Forest Wood Garden Farm Tour and Rambutan Picking in San Pablo Laguna!

J and I spent 3 days last year to go a short tour of Quezon and San Pablo, Laguna. The highlights include him driving to Villa Escudero (because I wanted him to experience my childhood memory of the place) then to Sulyap Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in an old restored house with a fun historical museum and Casa San Pablo which had a very romantic ambiance for dinner. We wanted to go to the Forest City Restaurant for their mushroom specialties but it was already time to go home and they were fully booked! This time around, with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), I got to experience the other and original Forest Wood Garden first (the Frago family farm) in a whole new different level (not just sitting down and eating) by go hiking in their forest and pick my first rambutan!! Haha.

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We arrived at Forest Wood Garden at 2pm, our last trip for this CALABARZON trip with the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), around 40 minutes away from MoCa Farm. We were welcomed by the owners Mr. Joselito "Joel" and Mrs. Myrna Frago and were ushered into the Bahay na Niyog Hall.

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The hall is literally covered with coco net and different coconut made ant figurines and decorations. Mrs. Frago is a landscape designer and has a very creative disposition when it comes to recycling items to be made into something different and useful throughout the farm. One of their earlier projects, the Bahay na Bunot, unfortunately, you can no longer see.

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Mr. Frago, on the other hand, is the creative one when it comes to cooking in Forest Wood. He thought of the Pansit Kalabuko or "pansit para sa love ko" for his beloved. I believe there are some buko, pumpkin, taro noodles, fresh greens such as kangkong and malunggay, innards of chicken, mushroom, papaya, maya maya eggs, chicharong dagat in there and many more =)

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They are also fond of using heritage recipes and the olden day iron for the gooey Plantsadong Laman Lupa made of root crops in Forest Wood. They continuously innovate new farm-to-table dishes like the Kabutido or mushroom embutido and Tinaktak na Longganisa cooked in bamboo.

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With merienda, he told us about their humble beginning in farming and tourism. He was a former OFW husband who came home to farm. He had zero knowhow and sought the help of ATI (which is an arm of the Department of Agriculture that brought us here) to go back to the basics and develop his organic farm and accredited learning site in 2013. Along came Forest Wood's tourism accreditation in 2015 where they learned to market their farm, had many features, continued innovation and the rest is history.

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I came at the right time because it's rambutan season! See the red fruits hanging there? They also have lanzones, which typically is sour and turns sweet in 2 to 3 days from picking.

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They also have fermented lipote here for sale.

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Like me, you can go here (around September for rambutan) and pick some organic fruits and veggies. For rambutan, you can eat all you want in the farm but pay for the rest to take home. They have lanzones, passion fruit, durian, bananas, star apple, coconut and mushroom so just ask them which ones are available.

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I love how they give back the plants where they came from like the coconut shells and plant talinum and langkwas (galanggal) in there.

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They have kamoteng baging planted here, yellow yam

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and even jalapeno! Their farm sure looks like a forest and somehow, it works to plant veggies where there is sunlight and just around the already existing trees (don't cut them down) in the 5-hectare land they bought. They plant root crops under the trees also.

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These tiny chickens can actually go out for insects

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and their bees are housed in these overturned pots and give them honey which they harvest every 6 months.

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This is their compost

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while this is their improvised chicken feeder. The chickens are given a talinum, bignay and lipote mix.

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This is their rain water catching basins.

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There is a vermi bed under their chickens. They feed the chickens coconut also!

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They have this big fake snake also to deter cats and rats I think. Az fell for it too. Haha.

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Their next project in the farm is this organic bamboo tunnel that is being readied for blue ternate vines. It will be a great photo spot for visitors in the near future. They have about 20 varieties of bamboo and coconut here so they have LOTS of supply and raw materials to build anything!

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As we went further with our makeshift bamboo pansungkit, the ground was just covered with green all around and they just let everything grow like in a forest. It also helps lower the temperature of the area this way.


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There are real dangers like snakes so ask for a guide before you go into the wilderness at Forest Wood Garden ;) Do not stand under a coconut tree also for too long unless you want the fruit to hit your head.

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We passed by their pumpkin patch!

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Do you see it? Hehe.

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The pigs and chickens also help in farming as they feed on the grass and help clear the land they said.

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They made this beautiful black bamboo stair path that leads to the rambutan trees! There are over 500 lanzones and rambutan trees planted here and 300 are already fully yielding.

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This is a great result of horticulture, agriculture and art for me. Just imagine hiking up and down but with a mix of natural and practical use of forest products. You can also design around without destroying the natural.

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We were protected from the light drizzle with the tall trees with lush leaves in this forest. Good thing I was wearing my Aigle boots so the mud, stones and insects didn't get to me! Everything was just right for this mini "hike".

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Alas, we found the 3 varieties of rambutan, of which the red violet was sweetest but you have to wait long before it ripens. I didn't get the other one but they have R5 and Rong Rian varieties here. The green one was already edible and it helps to know the variety and ask when you see them in the market to know which one is ready to eat. Did you know that there is an easier way to open rambutan? Look for the white line and pop open from there according to Mr. Frago ;)

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There are banana and coconut trees scattered as well.

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It took us around 20 minutes to get there but I think it was worth it... Just borrow another person's long panungkit when you get there because it was too heavy for me! Hahaha.

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Plucking the rambutans by hand is easy

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thanks to Kuya Renee holding the tree trunk down for me haha.

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Apparently, there's an easier route to get there! Hmph! But it was worth it! Dinner was waiting for us.

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I loved this ube dessert placed inside the bamboo. Reminds me to have fun, be happy and that it's alright to play with my food.

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The younger offspring of the Fragos Hanna is now into plate food art and sustainable fashion.

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What an example you have set at Forest Wood Garden for the generations to come, Frago Family. Thank you so much for the 4-hour memory and sharing your homey forest with us =) Farm the bottom of my heart.

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For more info on the sites we visited and if you're interested in Philippine agriculture, farm visits and organic farming, check out the ATIE-Extension and Department of Agriculture websites. 

For their Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, you can check out @atiinteractive. 

ATI also has a list of all accredited farms that are Learning Sites (LS), Extension Service Providers (ESP) and Schools for Practical Agriculture (SPA). Click here. These are the hotlines of ATI Main if you want to be in touch and ask for the farm contacts - 0920-9462474 or 929-8541 (government office hours). It is better to call their regional offices (info available at the ATI website) also as they are the ones coordinating with the farmers. 

Details:
Forest Wood Garden Farm in San Pablo, Laguna
Accredited DA-ATI Region 4A Learning Site, DOT Accredited Agri-Tourism Farm
Barangay Sta Elena, San Pablo City
forestwoodgarden@yahoo.com
(0939) 9387131

ATI Calabarzon Region Facebook
8575 Camerino St. Brgy Lapidario, Trece Martires City, Cavite
atirtc4a@gmail.com
(046) 4190210
Website

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