binod said CG Hospitality is also in the final stages of closing a deal for establishing The Farm in Jordan with their partners from Hong Kong. He said Jordan is an ideal location since the Middle East and Europe were part of their key markets before the COVID-19 pandemic happened in 2020.
“Taking The Farm to the world has a different meaning, it’s not pure business. It is a business packaged with a powerful philosophy of changing your lifestyle and giving you something which you will cherish for the rest of your existence. I think all businesses need to make money. No question about it. But at the end of the day are you driven by your commercial objective or is there something beyond?” he said.
Binod believes CG Hospitality is the perfect vehicle to drive The Farm’s growth through overseas expansion. The group has 150 properties in 12 countries. It also opens an average of 15 hotels and resorts yearly.
“We have the patience, the imagination and I believe it can be done. I have no doubt whether it’s a global wellness forum, anywhere in the world, The Farm stands out. And we are ready. We are flooded with proposals to come and set up The Farm in many different parts of the world,” he said.
Rahul is upbeat about putting his father’s plans into motion. “We have more than 80-plus renowned awards all over the world and now we are ready to step up. The world has noticed, the world realizes that The Farm is a force to be reckoned with. In terms of our strategy, we are looking at entering new markets while maintaining our current clientele,” he said.
A member of the fourth generation of the entrepreneurial Chaudharys, Rahul said The Farm’s Hilot sets it apart from other spa treatments anywhere else. He believes it’s a luxury that all those who prioritize health and wellness should experience. “We have the Ayurveda treatment, the conventional spa treatment, but the Hilot is something else. It’s a holistic experience that transforms not just your body, but your mind and soul as well.”
Binod sees The Farm capitalizing on the experiential encounters—with emphasis on health, wellness, family outings and outdoor relaxation—as the world recovers from COVID-induced lockdowns. With the wellness industry’s value estimated in trillion dollars, there’s no question CG Hospitality’s investment in The Farm has paid off.
“I don’t think Europe and America’s wellness hubs can compare to what The Farm has to offer. This place stands out. More than the relaxing environment, personalized care is something our clients keep coming back to. Love is in the Filipinos’ DNA. They love to look after people,” he said.
Rahul believes Hilot, coupled with Filipinos’ trademark hospitality, will keep clients coming back to The Farm’s locations all over the world. He said the resort’s employees, many of whom have been working there for more than two decades, are the best ambassadors for the brand.
“We’re taking The Farm and the Philippines to the world and the way to do that is by having our ambassadors be there, set the foundation and also educate the locals. Our biggest asset is the brand itself,” Rahul said, confirming that Filipino employees will be posted overseas to help in the expansion.
Lem Senillo, The Farm’s spa manager, has seen the brand evolve through the years. Hailing from a family of hilots from Bacolod, Senillo was sent to Germany and Thailand by The Farm’s founder, Eckard Rempe, to further hone his skills. He has been with the company for over two decades. “It’s a great privilege and opportunity to bring The Farm’s ultimate wellness, healing and detoxification experiences to the world,” Lem said.
Chef Marie Pagcaliwagan rose from the ranks as a waitress to the manager of The Farm’s three restaurants. She finished a culinary degree while working as an employee.
Marie is proud of the wide array of healthy dishes offered at the sanctuary and the meticulous process of preparing meals. “We make our own granola. We also use sun dried tomatoes, while the banana hearts are harvested from the garden,” she said.
Inspired by the Chaudharys’ vision, Marie is already hard at work conceptualizing the menu for The Farm in Jordan. “In Jordan, there are no coconuts so I need to know what I can change in the menu. What we are serving should be fresh. It’s so challenging.”