The youngest and most dynamic would have to be former senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, now doing a Francis of Assisi (i.e., going back to plants and animals, short of talking to them). His Sweet Spring Country Farm (SCF, Sharon Cuneta Farm, of course) rises 1,300 feet above sea level in the cool, windy and hilly upland of Alfonso, Cavite (Flores, Philippine Star, 5/19/13).
Learning fast, he knows his animal breeds, his vegetables and herbs, plastic-covered plants like young cacao, basil, tanglad, and tarragon. No doubt he has begun to realize the boon and bane of the vagaries of weather, the buffeting habagat (west winds from June to November or thereabouts) and the milder amihan (east winds from December to May or thereabouts). He knows how long he must wait to start earning.
His farmhouse is built of “coconut lumber, bamboo, coconut leaves and covered with fishing net for protection and to make it last longer.” Ah, the beauty of going native. But, alas, except for coco lumber, they don’t last. Take it from us oldies. We started the same way but we had to shift to concrete posts, to GI sheets, to plywood from sawali.
We envy you for “native pigs, free-range chickens, rabbits and carabaos” that roam your farm. We learned the hard way. We raised ducks, with a duck house, a huge vat for mixing feeds, a motorized banca to get gasang (duck feed) from Laguna Bay. We lost money and the ducks from sickness, death and the usual pilfering. Our motto now: “If you’re going to raise animals, be there or forget it.” But you “live” in your farm? That makes the difference.
With Kiko’s hands-on farming, he can all the better apply his experiences as chair of the Senate committee on agriculture. What a waste if his familiarity with the matter goes unused—the data on farming, agricultural lands, irrigation, markets, single- or multi-cropping, income, undereducation and neglect of farmers (and fishermen), crop insurance, subsidies, etc. The senator will continue “Kumilos kasama si Kiko.” Already he envisions a demo farm or a field school for farmers, it is reported. Godspeed.
The most scenic farm has to be that owned by Minyong Ordoñez. Nestled in Majayjay, Laguna, “a quaint, old town with a big, old church, winding roads and lush rain forests all around,” his farm boasts of commanding views. His backyard “has the high and mighty presence of Mt. Banahaw looming like the abode of the gods. All around are giant trees, bamboo groves and terraced rice fields at the foot of the mountain…. On the right side, a natural barrier made of a steep ravine thick with trees, jungle greens and vines.” Hear nature sounds of wind and breeze, bubbling brooks, chirping birds, cicadas “at dusk” and cock’s crow “at dawn” (Inquirer, 5/12/13).
In such a Shangri-La, Minyong grew an orchard of rambutan and lanzones. In 2009 the full fury of Typhoon “Reming” swooped down on his fruit trees. What to do to recover? Undaunted, he converted his farmhouse on a promontory into a bed-and-breakfast enterprise, a touristic offering that is becoming a rest-and-recreation habit of locals, balikbayan pining for provincial air, and foreigners as well.
A few minutes away, still part of green Laguna’s mountain towns is Liliw, where visitors can buy their year’s supply of slippers, step-ins and pasalubong. “Perfect getaway?” That must be Minyong’s bed-and-breakfast.
Sta. Cruz, where our 3-hectare farm lies, is one of the lake towns embracing Laguna Bay. Half of the farm is planted to rice, half to coconuts, from which we get all of P18,000 a year (yes, a year).
Friends have gifted us with trees. Cousin Pops gave us several mahoganies that have replaced coconut trees that died of old age or lightning bolt, tinamaan ng kidlat, and two bamboo trees (not the slender ornamentals but the old variety that sprouts to “thick” proportions). Friend Star gave us six narras sure to rise majestic over the other trees; Mari, a mulberry tree; Raquel, sampaloc; Fil, a curry tree.
My husband and I have invited relatives from both of our families, several groups of friends from Merville, and priest-friends; also my husband’s PLDT audit department before retirement, his Finex business education committee, the working group of De La Salle 1949-1953 and their wives and partners; my Women+ group, high school classmates from Maryknoll, college and board mates from St. Theresa’s College Manila, writers of books I conceptualized and edited; as well as friends of my youth who all share fond memories of the old hometown.
We offer only one menu for lunch: chicken kinulob, over which the guests always rave; inihaw na tilapia with garnishes of tomatoes, calamansi, patis labo, paho or manggang hilaw; vegetables, maja and buko. No soft drinks ever.
Nothing fancy, no TV, no radio, no air-conditioning. It’s a lazy day we offer, just chatting (an easygoing pleasure) while munching boiled peanuts or corn, and breathing in the fresh air (“Can we bottle your air?”). From the porch, there’s a view of rice fields straight to Laguna Bay, with Talim island dimly rising beyond.
In our own ways, we three are upbeat as surely as the same sun rises in spellbinding ways in each of our farms. I watch the dawn break in ours and I know we enjoy our 3-hectare farm as much as those with 30 hectares or 300.
Asuncion David Maramba, 80, is a retired professor, book editor and occasional journalist. Comments to marda_ph @yahoo.com, fax 8284454.