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My Trip to Barangay Encanto, a Visit to GK Enchanted Farm

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I get lost a lot living in the Philippines. Sometimes I don’t even have to leave Makati to get hopelessly lost.  So for me to drive solo deep into Bulacan was an ambitious endeavor.

A dozen wrong turns later after desperately looking for street signs that don’t exist I saw a beacon of hope, a wind power turbine. It looked every bit as much out of place in its surroundings as I did. Found it!

Gawad Kalinga is a non-profit organization whose goal is to eradicate poverty in the Philippines through community building and social enterprise. What’s unique about them is they build an economic platform for the poor to sustain themselves. So it’s not about handouts but making profits in a socially responsible manner. Capitalism 2.0.

The Enchanted Farm is the model of GK’s vision. They have brought in the poorest families from the surrounding province. Many of these people came from other parts of the Philippines to Manila looking for work. When they were unable to find work they would live as squatters, under bridges and in the slums of Manila. The local government would literally truck them out to Bulacan where they would remain.

GK would offer them homes, education and a livelihood. Some of these people were even involved in communist militant groups. Many will turn to militancy when they perceive no other options. When they are given other options they would follow peaceful pursuits. After all many of them have marketable skills. There are farmers, basket weavers, textile makers, etc. What they did not have was the means to produce and market their wares.

Hand-crafted baskets ready to be sold

One such product is Enchantea which is a brand of healthy brewed tea drinks made from local fruits and botanicals. One product was being developed that was a blend of lemongrass, calamansi and comote leaves. It was delicious, especially on a brutally hot day.

 

One of the best things I’ve tasted in 90+ degree heat

A means to produce and market is precisely what is provided here. There is a village university to teach the community how to earn a sustainable livelihood. The farm also serves as an incubator for businesses. It’s a place to test and develop products, especially agriculturally-based products. In addition to that it is being developed into a tourist destination with up to a hundred guest villas being constructed as well as a spa and restaurant.

One of the air conditioned guest villas

Upon entering I was greeted by a flurry of activity. Flowers and landscaping everywhere, the farm is a green oasis dotted with buildings made from local materials. There is a small community that houses over 50 families. There were dozens of people gathered there for an event that day.

I had the opportunity to tour the farm and see what is being produced. Each family is given a plot of land to work. They grow all sorts of fruits and vegetables. There were papayas everywhere, ube, chilies, corn, tomatoes, etc.

Ube field (local purple sweet potato)

Dill grows like crazy all over the farm

Samples of products under testing were being served, giving me a perfect excuse to have two desserts.

Malunggay langka ice cream, they should package and sell this. They should do it now!

It’s hard not to be inspired by a place like this. As a chef I feel it is my responsibility to support local agriculture and to build a bridge between the diner and the farmer. I grabbed up some samples from the farm and brought them back to begin experimenting. Unfortunately the salted duck eggs were sold out on my visit but I will be back for them.

Golden Egg salted duck eggs are dyed naturally with tumeric

To those who would like to help you can give through GK’s website. I would also encourage you to visit the Enchanted Farm. It’s a great escape from the city. But you can also help by supporting GK community brands, such as Human Nature, Kape Maria and Enchantea.

The Philippines is a country that has always imported a lot despite what is available locally. There is an assumption that exists here that imported goods are superior to local. However local goods have been steadily improving and it’s time to refresh that assumption. Every vote counts and you cast your ballot with every peso you spend.

Comments

  1. Hello,

    Thanks for posting about Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm. We will be having a Farm,Yoga, Samba weekend retreat here on September 22 and can’t wait to do it! Great blog! ;)

    • Jeremy says:

      Hi Monica,

      Sounds fun! Thanks for visiting. Send me a message a little closer to the date and I’ll help spread the word.

  2. HN says:

    Wow, I remember doing field work in Encanto, Bulacan back in college…nice to hear about it again.

  3. Kay says:

    great article! the camote leaves, calamansi iced tea btw is great for a cold or a fever (as camote leaves have a lot of vitamin C)

    I wonder whether vegetables from local farms such as this one command a premium price (supposedly because they’re organic) once they reach Manila. For regular consumers like myself, it is ultimately not sustainable money-wise, which is why (I’m guessing) many people buy from a lot of local farms because of the price alone (for example, I love these really red, sweet and flavorful tomatoes from a farm in Tagaytay, but they’re just a lot more expensive if I use them for everyday cooking).

    But importation of vegetables I think is more complicated than a simple matter of Filipinos assuming (wrongly or not) that imported products are supposedly of superior quality (because I’ve talked to many Filipinos who rave about the quality of vegetables they get to eat in the provinces). The fact that many vegetables from some local farms/brands cost more when they arrive in Manila attest to that.

    I’m guessing the transport costs have a lot to do with it (definitely the poor infrastructure and the delay due to amount of traffic add up to the overall transport cost of bringing from farm to market). A professor of mine once said that it costs more to import from Mindanao to Luzon than it is to import from Taiwan to Luzon. Also, if you count in the fact that when it comes to the agricultural industry in the philippines, things are made complicated by the presence of “traders”, who take advantage of poor farmers by dominating/cartelizing the industry and controlling the market prices… well. there you go. I could be wrong though.

    so even if local vegetables’ quality are improving, the scale of production of quality products still tends toward the smaller (and for many filipinos trying to make a living in Manila, slightly more expensive) side.

    • Jeremy says:

      You’ve made some great points. The fact that so much produce comes from the vicinity of Baguio, then it takes, what? 12 hours or so to transport to Manila? I think highways and infrastructure are indeed huge issues.

      • Kay says:

        oops typo, I meant to say “which is why NOT many people buy…” but I guess you already got what I meant :-)

        transport delays also cost businesses huge amounts of money in Indonesia so it’s not an uncommon (third world-y) type of problem.

        If I forgot to mention it though, I do agree with you that not enough locals, especially in the cities, are aware that vegetables of superb quality even *exist* locally. then again, there are too many people who couldn’t be bothered when I tell them about how chicken tinola tastes UH-MAY-ZING when I use green papaya freshly picked from my backyard (rather sweet and fresh) and naturally aged, amber-colored patis (first press, extra virgin) as condiment. many people just don’t care about the quality of their food :-(

        • Jeremy says:

          Ok, now you have me intrigued. Where do you get your extra-virgin patis?

          • Kay says:

            afaik, you can buy patis puro (pure patis) in Market Market at the stalls outside the mall, the ones representing each province’s products (not sure exactly where but definitely somewhere that sells bagoong or other fish-based products). I think the best ones come from Dagupan (Pangasinan) or the Navotas/Malabon area in metro manila. usually these are small batch patis prepared by some families, bottled in recycled Tanduay bottles. check this out: http://www.marketmanila.com/archives/patis-fish-sauce

            sorry if I can’t point you to an exact location where to buy them, but if you happen upon them in a supermarket, look for the name “patis puro.” My mom buys a brand called Tintay patis puro from the supermarket, so far the taste is good (and the ingredients list are pretty basic).

          • Jeremy says:

            Thanks for the info! I look forward to trying it.

  4. Victor says:

    cheers to this web for promoting Social Entrepreneurship and for promoting the positive outcomes in the efforts of GK and similar undertakings. cheers Jeremy!

  5. Jeniffer says:

    I really admire the mission and vision of GK. I remember when we got there for a mission, I witnessed what is really the purpose/intention of the founder that is to help those people who want to start a new beginning in their lives… I am so fascinated with him because only few person here on earth who thinks of others sake. Continue doing good and pursuing you mission… I salute you…

  6. Darryl says:

    Thanks alot for posting this. Much appreciated.

  7. Gud day..i was inspired with ur mission and vision 4 fil. people i watched the bussiness summit 2014 and im glad to hear from students at theirearly age have a solid perspective in life.me too wants to learn from ur school to do intrepreneurship but unfortunately i heard from ur speech na di na pwede kaming matanda.sana po kung may pag asa po ako dyan i want to hear fr. u soon.thanks and more power to u sir Tony.GOD BLESS U ALL…

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