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Last item on our bucket list

Our three-hectare farm, which my husband and I have loved with a passion and enjoyed since 1995, has now shrunk to 1.2 hectares. How so? At 86, it’s about time that what we may want to continue after us, can do so with the least burden on our children.

This farm has been evolving all these years with episodes of planning and neglect, with patches of wilderness depending on the seasons, with something always in need of repair in parts of the fence or the house, with the decay and death of plants and their amazing display of rejuvenation and proliferation.

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By free use of a duplex for a health center and a day care, by donation of a part of the land for a junior high, and by sale of lots to a batch of young couples for their first homes, we are now left with a 1.2-hectare farm, 12,780 square meters to be exact.

You call 1.2 hectares a farm? Yes, we do. Believe it or not, this farm has: a “plaza” to meet you, a miniforest, space for a flower-and-shrubs garden and an herbal and vegetable garden, a small coconut grove and a rice field. Maybe now this little farm can get into better shape—but not “manicured,” which strikes me as an artificial word for farm and garden. Shall we call it “Big-Little Farm,” “Little-Big Farm” or “Munting Bukid”? I like the last—Filipino and evocative of my rare, bucolic childhood memories and the seeding of a bond with the land.

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The Plaza de la Virgen is an open space presided over by a Lourdes grotto built by my mother decades ago, before which every activity in the farm has begun and ended. Beside it is an open Community Center for the 100-kid Christmas Party or medical missions now discontinued due to our waning energy. Right now, the center is a temporary classroom, in keeping, I guess, with our country’s “classroom under the mango tree.”

The grotto needs refurbishing; the area needs clearing; the center needs some walls. I fancy a life-size carabao or tamaraw with a heron on its back; and for sheer whimsy which my husband calls “crazy,” a bigger-than-life giraffe—statues for sale along the highway.

Walk in to the ample parking space. Right before you is our square rest house, all of 95 sqm, which strikes our friends as more spacious than it is. That’s because it has no divisions except for the bedroom and a buffet divider, and low sills for glass windows all around that bring the outside in—day and night. Step out the bedroom at dawn and watch the sun rise against the fields.

Least planned, the miniforest “grew by itself,” with trees from friends planted randomly as they came, wherever there was space, serendipitously converging in one area. Six majestic acacia trees lord it here and elsewhere in the farm. Between coconut trees surviving age and lightning are: star apple, sampalok, palm varieties, guava, neem tree, chico, the old giant variety of bamboo said to house snakes, mangosteen, banaba, bauhinia, mulberry, etc. At shedding time, the “forest” floor is covered with leaves.

Planted along boundaries were eucalyptus and mahogany poised to meet the elements. But down went two towering eucalyptus and sturdy mahoganies when Typhoon “Glenda” blew in and barreled through in 2014. Their remains still lie, on their sides or yanked off their roots. But some trunks have sprouted anew, one to as many as four trees, now standing like sentinels where the tree fell!

A few steps away is “Loladec” (the deck of Lola), its first floor open, where we raise our feet, eat and chat. Before us lies a 1,000-plus-square-meter oval space shielded from sight by border trees, perfect for my flower-and-shrubs garden for a burst of color. So far, this vision lies only in my imagination. So does the herbal and veggies garden set to be cultivated beside it.

We’ve left a stretch of coconut trees—originally rice field and coco land in my grandfather’s time—without any plants-in-between; for the memory, and for clear spaces. Hugging two sides of the farm is the rice field; as a buffer, a son says, against “progress,” and to ensure that wind and air come flowing in unhampered.

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I am waiting for flowers, the great beauties of earth; and herbs and vegetables, the great healers; to bloom. Actually LIVING in this little farm would be a super bonus to this last item of our bucket list.

Asuncion David Maramba, 86, is a retired professor and book editor; columnist since 1984 and contributor to the Inquirer since 1992.

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TAGS: farmss, Lourdes Grotto, Plaza de la Virgen
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