The panorama on the sunrise side: an awesome view of Malarayat

The quiet panorama on the sunrise side of the farm: an awesome view of Mount Malaráyat and the river below the gap.

27 June 2011

The River

At the far end of the farm, below a ravine is a small river. At present, it is still a steep and rough hike down (and an equally tough climb going up), which somehow keeps the area inaccessible.

Meantime, we have planted a lot of hardwood seedlings on the hike down, local trees like mulawin, narra, daô, cúpang, ditâ, ýlang-ýlang and yakál. We did so not only for aesthetic purposes but also to hold the soil together before we even think of doing anything with it. As it is now, it is already enchanting: strangler figs with strange-looking berries and wild palms (especially fishtails and sugar palms, locally called káong), forest birds and trees I have never even seen cover the slope. What more just after a couple of years? After all, it's good that it is not yet easy to reach as this gives us time to let the area re-generate as organically as possible.

The waters are from Malarayat, no doubt and even though I have been to the river more than a dozen times, it has never looked the same every time I go down there. The atmosphere in the river changes more often than any other area in the farm.

There are lush ferns (above) that naturally grow on the banks and some rocks, including the edible pakô which always flourish after some rain. There are small fish, and on our side, there are even two natural springs. In time, I will build a stairway going down, but meanwhile, enjoy the photos :)

My German Shepherd, Vitra, then still a pup.


Sometimes, for whatever reason, we would have one or two felled coconut trees. When we were building, we had to clear some areas and there were a couple of trees, especially coconuts that were in the way.

Now I'm not sure if many people know where the úbod in fresh lumpiâ comes from. I somehow knew before that it's a coconut by-product and figured that, I guess it comes from the coconut itself (which, by the way, is not a nut but that's a totally different story altogether).

It turns out that úbod is Tagalog for pith, the young core of the trunk of the coconut tree (or the banana, whose ubod can be eaten too). On the right, we chopped off the top part of the felled tree (background) and skinned the bark to get the pith (lower part/foreground).

It's very nutritious to eat, fibrous (since this is what will become coco lumber in time), and filling. Imagine: from the roots underground, the tree absorbs water and nutrients, goes up the pith, and into the leaves, the flowers, and into the coconuts. Amazing.

Traditionally, we cook it as lumpiâ filling, sauteed and mixed with some kincháy (something like flat parsley) and small shrimps, to flavor. Anyone out there who has some new recipe to share?

26 June 2011


At its very core, 1784 has been and will always be a coffee farm. We grow three of the four commercially-grown varieties in the Philippines: Robusta (shown above), Excelsa, and Liberica (the other is Arabica which is best grown in high elevations).

Usually triggered by the tropical winter solstice, the coffee trees (as with a lot of other flowering and fruit-bearing plants) instinctively pro-create and flower after it experiences a profound change in weather. Apparently, the change shocks them enough to jar their complacent nature and in an inherent desire to survive, the trees willfully preserve their line by flowering.

In time, these same flowers become the cherries that are initially colored green and will become red when ripe. The cherries take anywhere between eleven to twelve months to mature before it is ready to be manually picked from the tree (Tag. pagpupúti). In fact, we don't necessarily pick an entire tree in one go as sometimes, some cherries even from the same branch mature ahead of the others so they have to be selected with keen eyes and a good sense of touch.

Liberica is another variety (shown above) with unusually-bigger cherries than Robusta and Excelsa (and Arabica). Some cherries are twice the size of the rest, thus it is locally nicknamed Barako, the Tagalog for "stud" and connoting an Alpha characteristic among a group or breed. Undoubtedly, it has a richer and more intense aroma and flavor than Robusta, at least.

Our Robusta trees are neatly planted on a grid between coconut trees. When we acquired the farm, the trees were scrawny, extremely tall and overtaken by ants. We let the season pass and after harvesting, we pruned them meantime to keep the trees low, easier to maintain, and hopefully prolific.

June Bird of the Month

The Red-Crested Malkoha is the bird that gives its name to our place. Indigenous to Luzon and some parts of the Philippines, it is locally called Manoc-manoc or Tamsiya. Here in the Malarayat foothills and apparently in the neighboring areas within Mounts Makiling and Banahaw, the Red-Crested Malkoha is a fairly common sight but still relatively unknown to everyone.


This is strange as the Malkoha has a very striking appearance: a mid-sized bird with bold colors of black, white, red and green. A conspicuous visitor to the fern garden and the mango orchard, sometimes in pairs but more frequently alone. It has glossy black feathers, a green beak, and bright red plumes on its head. It's fairly easy to photograph it since it flies low, and takes short flights between trees.

25 June 2011

The Fern Garden

Enchanting lace-like Davalia and Drynaria leaves. 
On a paved courtyard next to the main cabaña is the fern garden, a section of the farm with mature mango trees that host a variety of epiphytic and terrestial ferns.

Perched on the branches are an assortment of aspleniums (dápô), drynaria (pakpak-lawin),  platycerium or staghorn (capa de leon), nephrolepis, goniophlebium, and davalia.

It is an enchanting part of the gardens; anyone can't help but be mesmerized by the intricately-leaved ferns of various patterns and sizes. Most of the ferns are endemic to the Philippines and are cultivated by us from our own spores.

Allied with the ferns are other epiphytes that naturally grow alongside them: orchids, hoya vines, gingers, and other tropical wonders.

There are also terrestrial ferns like maidenhairs (culantrillo), angiopteris (pakông kalabaw), and cyathea.

These also grow side by side with alocasias, aglaonemas, philodendrons, caladiums, and dieffenbachias. And on one side of the courtyard is a trellis that hosts one of the jewels of the Philippine rainforest: the jade vine.

The Cabañas

Although we have yet to build a proper house, we have so far built cabañas to lounge and dine in, concrete structures with plumbing, an outdoor kitchen, and walkways connecting all of them.

Artist/potter Ugu Bigyan from the neighboring town of Tiaong, Quezon (some thirty minutes away) designed and built the cabaña structure. I bought an old house which lumber we transported to San Celestino and Ugu used some of the old muláwin posts here. The furniture is a mix of mostly hand-me-downs and some teak pieces I've collected over time.

The roof is made of the biggest anaháw variety called harábas and had to be obtained from a 3-hectare anahaw farm to complete the requirement. It was interesting to see the leaves fresh and still green when delivered and even when it was being installed, then eventually dry and turn brown as weeks passed.

The terra-cotta tiles are from San Juan (Batangas), three towns southeast. The earthy and chalky texture adds to the rustic charm of the hut.

Wooden walkways (left) made of new lumber make the entire area even more barefoot-friendly and gives more tactile pleasure on a relaxed and easy-going weekend. They connect the cabaňa and the gardens to the outdoor kitchen (above) and to the shower and toilet outhouse (below and further below).

More walkways, both wooden and stone (two bottom photos), lead into more huts, gardens, and the farms beyond.


Welcome to Kaligatan Farm! This blog is about my country home-in-progress and my continuing love affair with, of all things, a farm.

I did not mean to acquire a farm three years ago. I have just been passively scouting for a spacious out-of-town lot to build a rest house. Lipá was not even on my shortlist. But providentially, I discovered a quiet barrio called San Celestíno close to an unassuming mountain, Malaráyat, and an abandoned farm sitting on a ridge above a small gorge with a river below. I instantly liked it and made up my mind to acquire it on the third minute, more or less, we were there.

I had no experience, no practical knowledge, no plan, no nothing. I was about to turn forty in some months and I felt like throwing myself into something way bigger than I am. Shortly after, I got what I wished for: all nine acres of coffee and coconuts.

This blog is called 1784 to commemorate the year coffee was most likely first farmed in the area, some years after the first seedlings arrived in the whole archipelago. God bless the man who thought of bringing a coffee seedling, planting it, and systematically farming it first in the very vicinity where we are now. That man had no clue he would literally and figuratively break ground and pave the way to make Lipa the world's biggest coffee producer and exporter in the 1800s. By that one singular act, not only did he change history, he made it. And more than two hundred years later, we all still enjoy the fruits of that idea.

Can anyone imagine what can happen if we do the same now?