When I see so many wonderful things over and over, I can't help but think , "What if I was exposed to nature earlier in life, instead of just reading about it in school books?" Or maybe I had just forgotten my childhood days... Now that I think about it - I used to enjoy smelling the champaca in the garden in our old house, sucking on that sweet dew at the center of a small red flower, checking out the calamansi tree regularly beside the mini pond, eating star apples freshly hooked using a pole and waiting for Indian mangoes to bear fruit from our big tree... This place at the heart of Malaybalay in Bukidnon surprisingly brought back these memories when I got to meet a lady more than half my age (younger) named Jayashree Bayag in her secret organic garden in the city, where almost a bit of a lot of things grow =)
There are no signs pointing to the garden location outside to keep the "secret" vibe. But Jaya is very responsive in Facebook. ;)
Gardens are important for some people. Some have one in their backyards for solace and healing, aside from an affinity for growing plants and flowers. Jaya's Garden is an interesting case for me - I saw a father educating and passing on knowledge to his daughter and vice versa, as well as a family bonding opportunity. It was very generous for them to open up a usually private affair, this small but bountiful family farm, for the public.
They led us to their former bodega for our briefing. Eventually, the family has hopes of turning this into a multi-storey structure for health and wellness with accommodations, dining area and lecture hall. For now, I was happy I got to go there and experience the convertible covered open area using light wooden materials and the patriarch's prized self-portrait with his daughter.
These flowers, they said, enhance memory, benefits hair growth, helps resolve fertility issues in women and has many other health benefits, and so they put it in with water and uncooked rice to make...
Blue Rice! We ate this along with other indigenous plants and harvest found in their garden like tawong (looks like squash, tastes bitter) for lunch ;)
Jaya's father, Mr. Junah Bayag welcomed us in his home. He seems super proud that this former garbage area lot has now been transformed into an organic diversified pocket garden. He's a teacher of physical education and music, and does landscaping services on the side ;) The plans to incorporate a spa wellness and fitness center in here is very aligned with their family interests and advocacies.
Did you know that I love going to both big and small farms partly due to the food, way of eating and unusual ingredient mixing I discover? Haha.
We also had this green drink - tasted familiar but with a secret ingredient that Jaya didn't divulge hehehe. You have to go all the way there to taste it so to speak hahaha.
And this ingenious combination of powdered orange juice and chili peppers! The red chili (I think they call it kabay) can easily be found but they added that greenish Carolina Reaper, considered the the hottest pepper in the world. They have these in their farm and has a proper way of handling (see more below).
Jaya was the one who did the farm visit tour. This teen is already earning from conducting tours, speaking engagements, aside from her farm projects ;) You can see the whole farm tour area more or less in the balcony.
I stalked their page a little before coming here hehe and discovered that they have a little bit of everything like casoy, sugarcane, langka, chili, ternatea and many more, even strawberries and grapes! When the father-and-daughter team started talking, they mentioned that this is good for family consumption like a tree of rambutan, a tree of mangosteen and a whole lot more. =) What would you do with so many trees of one type if it's just for us and the family, right?
You'll have to go all the way down (not that far though) for the restrooms next to the sleeping quarters =)
They just let things grow and sometimes, unidentifiable plants sprout in their garden waiting to be identified with help from other guests =)
Imagine this as your child's playground. Even as young as 10, Jaya preferred tending to the garden and feeding ducks. She became the youngest resource person in a Regional 4-H Club Youth Camp.
Perhaps she can enlighten you herself with her Lettuce Production project if you're interested in that =) She's still a bit shy so she needs to practice Filipino and English with more guests haha.
There's a monkey here somewhere so I steered clear. This is a future development site for their garden.
Ask them which trees are which when you're there and you'd be surprised with the variety! Hehe. They also have ducks, native frogs bakbak, chicken, goat, kayumang crab and leeches haha.
This is their compost area. One thing that Mr. Junah said that I liked was when he said that they focus not so much on "pinapaganda ang tanim" but on the beneficial microorganisms. They get waste like peelings and eggshells from the plaza and school, mix them with EMF, put water and use it to water the plants.
Since they are all for diversification, the chicken, ducks, goat and vermi are using this area if I'm not mistaken.
You can feed the goats and fish with arachis pintoi (pronounced arakis pintoy) or mani-mani as feeds like duckweed.
So they used discarded tires at 2 meters high for erosion control and rehabilitated this area. This area is like a pond now for the ducks.
This dirty kitchen is placed in this location for a reason. The smoke it produces helps their whole place in some way.
Another notable planting concept is to line your pond this way! This is the only garden farm I've seen it so far. Just link together empty plastic bottles like so. Put a square hole and leave the drinking top open.
Get water from the pond filled with fish fed with duckweed or the mani-mani that you have near so the water becomes more fertile. Use that water for the plants in the containers and the great thing is that you have healthy soil in those containers and the excess rich water flows back through the mouth of the container on its own!
You'll never guess that there are African nightcrawlers under here haha. They said that their worms multiplied a lot from just a hand full so they put the others here for the chickens. They created a "free range area" and the chicken has the worms as a prize so the natural environment for them is recreated. Magbungkal sila ng vermi - sounds sosyal haha. And he gets vermi from this setup also if he still needs it!
They have eggplants growing here too, so easy to fall into the other chili bushes if you lean in too close haha.
Here's the Carolina Reaper. At first touch, they said, you still can't feel it but overnight, the heat will get to you and it stings pretty bad. They only put one in that big orange juice jar and it was super spicy good already.
Last but not the least, one of the best asparagus dish I've tasted was from this garden. And he said this particular branch was already overgrown! He sent the side shoots to the kitchen and I think they just added olive oil and garlic.
Here are other plant container ideas. Oh and his ratio mix for the garden is 2 kg carbonized rice hull + 1 kg soil + 1 kg vermicast if you're interested ;)
I'd like to guess why they brought us here. It's very inspiring to see someone younger than you do it and it shows you a possible future if your children were to grow up in this environment. The children are encouraged to plant and the parents support them until they can be self-sufficient. Immerse yourself in this in thinking and doing and your future is almost certain. If not, then at least you found something to do aside from work that you will probably enjoy doing for the rest of your life. This is also a glimpse into how we can utilise social media responsibly to pursue, continue and inspire other people from Mindanao to Manila based on our common interest to live in a better world. In her page, I saw a post that says "Growing your own food is like printing your own money." I wonder how many people Jaya's met and the trainings she's attended... There are also probably many secret gardens out there left to discover... ;)
Comisio Street, Brgy 1,
Malaybalay, Bukidnon, Philippines
To visit the different ATI-assisted projects (Organic Farming Learning Sites), you can drop by or ask the ATI Regional Training Center nearest you or inquire through:
982AGRI (982-2474) for Metro Manila calls
1-800-10-982AGRI (1-800-10-9822474) for provincial toll-free calls using PLDT landlines
For Smart and Talk & Text Subscribers, send a message to 391-DA (391-32).
For non-Smart Subscribers, send a message to 0920-946AGRI (0920-9462474).
Visit 10 Year Old (Jayashree Bayag) Jaya's Secret Garden and Learn More about the 4-H Club in Malaybalay, Bukidnon!