Here we were during our last day in Negros - looking out into the sunset. This first trip to Bacolod was very unusual because I went with ATI (the Agricultural Training Institute of the Philippine Department of Agriculture). Who knew that I would get to experience Negros Occidental (not just Bacolod) as a thriving province when it comes to organic agriculture? My previous thoughts of Bacolod (if I were to plan on my own) only consisted of food trips involving chicken inasals and pastries, as well as a shattered image of The Ruins. Who knew that I would get as far as Bago City (different from Baguio City)? I first heard of Bago City from a missionary friend while we were working on a project on water treatment several years ago... This daytrip to Bago City was one of my favorite parts - being welcomed into Mr. Catiempo's small organic farm, eating an unforgettable slice of homemade organic cassava cake and drinking their own brew of purple kamote juice. We have to make time for moments like this - embracing simple joys, slowing down and marvelling at how wonderful things unexpectedly turn out.
The feel I got off of Mr. Renato Catiempo's farm was very different from the past farms we've been to so far. I think part of it was because he's not a first-generation farmer. The farm is also run by father and son. His ancestors had been living off the soil and tilling the land before him and well, he (Mr. Renato Catiempo, the son) happened to convince his father to go back to original farming (organic and free from chemicals and pesticides). Mr. Renato Catiempo is a Gawad Saka Awardee of Negros Occidental and president of the Mailum Organic Village Association =)
I saw a long row of hollowed bamboo turned into plant trays with simple labels (a good idea and very easy to replicate) =) I noticed it since it doubles as a bar to hold on to while going up LOL.
His main produce is organic black and red rice. I've never been to an organic rice farm before (those we went to were mostly into high-valued veggies) and I guess I associate planting rice with the majority of the struggling farmers in the country. It is a staple food in the Philippines and you can just imagine the impact if all of us has access to affordable and healthy organic rice in the table to eat every single day. On the producer side today, organic rice (harvested twice a year) sells at a much higher price than non-organic rice in the market. With more education and training, this could potentially turn them from farmers into successful and self-reliant agri-preneurs.
There's nothing too fancy (as in elaborate equipment and stuff) that caught my eye. What I noticed though were recycling ideas. =D
Mr. Catiempo makes these natural concoctions himself. I guess when you turn organic, you turn into a scientist - mixing this and that (source from what is around him) in your own makeshift lab haha. He says a gallon of his concoction is for 6 hectares of palayan already.
He took us to an overlooking point in the farm and pointed out that most of the farmers here plant rice as you can see. He was one of the first ones to convert to organic farming. It took some time and hard work - his farm was in transition from 2008 to 2010 (became fully organic).
With this view and his cause, he can expand to eco-tourism - maybe add a structure here to accommodate homestayers or guests. Right? =D When I looked down from the plane to Bacolod, I saw the same beautiful green flatland.
More plant container ideas... =D
And finally, there's the yummy homemade cassava suman treat (left)! It's moist and sticky mmm... They grind the cassava, squeeze it ("pigain") then they put sugar and gata. I asked if it was easy to do and they gave me a warning about the kamote and cyanide poisoning if I don't do it right... O_O I guess I'll have to leave it to the experts or do a lot more research than just picking it up and grinding it LOL. Or (Or!!!) I can just come back! Hahaha. To the right was giniling na mais na puti (white corn), pritong coconut and sugar ;) They told me one of these is called Baye-Baye or local espasol. I was lost to my own thoughts and mixed my notes haha.
This purple kamote brew is like the one they sell in Bayani Brew but so much better haha. I've tried to make on my own at home haha. Here's the rough recipe: Boil talbos ng camote, add sugar and calamansi when it's cooled; 2 kgs calamansi, 1/4 - 3/4 kg mascuvado sugar, 10 liters water.
When we got back to our rooms at May's Organic Garden, we walked for a while and got to this place near the beach to watch the sunset.
Ay, what a trip... I should schedule another trip to Bacolod slash Negros haha. I'm knocking on your doors, People! Locals have a lot of these moments and "normal" food in the provinces and it might turn out to be super special like my moment back there. That's why it's super fun to have a local experience in our journeys and to be with people like from ATI! They have lots of information and we only have to ask hihi. Until the next foodie/organic/farm/guiltless journey! =D
Mr. Renato Catiempo
Bago City, Negros Occidental
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).