It’s been a while since I left this blog on a hiatus that it needs a lift and so, here we are bouncing back again to life with our farm adventure.
It was already late in the afternoon when Dennis and I get into the Victory Liner bus bound to Iba, Zambales. It was a 4 – hour trip from Caloocan Bus Terminal and the moment we reached Castillejos Market, it was already dark. Kuya Mario, a therapist who was staying and learning from Mr. Esemple, fetched us.
At less than 30 minute-tricycle ride, we were already in the farm. Paving our way in the gleam of the farm house’ lights, farm dogs barked at us but stopped soon after Kuya Mario asked them to. So, we found ourselves inside the house shaking hands with Mario’s wife who would give me an excellent massage later, and Mr. Esemple’s nephew who was just a new trainee under his supervision. After our simple dinner of fried fish, they showed us the room where Dennis and I can have our night’s rest.
The next morning, Mr. Esemple who also came a night before and a few hours later than us, waste no time with his gardening routine and showed us around. As lively music filled the air around his farm and having traveled alone from Caloocan, he showed no signs of lethargy. At almost 67, Mr Esemple still tills the soil and hauls his crops. Whenever he is in the farm, he feels rejuvenated. For him, this place is a refuge from the hustle and bustle of the city life.
The gate’s sign were unnoticed the night we arrived at the farm as it was just too dark to notice it. Finally, this is it…
Something peculiar about it because the Filipino word PERA means money but Mr. Esemple told us that PERA is like his hidden treasure and it’s not all about money. The primary purpose of his farm is for relaxation and rejuvenation as it provides him positive energy, thus the name PERA which obviously stands for Positive Energy Recharging Area – a genius idea.
Related: The Unlikely Educational Farm Tour
He would always give credit to his Creator for whatever he has in his farm and his family as he quipped, “Health is Wealth”; and when we also once asked him if he doesn’t grow tired every time he travels back and forth from Caloocan to Zambales, his quick answer was, “Ah kay God, hindi ka malo-lowbatt!” (“With God You can never be low batt’ or “With God, you won’t run out of energy”).
Around the Farm
Moving around the farm, Mr. Esemple showed us his herbal garden. He introduced to us his several medicinal plants and their health benefits. I saw cat’s whiskers, potted Gotu kola (Centella asiatica), and Serpentina among others.
I spotted a lush growing Holy Basil also flowering in his mini forest garden. This herb can cure many ailments and in India it is sacred and is considered as an elixir of life.
Mr. Esemple surprised me when he asked me to cook a veggie dish and he said that it’s really good if we can have at least ten varieties of vegetables picked right from his food farm. I said okay but was nervous. When was the last time I cooked veggies of several varieties? I couldn’t remember any. No choice but to try and off we go for a day’s harvest. He handed me a pair of scissors and a huge and round blue plastic food cover to place all our day’s pickings.
I started my way with Jango and siling labuyo, picked some eggplants, chives, talinum, sweet potatoe tops, white corn, upland kangkong, ampalaya, malunggay, saluyot, and lemon grass.
Here’s some of our harvest tucked inside this deep stainless basin. I have had a picking spree of the veggies I could find around the farm and it totalled to more than ten varieties!
These veggies were to go with some mushrooms, and some fresh fish from a nearby market we went to that morning after the lecture with the man of the farm.
Here’s the final verdict. The vegetables and its soup tasted good without any seasonings of some sort. Mushrooms and glutinous corn kernels did the trick for this fresh and nutritious mixed veggie dish. This is commonly known as “Laswa” – a simple Visayan dish without the corn and lemon grass. Thanks to Mario’s wife who did most of the preparation and the cooking.
Learning More about Organic Farming with Mr. Esemple
We also have a quick overview of What Organic Agriculture is all about, the Organic farming practices, the components of an organic farm, and about the nature and varieties of seeds and how to sow them.
There’s one thing I am not sure of when he asked our opinion about peanuts whether it is a fruit or a root crop. Thinking that root crops are always an underground specie, I thought it as a root crop. I was wrong. It’s a fruit and I got to believe him, he is an Agronomist after all. Another new thing for me is about how the corn flowers pollinate the corn’s ears and how are they different from other flowers.
Farming with Vermi
After a short lecture and some hands on demo about some plants, Mr. Esemple showed us his vermi plots and the lecture continued with some fun. We learned from him that he was the first to spearhead Negros Nine Foundation’s Farm on Vermiculture in year 80’s.
He showed us how to sieve the vermicastings once it’s ready. Another tip to start a vermiculture project is to get all your feeds or what we call substrates ready for composting, that way, you can ensure enough food for the worms otherwise, worms will escape leaving your vermi bed empty.
After spending a night and a day at Mr. Esemple’s farm, we felt like not leaving the place for its fresh air, the relaxing atmosphere and the refreshing scenery of the mountains seen not far from the farm’s back door. What also seemed not enough for me, as I considered him as a think-tank of farming info, was the knowledge that he would be more than willing to impart to us had we not need to go back to our own turf back in the city.
I said this because there’s a lot more to learn from him like how to plant crops like corn that would provide your family with food the whole year round. The actual exposure in doing the relay and staggering method in planting corn is what I’d been looking forward to try later on. I am grateful though we learned new things about farming practices and that inspired me again to grow my own food whenever and wherever possible.
We left the place in the afternoon and it seemed our stay was not enough to explore more around the farm with Mr. Esemple who never had a dull moment to be with and to learn from.
Related: Q&A with Gil Carandang
Get a chance to learn from Mr. Esemple during the Grow Your Own Food Seminar on December 5, 2015, Saturday. Please click the image below for details. We hope to see you there. Thank you!