If you're looking for a farm activity near Manila, why don't you head on over to the GK Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan? Here's a sample overnight itinerary that includes a mix of experiences involving white cheese, chocolates, eggs, plushies, farm animals, veggies, bamboo, locally produced products and many more. The Social Business Summit will be held there on October 2 to 4 if you're interested =)
Check out this description of what the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm is all about
and these maps for directions to the Enchanted Farm Cafe in Commonwealth
and the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan.
We arrived in 1.5 hours from Commonwealth in QC. There are parking spaces available inside.
We were showed to our rooms next - around 5 to 10 minutes up & down walk (recommend not to bring a trolley type bag here).
We passed by Ate here happily watering herbs and small plants.
Our rooms were located near the Pilipinas Shell Center
and our rooms were called Shell Villas (that hut beside the pool).
I believe these are the couple rooms (P1800 aircon per room, separate rooms per door).
We got the dorm-style ones (first hut) which can fit around 8 people.
You have to be choosy before you settle into the rooms.. Although this room had airconditioning, the door didn't close properly so the mosquitoes were able to get in.. I recommend to inspect the beds too for critters, cobwebs and droppings.. Bringing a face sheet or sarong and lots of insect repellant would be best if you stay here.
They said that you don't come here for a 5-star accommodation so.. Yeah, yun. I think you should make the most of the P600 (and up) per night per person by choosing the right room..
The CR/restroom is shared (outside the room). I found the far CR to the right of the duplex (second picture above) to be cleaner but still.. there's little or no light at all, most stalls have no toilet paper and no working flush, there are huge mosquitoes and swarms of insects, it's tabo style (showers with little water or not working so best way is to collect water in the pail) and there is no hot water available. Don't forget to ask about all of these things per accommodation type and location here.
Honestly, this was a major reason for my reluctance to stay overnight here again.. I had difficulty sleeping (my allergies and all the buzzing kept me awake). I was shivering from the ice cold shower. And I had a lot of big itchy bites (I was worried about getting dengue even when I came home).. I wrapped myself up and got big bites on my face next.. They should improve on the rooms (part of me thinks I was just unlucky and it was an invite so I shouldn't complain), do something about the mosquitoes and not let people stay in the ones that are not in good condition if they're promoting this as a tourist destination.. Just saying because my pictures can't say everything else..
Anyway, we met with Tito Tony Meloto next and he told us about his vision for the GK Enchanted Farm as the first village farm university in the world. This is the first of 25 sites like this envisioned for the Philippines. They are creating templates that are "doable, visible, quantifiable, sustainable and replicable" to show that this big dream can be done.
Just envision city people and foreigners coming to the Philippine countryside for the long term or their studies and part of their tuition sends under-privileged kids to be their schoolmates.
They're planning on a 2-year course for social entrepreneurship and a school where the primary language is English then French. Their goal is to create 500,000 social entrepreneurs and farmerpreneurs in 6 years (by 2016). They're currently working with 21 universities in France so there are a lot of interns (maybe in their gap year or obtaining PhDs) and they said that the French will most likely invest if there are French social entrepreneurs who have experienced the GK Farm. There's that thinking that Pinoys will want to see foreigners do something first with what Pinoys made (like if the place is swarmed with foreigners, it must spark some interest)... And so, some of the interns introduced themselves to us next at the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation. They consider the Philippines now as their home and help out at the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm like in bookings, tours, food and developing crops to value-added products based on their skills. You'll also see Pinoys who graduated from top universities, mostly Ateneo, working (some with their own social enterprise like Goldenduck) or volunteering here. Read my previous post on where to find these social entrepreneurs at the GK Enchanted Farm =) The beneficiaries of the GK Farm, the nanays and tatays, have also become volunteers now.
Our hut tours came next.
These are the houses of the Gawad Kalinga beneficiaries who are "partners" with the social enterpreneurs. And their children may just be included the generation who will be given the opportunity to be scholars of this inclusive farm village university envisioned by the Pinoys who started Gawad Kalinga. They have a social enterprise here called Agricool headed by Cherrie Atilano and their goal is to make agriculture cool, smart and sexy for the young. I'm sure some of the children of the beneficiaries have already recognized the value of the land and are on their way to becoming agri-preneurs with this effort. =) I would check that out in my next visit.
We stopped for these shy girls who were encouraged by Alvie to say hi and talk to us in English. I think though that they must be careful not to eliminate our native Filipino language completely in the planned university as this is part of our culture and heritage. We visited the huts of Plush N' Play and Goldenduck near this area.
We went to the Bamboo Palace next (read all about my post in this link). I highly recommend sunscreen, rubber shoes, water and umbrellas if you're doing the tour as there are a lot of open spaces and walking involved.
They have their own farm clinic here.
We passed by the Iasis Health and Wholeness Center. It's still being constructed but thy plan to offer wellness packages at 1/3 the price of current high-end spas now.
These bricks they use are pre-fabricated
We were given free time after this so we napped for a bit and Elvie and I went back to the Bamboo Palace for sunset (better view in the rooms near the pool according to our roomie). We spotted the villagers playing basketball from a distance and decided to pass there to go to the Grassroots Kitchen for dinner =)
We spotted Tita Lolit from the social enterprise Hamlet and we asked about their life here (and also where to find the halo-halo person we saw earlier haha). She said that when they built their houses, they didn't know if it will be awarded to them. She also used to work for a tycoon and had to start a new life back here due to personal reasons.
Some even have their own small businesses inside the farm like this halo-halo, the yummy ice candy or sari-sari store.
I've never heard of the term but apparently, according to a site I read, it's a Pinoy tradition (by the Philippine Military Academy) that symbolizes fraternity and equality.
A long table was set with banana leaves, rice and ulam (viand) and you eat standing. I just know it as eating using hands (the Pinoy way, no utensils) =)
One thing I noticed though during the boodle fight was that there was a lot of food left at the table after.. The kids and people only ate the meat and it's not as fun to eat anymore after they've finished as was our case.. Good thing there was a normal dinner part in another part of the restaurant.
It's very packed during meal hours and you get food with a meal coupon. There are several stalls selling other snacks and food as well.
This was one of my meals. I asked if everything was from the farm and it seems they still source the meats and other food from outside.
The ones from the farm though are in a corner you might not notice. It has the veggies, fruits and salad mix.
This little one was convincing the other one to let her have "her turn" in watering the plants haha.
They were carrying watering cans and walked under the heat (1.5 km away, around 20 to 30 minutes from the kitchen).
Ate is busy making the pots for lemongrass. Because it's tag-init (dry season), she said, they put it here. But if it's tag-ulan (rainy season), they plant it directly to the ground. Someone said that ever since they planted a lot of lemongrass and citronella in this place, the cobras have disappeared..
The children were running around and accomplishing tasks like feeding ducks kangkong and looking for golden eggs.
One kid remarked though that he will pay somebody to tell him where the golden eggs are.. LOL. Can you spot the difference between the city children and the locals in this picture though?
What was I doing in my moments at the farm? I was reconnecting with the land and nature, of course =) Sometimes, we need to be reminded that we have lost that connection. Just look at these mangoes..
I was also thinking about my experience and managing my expectations. I was just a bit sad that even if it's called the GK Enchanted Farm, the core business model is to build entrepreneurs and not farming.. But knowing that producing farmpreneurs is also in their vision, I guess it's still in there.. it's just not the primary focus =) Social entrepreneurs can also do a lot of good in this world. They said that the Enchanted Farm is the biggest social enterprise so the better the farm does, the better they are. There's so much potential and so much to do still but it's worth a short visit for now =) Here are the rates if you want to stay overnight. The GK Enchanted Farm day tour packages can be found in this link.
Overnight Itinerary at the GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan - a Farm Village University and a "Disneyland for Social Tourism"
Meeting Pinoy Social Entrepreneurs at the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Bulacan - a Silicon Valley for Social Entrepreneurship in the Philippines!
Farm near Manila Less Than 2 Hours Away - Activities at the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Bulacan! - Part 2 of 2
Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm - a Farm Village University, a Silicon Valley for Social Entrepreneurship, a Disneyland for Social Tourism
California Street, Pangi Angat Road,
Angat, Bulacan, Philippines
Open Tuesdays to Sundays 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Website, How to Get There, Activities, Accommodation and Fees
Step by Step Directions to the GK Farm
Step by Step Directions to the GK Farm