Last June 8, 2013, I had a great opportunity to join my Phinma family in their Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm tour. I was very optimistic about this trip because I’ve heard a lot of inspiring stories about GK.
After a 2 hour ride from Phinma Plaza in Rockwell, we reached the GK Farm in Brgy Encanto, Angat, Bulacan. It is situated in a rural area surrounded by very few houses and a huge farm land. The first thing that caught our attention was the structure that looked like the Beijing National Stadium. It is made from bamboo, concrete and glass. Well, I’ll take more about it later. First things first.
We were brought by the GK team at the GK Center for Culture and Arts. It is a big hall where they usually have the exhibits and talks.
I was very surprised when Shannon, one of the members of the GK team, introduced the key speaker of the day, Mr Antonio “Tony” Meloto. “Tito Tony”, as what his team calls him, is the man behind Gawad Kalinga. I made sure that I listened intently to him to be inspired and to learn.
Sir Tony talked about his dreams and plans for Gawad Kalinga and the Filipino Community. He introduced briefly the current projects of GK, his team, the interns (hehe), and the achievements they are getting in and out of the country. I salute him and the whole GK team for their aspirations for the Filipino People. He inspired me to learn more about Social Development and Entrepreneurship.
Before we toured the whole farm, we were led to the Grass Roots Kitchen where a simple merienda was served. We ate pandesal, a suman-like kakanin and steamed corn. The food was delicious.
After eating our snacks, we were grouped into 4. We were assigned to Jeric, an Atenean, who went to GK to be an intern and later on continued working for Sir Tony. We were first brought to the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation, the structure I was talking about at the beginning of this post. It was creatively and “innovatively” made. The building is huge, spacious and environment-friendly. It will be a future hall for local and international conferences.
We were also led by Jeric to the piggery where they were testing how they can lessen the bad smell of piggeries. Adjacent to the piggery were the bahay kubo, where all the plants in the song can be found, the herbs garden, and other edible plants.
We crossed the other street and walked towards the vast farmland. From there, we saw the Bamboo Palace, which as the name denotes, a palace made of bamboo. It was very beautiful, native and cool inside. According to Jeric, the palace can accommodate events like parties and small competitions.
Since it was past noon already, Jeric led us back to the Grass Roots Kitchen for lunch. We were served grilled liempo, ensaladang talong at itlog na pula, steamed kangkong and papaya soup. The ingredients were all harvested from the farm. I can say that the food was definitely good, fresh and tasty.
As if we were not yet full, our next destination was the Dairy Hut where they are making different types of cheeses and some out-of-this-world ice cream flavors. Before we tried the cheeses, we had a demo first. TJ had the opportunity to try it. Then we tasted different flavors like basil and malunggay, garlic, calamansi, orange and chili. My favorites were the basil and malunggay and calamansi, not too overpowering and very creamy. We were also treated for ice cream delights. We tasted chili, ginger and calamansi and coffee ice cream.
According to one of the ladies that were there to gave us a demo, all the ingredients used were harvested inside the farm except for the milk which was brought from the nearby farm. For the other more complicated cheeses, some ingredients were imported.
If you want to try these delights, because I am sure your mouths are watering now, please visit the Enchanted Farm Cafe located beside the Human Nature store in Commonwealth.
We then visited the Red Carpet Sewing Station where Fabien introduced us to their products. Fabien is an intern from France who decided to stay here and work with Sir Tony. I was inspired by his dedication for his craft, for GK and the Filipino community. He even learned Tagalog words already.
He talked about the Bamboo jeepneys that he used to make. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to get bamboo here in the Philippines. He told us that getting the machines and tools to mass produce the Bamboo Jeepneys is very difficult. He was able to make less than 20 pieces and sold them in different countries.
Right now, he is currently working with the women of GK farm in creating fruits and vegetables stuff toys. They even gave them names like – manny pakwan, buko martin and silly crawford.
Then we went to the brewing station of the Bayani Brew. Bayani Brew is another product of the GK farm. Shannon, one of the brains behind this tea, talked about the origin of Bayani Brew, its current situation and their future plans. According to Shannon, the recipe came from one of the women living at the GK farm. Some of the main ingredients are tanglad or lemon grass and talbos ng kamote. I was able to taste the 2 flavors and they are actually good.
Our last stop was the Golden Egg Station – my personal favorite. Chos! Alvie Benitez, one of the brains behind this product, told us how the golden or salted eggs are produced. I even won a golden egg from answering his question.
Aside from the cheeses, ice cream, coffee, Bayani Brew, stuff toys and Golden egg, GK has other items like skin and hair products. The shampoos, conditioners, lotions and insect repellent sprays among many others are made with natural ingredients which are better for sensitive skins.
Although we were very tired from the heat of the sun and from walking the whole farm, I learned a lot from Sir Tony and the whole GK team. I went home with full tummy, eyes and heart. I was inspired and touched by what I heard, saw and learned. I hope there will be more trips like this.
*Photos from Carlos Tamayo