That quiet plot of land

For the past few months, I’ve been tending to a few herbs in plastic pots. I water them almost everyday, make sure they aren’t infested with pests, and spend a few minutes daily ogling at them. Watching them won’t hasten their growth, but it’s the uninterrupted quiet that I enjoy.

I started with basil, rosemary and mint. When I believed it was time to “expand”, I went online and found an herb garden in Laguna which ships herb pots nationwide. The shipping fee was exorbitant, but heck, I thought it’ll be worth it. I ordered tarragon, cilantro, parsley, celery, thyme, lavender and dill.
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When the LBC guy came and handed me a box with the ‘this side up’ pointing the wrong way…I knew I was in for hell. True enough, I carefully opened it and found soil everywhere, herbs haphazardly arranged, some damaged beyond repair. Only the tarragon, dill and celery survived. I’ve learned my lesson since then, and I resigned to the idea that herbs will always be a rarity here in my city.
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But thanks to a few people who pointed me in the right direction, the universe led me and a few of my friends to this little plot of land in Lantawan, Pasonanca that grows some herbs and salad greens that I can actually use.

It’s actually been a long time coming: a blog-friend, Charm, told me about this place a few weeks ago, but she didn’t know the exact location. Then a friend who works at the local television station whose weekly show actually featured this way back, asked around and found out it was in Lantawan. Next I found out that a former classmate of mine apparently lives nearby, knows that the place exists but hasn’t been there exactly. The final knock on the door came when my host-friend featured the organic garden in their show again, and well, this afternoon we FINALLY paid the place a visit. The universe was listening.
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The place is unassuming. Only a little placard that greets you at the entrance guarantees that you arrived at the right place. The place isn’t expansive, which makes sense because the market for herbs and salad greens isn’t a big one. But give it a few more years, and I have a feeling people will grow (no pun intended) to be more receptive.
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The weather was cloudy but extremely humid, which didn’t make for a pleasant trip. When we arrived, the caretaker told us to just go to their resto (another blog post about that soon!) if we wanted salad greens. It was pretty obvious that the place wasn’t in full harvest mode. There were more seedlings than full blown greens.
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Accordingly, the owners of the farm use organic farming methods to sow and reap their produce, which is always good. Slightly challenging, but good.
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Here’s the anticlimax: I didn’t take home any herb! Strangely enough, it didn’t feel like the right time to buy a pot or two. That’s probably my only explanation right now. Well, that, and I probably can’t use it all the time. Practicality trumps desire.
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But it wasn’t a loss. At least I got to see the place for myself, and I’ll probably point my mom to the garden where she can buy salad greens at a cheaper price, because she’s the salad buff. And corny as it seems, my search is finally over, I can finally say that I know where to get the herbs that I need for my own garden. The outside world probably can’t understand how the thought process of an herb enthusiast/grower pans out, but I know that you know what I mean.

And here’s a shoddy map to help you on your way. Thank you, Paint.
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(I live in Zamboanga City, Philippines)

Lunch with the chickens

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It’s crazy that this post’s photo folder has been dormant for over three months now. Fresh, this is not, but I’d like to believe memories, although fleeting, easily taken for granted, easily preserved but eventually forgotten – can still be lived one way or the other. Today is one of those days.

Dad and I drove a few miles, to the next ‘baranggay’, to visit his little plot of land which he made into a makeshift ‘farm’. It’s not that big; its neighbors are houses, so technically it was located in a little ‘subdivision’. But it made sense. We had distant relatives nearby that he tapped to take care of it when he can’t.
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My dad always said that it was ‘in his blood’ to take care of farm animals – in his case, poultry, because his dad (my grandfather) used to take care of animals as well in their hometown of Bilar, in Bohol. If you’re wondering, I can’t speak Bisaya to save my life.
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He doesn’t like to sell the chickens or the eggs, much to my mom’s chagrin. He relishes at the feeling of simply tending to and propagating the flock. And true enough, what started with a few pairs of roosters and hens, exponentially grew into a brood of 30 or so, with chicks sprouting almost every month.
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He also decided at it would also be great to have our lunch there, so we bought all the basic things for adobo: pork, a sachet of soy sauce and vinegar, garlic, onions, pepper and bay leaf.
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“Di na natin kailangan ng plato” (We don’t need plates), was his response when I asked if we’d bring plates. I was confused. Did he keep a secret stash of eating utensils among the nests and feeds? No. Then he elaborated that we would be eating it like a ‘boodle fight‘, in short, a table and a banana leaf are all we need.

I didn’t say a thing, though I was hiding the inner frustration and hesitation at the thought of doing something that wasn’t me at all. Don’t judge – I just prefer to eat my food out of a plate or bowl. With a spoon and fork.
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Initially the conditions weren’t really my cup of tea when it came to prepping everything. There was a rickety plastic table, and that was it. It was a good thing I brought a chopping board and a knife. Just no plates.

Dad knew what he was doing, of course. “Ganito kami sa probinsya, simple lang ang buhay” (This is how we do it in the province – simple living). Well, looking back, I did get the idea.

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This is what simple living entails: no electricity, no fancy appliances, no fancy ingredients. Just the basics, and the elements – a pot and a makeshift stove using burning wood.  It’s incredibly uncomplicated and liberating, in a way. As long as there’s rice, we’re good. That’s what my dad believes in, anyway. Like the way adobo is more of a way of cooking than it is a dish, this is a fragment of a way of life.

Just so you know, banana leaves have to be “cleaned” over a flame to remove whatever it is that needs to die.
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And we wash our hands.
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Then we dig in. With our hands. No pretensions. It was one of the best lunches I’ve had in a really long time. I mean it. Despite my penchant for different adobo variants, this one was a winner. Incredible.
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I don’t eat with my bare hands (‘kamayan’; ‘kamay’ – ‘hand’, hence ‘by hand or using you hands’) a lot, despite this practice forcefully flowing through the veins of Filipino culture.

But call it luck (or whatever you want), but every single time I do get to eat with my hands, the food is always spectacular in its own way – whether it’s with the family eating freshly grilled fish and pork at the beach, or at Mang Inasal, where their chicken seriously tastes better when eaten by hand.
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This adobo was no exception. Salty, sour nuggets of pork perfectly cooked until fork tender, tempered with the taste of fluffy, steaming rice. Finished off with a bottle of ice cold (say that  seductively sloooow) coke.
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My dad and I share an imperfect, sometimes awkward, complicated relationship. But time just froze in that simple, uncomplicated pocket of a moment. And I saw a glimpse of my dad that I don’t get to see often.

We drove home a little after lunch with bellies full. And like I said, it’s been three months. Right now dad’s in Manila studying, he’ll be gone for a few months and that was the first and only time we managed to do that.  But despite all of that, there’s always the excitement of doing it all over again soon.

Fingers crossed.