The road heading to Tarsier Botanika and its owners’ residence was a nondescript one—bumpy, framed on both sides by rural homes or tall grass, and pretty much like most roads on islands around the country. Entering the gates almost seemed like being teleported to another world.
“We both wanted an open-style house with lots of space, surrounded by an exotic garden with a view of the sea,” explains Patricia Moussempes, who owns the property with her husband Nicolas. Remarkably, the simple statement is the perfect description of the home now. From the gate, the road is enveloped by lush foliage before ending at the porte cochère, which shares a pitched roof with the spacious living area. Open on all sides, the space overlooks the bright blue pool against the grass and the sky and ocean beyond.
“Nicolas worked on all the plans, layouts and designs, and we just had it implemented by a local architect,” Patricia continues, adding that Nicolas is a designer who had worked on many projects in Hong Kong. The home definitely takes advantage of the property’s stunning views as all rooms face the sea. The living area—which has the dining area and kitchen—is the central space of the home, with bedrooms and private rooms located on separate buildings on either side.
One of the rooms is the library, where an ornate ivory Chinese ship complete with ivory figurines of its passengers is showcased. The couple has amassed an incredible art collection from their years of traveling, including the work of European masters, curated and on display in a gallery in the resort.
Hints of the couple’s wanderings are seen throughout their home and the resort—the design is an eccentric but homey combination of traditional art, modern furniture and a tropical appeal that comes together in a space that’s very inviting.
A tropical feel pervades primarily from the thriving greenery, which Patricia had worked on for years and had opened to the public four years ago. “I worked on the garden myself, working with a local gardener who followed the style that I wanted,” she recalls. Blooming with flora and fauna, Tarsier Botanika has several paths that venture through its gardens, occasionally punctuated with sculptures of animals, stone fountains and a large reclining Buddha in the midst of a small pond. “These pieces are some we picked up around the world,” Patricia points out. “Nicolas and I travel everywhere in Asia. Some of those come from Bali, others from Thailand and China, and some from the Philippines.”
The garden is currently closed to the public, in preparation for the villas that will open on the property later this year. “Nicolas wanted something local, so he opted for the northern provinces’ Ifugao-style houses,” Patricia explains. “It has slanted walls. It’s a complicated design as we had to work with modern windows and the structure was quite challenging.” From what we saw, the challenges are going to pay off—the shape, along with the woven walls, gives the villas an interesting visual.
After a quick walk through the grounds, Patricia walks us to Tarsier Paprika for lunch. The restaurant has become a popular venue for weddings with its spacious wooden deck and sprawling lawn that sits on a cliff overlooking the inviting azure sea.
The lunch dishes prepared for us were incredible, taking seemingly simple ingredients and bringing them together with a burst of flavor. “Like in the villas and the garden, Nicolas and I worked hand in hand in coming up with the menu,” Patricia tells us. “We chose the dishes which were interesting, and only use fresh ingredients—herbs and vegetables from our garden, fresh seafood. Our bakery also has freshly baked products like bread, of course, and cakes and pastries.”
Patricia had studied at Ecole Lenotre and the Ritz Escoffier in Paris, and created many of the desserts on the menu herself. “I love our tarte au citron (fresh lemon tart),” she admits.
After lunch, Patricia leads us to her stables, Tarsier Equestria, a part of the resort that is very close to her heart. It’s evident in the way she talks about her horses and the programs offered at Equestria that this is truly one of her great passions. “We do corrective training and classical dressage,” she says. “Corrective training means developing the horse into an athlete, using his back and stomach muscles to carry the rider with ease; the slow process of bending, stretching to allow full flexibility and calmness. When the muscles are stretched and supple, the horse’s reaction is that of a genuine willingness to work with his handler. Obedience is the key to proper training, but can only be accomplished through patience, positive training and reward.”
She is adamant in the proper way of training, sharing that she has seen many horses in bad shape because their owners and trainers were not properly oriented. “No horse can work properly when training involves force and pain. Positive training is intelligent training, using techniques from the old masters. It is a classic tradition of being one with the horse, a partnership built from respect and harmony with one another.”
The programs hope to help with training a young horse, helping an older abandoned horse recuperate, training an injured horse that cannot be ridden, and transforming the horse physically and psychologically. “Our work is backed by classical dressage clinics and straightness program courses attended in Europe, constant research on the theories of the classical dressage masters, and research on causes of crookedness and lames. The practical work with our own horses helps them recuperate from the old mistakes made by former owners before coming to us. This is a testimony of our work. Our aim is to be able to help other horse owners ride their horses again with ease, avoid unnecessary accidents and be aware of the technical causes of lameness, rearing, bolting, disobedience and the like,” she continues. “Too many horses are put down unnecessarily for not cooperating or being unable to perform. Most often, the horse is blamed and never the ignorance of the rider. We believe that every horse deserves a chance.”
We watch Patricia spend some time with the Lusitanos, their beautiful white horses that gallop gracefully through the field, then we make our way back to their home to watch the sunset from their living room. The day showed just how much the property has to offer, and Bohol visitors can look forward to so much more. “Our resort is different as we pay attention to every detail which is directed towards a love for nature—gastronomy, wellness, the arts, and care and appreciation for the natural environment and the animals that live in our park,” Patricia shares. “We hope our guests can forget their busy lives in the big city for even just a short moment and enjoy nature at its best.”
photography Maitina Borromeo