At the young age of 18, Linda Reyes-Romualdez got married and soon after became a mom of four children. But the pressures of being young, raising her kids, running a household, and marrying into a high-profile family, however, did little to help create her self-identity as a young adult who was just starting to find her place in the world. Many years later, it took a simple question from a psychologist, on what kind of life she was living, to give her an aha moment and awaken her from her seeming lethargy.
It was only when she turned 40, Linda says, that she got her second shot at life. Her marriage didn’t work out too well and, by then, she was bringing up her children on her own. But her circumstance didn’t stop her from dreaming and resolving to shape the ideal life that she has been yearning for. A life of peace and wellness.
Slowly, in the process of rebuilding herself, she also constructed her beachfront property in Anilao, Batangas. She christened that place Casita Ysabel—named after her youngest daughter—and turned it into her sacred refuge and source of positive energy. Linda shared in an interview with InterAksyon.com: “How I was building myself internally manifested in Casita.”
Casita Ysabel was finally finished in 2003. The result of her creative self-expression, Casita Ysabel, is very much like Linda: Soothing yet vibrant with life.
Her legacy to her children, she says, may not be monetary. Rather, it’s letting them appreciate life’s simple pleasures especially in the company of nature. At Casita Ysabel, one gets to enjoy natural spectacles like butterflies flitting in the garden, fireflies lighting up at night, dolphins jumping out of the blue water, and rainbows filling up the sky.
The beach resort was originally intended as a hideaway for her family. But with such bliss also enjoyed by friends who have stayed in Casita Ysabel, Linda felt she had a higher purpose—to share her once secret haven to other weary souls in need of rest and rejuvenation.
In 2004, Linda opened her private resort to friends looking for a retreat. Later, as word got around, Casita Ysabel soon expanded its list of guests and has become one of Anilao’s more popular resorts among both divers and non-divers.
With her vision of making Casita Ysabel as a place for wellness, Linda trained in British Columbia, Canada for Spa Directorship. Soon after, she opened Tre Earth Spa in her resort where guests can be pampered with treatments ranging from the basic Earth Relax, a relaxing one-hour massage using coconut virgin oil infused with lemongrass, to the more all-out Tre Signature Massage, which includes gentle brushing, a combination of the Earth Relax and Oriental Massage therapies, and a soothing herbal eye mask.
If one is up for adventure, and besides diving, there are other activities like island hopping and enjoying a nice lunch on a white sand cove in Maricaban Island, or taking an easy hike at Mt. Gulugod Baboy and appreciating a 360-degree view of sun, sea, and sand, including a glimpse of Taal Volcano.
Linda’s touch of creativity isn’t only visible in the interiors and architecture of the place. She has also concocted delectable vegetarian dishes, including banana heart fritters and gumamela tempura.
“Our menu is really healthy because we use the local vegetables and fresh catch from the ocean. We test and try menus using the available produce in town and from farmers in nearby barangays who bring in their produce from the highlands—papayas, squash, plantain bananas, and tuna are bountiful in our area. This is also our own way of supporting the livelihood of Mabini town.”
Nature indeed has a way of gently healing without one knowing it, says Linda. “Through the years of being in solitude, I actually rebuilt and found myself again. Happy, simple, and free to be myself again, just like everything around me at Casita Ysabel. Nature has brought me back to my core, my essence, my truest self.
“Technology today takes us away from all of these. Our best teacher is in the simplest of things and here in Casita Ysabel, we find our rest, peace, and happiness.”