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.

19 April 2012

"Indian" Mangoes

The "Indian" mangoes are just about to be ready for picking! The trees are heavy with fruit, weighing down some branches with as many as a dozen or even more at its end. Some trees look like they bore fruit slightly later than the others, and I hope my sisters and their families will still be picking from the trees when they come from abroad late May!

As much as I search on the web though, I could not find any more information on this particular type of mango. I could not even find its scientific name, all the more how the appellation "Indian" got used with this variety (all mangoes trace its roots in India). Most of the data are about the more exportable "kalabaw" variety (Mangifera indica), hardly on  this type which is smaller, stays green even when ripe, and has a distinct taste and crunchiness that one can't help but go on munching a basket-ful.

And that was exactly what happened in 2009, the season that the trees were so prolific that we estimated the output to be 1.35 tons from nine trees alone! We were stuffed that time, and it felt like mangoes were coming out of our ears.

That was the first season after we cleaned the farm; prior to that I have no clue how much fruit there was when the trees were overwhelmed by vines, ants, and weeds. It felt like they were bursting with energy and mangoes were literally falling off the trees.

Come by the next weeks and pick some for yourselves!

16 April 2012

Customized Pandan Baskets

My caretaker's wife, Cristina weaves by hand, rustic baskets out of pandán leaves that grow in the gardens, and I've asked her to customize sizes to hold our assorted household containers. It's awesome enough that we make our own natural and biodegradable containers, but all the more it's remarkable since we simply make use of old leaves from the garden (so now, the pandans are always clean and never have dried leaves left on the shrub!).

But apart from it making your ordinary objects look better, it actually has plenty of other practical purposes. If you use the basket to hold baking dishes (below), it also serves as a tray that absorbs heat and functions like a lightweight trivet. So If any of you want to serve your Pyrex trays from oven to table with its handsomely bespoke lightweight hot mat, Cristina can easily whip up one with precise dimensions to fit them to a T.

Of course, it goes without saying that the same baskets (top, with the flatware) can be used for still so many other things and areas around the house. Below, it can be a workdesk organizer to hold a multitude of small things (that always get misplaced) or further below, a caddy to hold small towels in your powder room.

15 April 2012

Flowering Epiphytic Orchids

 It's been more than two years since we've planted epiphytes on the mango trees and this season, two plants whose names I don't even know started to bloom! Nothing beats the immense pleasure of being rewarded with a plant's affirmation that you have taken cared of it well, that it gets itself acclimatized in its new home and starts to flourish and reproduce. Gardening wild plants is tricky and requires a long time, it could never be said enough. But all efforts will pay off once it does thrive, and these two do so very well!

This one on the right, too started to have these minute, pinkish-white blooms this season too. The plant started to adjust quite soon after we planted it but I did not even know that it will start to flower, enchantingly even.

Postscript: I referred the photos to knowledgeable experts via Our Philippine Trees and learned that the orchid on the top and above is called Pinalia polyura while the one on the right is from the Appendicula family. Thanks, Patrick!

13 April 2012

From My Library: For the Birds

Now it never occured to me I will ever come across a recipe book to make avian dishes! Gee, the titles one can find in the good old US of A... but, I'm not complaining. A lot of it actually make sense to me but I still cannot help but be amused and find quite preposterous to make a book out of it. I guess the mere fact that I purchased one makes me just as eccentric (and admittedly gullible), hahaha.

Anyway,I will lap up anything that will help increase my bird traffic. The heck, I'll try anything once! Although the birds featured here are North American, a lot of the recipes and its "ingredients" can be transposed to a local tropical setting for our own native species. Now I'll keep this short as I still have to go to the grocery :)

12 April 2012


Any group who arrives will have someone seated in this planter's chair in the first five minutes. Not only is the shape inviting everyone to lounge, but the texture and airiness of the solíhiya (rattan cane weaving) beckons anyone to relax and unwind with some búco juice to boot!

It is actually a contemporary piece; something that I had customized some years back when the cabaňa was new. It is made of mulawin (also known as molave, a local tropical hardwood) that resists rotting even if exposed to the elements. I had the dimensions slightly exaggerated to make it roomier, so it feels more like a day bed than a chaise longue.

10 April 2012

Vines by the River

Apart from the wild plants and ferns down by the river, there is a substantial number of vines; some even flowering at this time, that add to the biodiversity of our small and fragile micro-ecosystem. I assume these are indigenous to our forests; after all, the area's fairly remote and wild enough to dispel the possibility that they are cultivated and non-native. Some of them yield attractive flowers or fruits that look curiously different and deserve at least, an attempt to promote for them to be identified.

The two on the left have startlingly-unusual forms, and would easily captivate any man-in-the-street. I would imagine too that some of them would be food for some birds and animals.

There is still so much for us to learn about local plants and trees, God bless the few people who tirelessly educate and promote our own endemic flora. I myself have tremendously increased my appreciation of our own plants largely through a blog just like mine, called Our Philippine Trees. It's a rich storehouse of information and has personal stories and photographs from a true advocate. I thoroughly enjoy learning that a lot of the place names in the country are plants that we've never even know are plants and trees int he first place! Does anyone know that Cabuyao is a tree, Bocaue is a type of bamboo, Diliman is a fern, Lucban is a fruit, and even Anilao is not just a diving destination to begin with!

08 April 2012

Butterfly Season

It's the season again for butterflies and now that it's Easter, we see the miracle of rebirth most apparent with the Emperor Moth (Platysamia cecropia), a marvelous metamorphosis from a leaf-chewing caterpillar into this glorious creation. They're unusally big and have transluscent spots on their wings (more apparent on the photo below). They're somewhat a nuisance at the onset since some ornamentals have damaged leaves but their incredible beauty justifies whatever garden casualty they may bring. 

03 April 2012

Farmer's Carry-on

On a recent trip to Indonesia, I found this bamboo and pandan leaf basket in a local market which looks very utilitarian yet attractive at the same time. In the Philippines, we have a similar native carry-all called bayóng but this shape tells me it serves something more specific than a dump-anything, earth-friendly shopping bag. On one side (below left), it is permanently taut with a rattan braid; on the other side (below right), it is open by default but has a bamboo peg and abaca twine to secure the content.

Now I don't speak Bahása but it didn't take long to understand that it's a basket for carrying chickens (admittedly, it did involve someone having to borrow someone's rooster some stalls away). What I see here in the country are mostly perforated cartons or a bayong with improvised holes. Anyway, I promptly bought one and because it is quite an unusual shape, I just carried it on with me on the plane. Such is the life of a weekend farmer; while everyone on my flight via Singapore had smart-looking carry-ons and the latest electronic gadgets, there I was lining up in the gate with a chicken basket!

April Bird of the Month

On the hollow bamboo beams of the cabaňa, hatchlings of a Maya (Eurasian Tree Sparrow, right) are waiting for their mother to bring them their morning meal. The natural anáhaw and cógon roofs actually host a fairly big number of residents apart from us, foremost of which are birds followed by lizards. The cool, organic material mimics natural avian environments which attract them to lay eggs in and rear their young until they're ready to fly.

Mayas are common in the entire country (as far as I know) and are sometimes taken for granted, largely because of their profusion. But they have their own inate beauty and of course, add to the diversity of both bird and plant life in our surroundings.

02 April 2012


One of my most favorite landscaping plants is the Screw Pine (Pandanus, Tag. pandán), especially P. sanderi (above) which I first saw on the cover of a local landscaping book maybe twenty or more years ago. The plant (and the book cover) left an imprint in my memory so much so that since then, I always imagined a big Pandan just like in the photo above to lord over the future garden in my mind.

We planted the sucker in December 2008 (right, in the center of the photo); in just a little more than three years, it has grown to be THIS BIG (above). It even already has prop roots holding up this splendidly top-heavy specimen!

Back then when we just acquired the farm and have not even actually begun gardening, I could afford to plant P. sanderi that early, right by the entrance driveway: as you can see we did not even have a fence yet then but I had already blocked one of my favorite plants! The fact is I was running after time already, as it had been waiting in my mind for twentysomething years...