06.07.2012, Frugal Friday, 10:47
Imagine my delight upon hearing about Unilab Ideas Positive‘s generous offer to include 5 Facebook fans in their 3-day social marketing bootcamp that includes an immersion in a Gawad Kalinga farm. I was initially hesistant, knowing I can’t go on leaves in the office during the typically toxic quarter-end and I already said yes to attend the sportsfest aftermath in our Church’s youth ministry that Saturday evening. In spite of this resignation that I won’t make it anyway, I still posted a comment. Guess what I found out during Day 1 of this bootcamp while I’m slaving away in the office?
The following day happens to be the immersion day in Enchanted Farm in Bulacan. As a Human Heart Nature dealer myself who’s always unavailable when they offer visits to the farm, I was immensely grateful for this chance. It happens to be the first, soon there’ll be Enchanted Farms in Bacolod, Palawan, Camarines Sur, Samar and Butuan.
Kuya Billy (I know I’m older than him, but everyone’s calling him Kuya eh!) from GK’s Center for Social Innovation (CSI) told us that they envision to make poverty in the Philippines end in 2024. To be specific, this involves businesses with strong ethics (fair to the employees, suppliers and customers). GK is renowned for building homes for our less fortunate fellowmen. Now that their beneficiaries had earned their dignity, GK is currently on phase 2 of their vision: providing them sources of income by farming and other forms of involvement in the social enterprises they support. After all, it’s never enough to supply a man with fish; they have to teach them how to fish. GK is all about sustainable living.
The most disturbing part of his talk? When he divulged that we have 12 million hectares of unproductive land. “Kalokohan lang na mahirap ang Pilipinas!” he added. It’s sad that most of our farmers are tired of tilling our land, that they dream of white-collar jobs. What will happen to us in the near future?
Also, I learned that they hosts GK CSI Nights where aspiring social entrepreneurs may meet up and discuss their plans weekly. They are very eager to hear our thoughts. Follow @GKcsiNight for announcements. Perhaps sitting in with the most brilliant young minds in the nation can light up my own bulb.
Kuya Miggy (again, younger than I am) gave up the corporate world after a year of satisfactory salary yet disheartening role of breaking the bad news to employees (lay-offs, reduced benefits and compensation, etc). With his talent in training people, he created modules for GK and never looked back eversince. He was our group’s tour guide.
When Kuya Miggy took us to the organic and astoundingly silent piggery, we got to meet Cherri Atilano, an agriculturist and one of the Ten Oustanding Students of the Philippines 2007 awardee. She was a portrait of pride for how behaved her vegetarian pigs were, then a portrait of sadness in recounting that morning’s slaughtering episode. She can get too attached, she disclosed. That possibly explains why she had no second thoughts in postponing her Fulbright scholarship for the sake of the people in the farm. Converting former construction workers, former NPA and other residents and their children in GK into farmers, according to her, is already the hands-on education that she needed, something worthy of postgraduate studies in itself.
Enchanted Farm’s elaborate plan includes vegetable farm, goat and duck farms, cabanas, bed and breakfast (renting a 2-floor, airconditioned hut amounts to P4,000/per night for 16 people), softball field, floating restaurant, lemongrass maze for kids and others. I’m truly grateful to set my foot in this promising earth even before it all comes into fruition. Let me show you how green, lovely and amazing this place is!
You guessed it right. This future event venue is made of multitude of mighty bamboos! Being on second floor provided us 360 degree view of the 14-hectare “dreamland”. The wind was so soothing that all insomniacs like me need is a hammock to call it siesta time. Kuya Miggy kept on asking who has plans to tie the knot this year as the Bamboo Place is expected to be completed by fourth quarter. Since most bootcampers are college students, the organizers themselves threw one another a knowing look. I got my fair share of “Uuuy, Ate Lorna!” from a fellow Facebook winner and, well, I must admit that this looks a romantic place to unite lovers and introduce families and friends.
Aaaand speaking of heart, I’ve been a believer of their all-natural products since 2009. Aside from getting my money’s worth for their high-quality products, I know that I’m helping our own farmers prosper. For their huge heart for nature, for our poor fellowmen and our loved ones, Human Heart Nature has my support and loyalty for the years to come.
By the way, HHN’s main office in Commonwealth stands next to the Enchanted Farm Cafe that carries other all-natural goodies like Golden Eggs (salted duck eggs dyed with turmeric instead of the carcinogenic red paint we’re accustomed to), Enchantea (my favorite lemongrass-based brewed drink that was initially available in HHN-Cavite only), Cafe de Sug, Theo and Philo artisan chocolates (try the dark chocolate with siling labuyo!), among others. GK’s restaurant, where we all huddled to listen to our hosts and speakers, also served as a showroom for their chemical-free products.
And the main event (at least for me) was the very inspiring message from the passionate founder himself, Tito Tony Meloto. According to Kuya Miggy earlier that day, Tito Tony immersed himself in the poor, notorious communities in Manila to dialogue with them about his vision for our rich country. He never faltered until he managed to convert them into God-fearing, patriotic citizens. Now he’s been catching flights to accept accolades left and right and I felt – and I still feel – so blessed to be sharing the oxygen with him that afternoon.
Pinoys are mere jobseekers abroad but not wealth-makers back home, he started. So who else can create wealth for this nation? He pointed out that, according to recent researches, we’ve obtained highest economic growth in Asia, next to China. The entire world is aware of the West’s downfall and, yes, we ARE one of the tiger economies in the near future. The problem is, while these foreigners are going HERE to anticipate the economic turnaround, we Pinoys are still dreaming of greener pastures ELSEWHERE. Let’s not be the last to realize we can augment our lives. Any excuses won’t do because Tito Tony himself came from a poverty-stricken past. According to him, we must take advantage of the honest government that we currently have. The entire world is aware of it and they’e willing to join us because of it.
It didn’t take the entire speech for me to realize that he was speaking to me. I know I’ve mentioned in so many old blog entries before that I have no plans of leaving but the recent family issues had been making me rethink. That probably deserves a separate blog entry.
Sometimes, it really takes a complete stranger and/or new scenery for us to realize where we’re supposed to be headed. Thank you, Unilab, for this unbelievable chance to experience all this.
Before I conclude this entry, allow me to share this Enchanted Farm map lifted from this article so you could imagine how this 14-hectare haven will look like in the future. I know I’m too scatterbrained to describe it all. Sorry naman.
Photos from Jamie Ann del Mundo.Kodak moment with Tito Tony Meloto lifted from Anne Apostol‘s Facebook timeline.Congratulations! photo lifted from Ideas Positive’s fanpage, highlight effect by Winifred Layug.