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.

30 January 2012

Jacaranda Seedlings

Photo courtesy of

Before any ooohs and aaahs, this is not in the farm. But boy, I think this is one gorgeous driveway! They're jacaranda trees (Jacaranda mimosifolia), a native of Brazil and South America.

I've been trying to source seedlings; even just one, as early as three years ago when I started the farm. But I couldn't buy them: I did find them but they wouldn't sell it to me.

Now some time ago, I managed to collect mature seeds from a flowering tree here in the country and we just germinated them ourselves. So now we have stocks, and not just one but a lot! The pods had multiple seeds inside and we were surprised to find they quickly sprouted faster than other trees.

We'll plant some in the rainy season and gladly sell the rest. Just like in the photo on top, it would look good lining an extensive driveway but it will also work solo in a garden or grouped together alongside other flowering trees.

29 January 2012


The kadyôs are ready for picking, Pigeon peas (Cajanus cajan)  rich in protein and amino acids. It has yet to be a more frequent staple in the country, quite unusual as it is very filling, tasty and delicious. It's traditionally more popular in the Visayas, closely identified with Ilónggo cooking. Kadyos is the "K' in the acronym "KBL," a dish that has achieved some popularity in Manila in the last couple of years ("B" is báboy [pork] and "L" is langkâ [jackfruit]). Our version below though, has no langka since ours are still too young to pick.

What I learned just now as I researched is it's the same peas that Indians use and make dal with, among their staples alongside lentils and beans. With their largely vegetarian diet, Pigeon peas are a valuable source of carbohydrates and protein.

28 January 2012

The Puppies

Vitra unbelievably gave birth to nine puppies! Boy, it has been an amazing six weeks. It is our first time to have a pet give birth and we relish every single day from the time she conceived until now that we're weaning the pups away. Vitra displayed a side of her that we never knew: she became a totally different animal in the first couple of days after giving birth. Frequently we were baffled, at times a bit flustered. She herself looked frustrated a lot too. There were too many new things going on that we had to develop a totally new language to communicate with her. It was through this experience that I feel our relationship as my pet and her master has come full circle.

We chose that she gives birth in Manila so we would be on hand, a vet would be nearby, and a pick-up is always available. But now after six weeks, the pups are beginning to be restless and it is time we bring them to the farm. Space is a problem in the city and moreover, Vitra is also experiencing tremendous discomfort breastfeeding her large litter by now. A lot of times, I remind the staff that it is paramount we take care of Vitra too as she gets sidelined more often than not by the adorable pups.

And I can't blame them if they occasionally get distracted from our dear pet, myself included! Her nine-strong litter are all beginning to display distinctions from each other, not just physically but also in terms of traits, their habits and the different sounds they make.

Half of them display Vitra's physical marks: some have tan-colored "socks" while some have streaks of white fur on their chests. This one above looks like her at the time when we got her two years ago!

And they have the most gorgeous blue eyes! The

vet says this will still change; meantime we are enjoying this and photographing it for posterity. Actually we will have to start parting with some of them in the next weeks, and all the more we should relish every remaining moment we have with each of them.

24 January 2012

From My Library: Bawa: The Sri Lanka Gardens

I have long been a fan of the Sri Lankan architect, Geoffrey Bawa. One of the reasons is that his designs almost always incorporates plants and landscaping into his structures, which are so organically designed that they look like they grew out of the land. 

Along with his brother Bevis, he unknowingly set a new direction in tropical landscaping, which style evolved through years of experimentation, invention, and a lot of thinking out of the box. Both of them were foreign-educated but came back to what was then Ceylon and started seeing their country and its lush landscape with all its exotic plant life through new eyes.

This book, "Bawa: the Sri Lanka Gardens" showcases their respective estates, Lununganga and Brief. Apparently, both places are still maintained the same way until today, despite the fact that they have both passed away many years ago. I have had a guide book to Sri Lanka for some time now; I should make plans to see these gardens for myself.

20 January 2012


I found this plant in a roadside garden some months back; the lady calls it "sinukuan" and until now, that's the only information I have. No search has yielded even a confirmation, all the more a scientific name. I have no clue how it will grow; whether it will be a small tree or more shrub-like or whatever. It has small yellow bead-like fruits lining the underside of the stems.

But one of my neighbors recognize it; in fact he taught me that the leaves are an antiseptic and can be rubbed into a small wound or cut to stop bleeding. I've tried it and it does work! They don't know the name of the plant though, and they've not heard of sinukuan either.

Does anyone recognize it?

11 January 2012

The Big Picture

Just the other day, I overheard someone say again: "Don't miss the forest for the trees." I have always been predominantly a big-picture person; a lot of times something small is staring up at me right under my nose and I still cannot see it. But strangely, gardening can get me so absorbed and immersed in anything particular, urgent, and detailed. Consequently, a lot of times when I see the gardens, I see problems and gaps and bullet points to write down on my clipboard. It takes quite some effort for me to literally step back enough to appreciate what the gardens have become. This must be destiny's way of balancing my life.

We built the gardens little by little, as organic as possible. It sweeps me off my feet when people find it hard to believe that we've only been around a little over three years and that it was an abandoned, overgrown farm when we started. We let the land and trees tell us what to do. But now, midstream, I periodically forget about this basic tenet especially when I'm too absorbed understanding a bromeliad's habit or why a fern grows one direction and not the way I want it to.

There is no set formula for any garden, as there are just so many variables to consider for one to be, well, almost perfect. There are templates, I agree; but you'll end up like a templated garden which is worse than not having a garden at all. I guess part of the success and more importantly, the fulfillment in garden design is discovering what the land tells you how to go about it and discover the beauty in the natural.

09 January 2012

Desert Cassia

A beautiful, small tree that flowers generously is this Desert Cassia (Senna polyphylla), originally from the Caribbean. The slender branches droop when the flowers are in full bloom, weighing them down and lending an elegant air of finesse and poise.

Funny but I came to own this by mistake: there is another yellow flowering tree that I have been looking for, whose name I also did not know then. When I saw this small tree-like shrub with yellow flowers in a garden, I promptly bought this lone stock (apparently, the lady selling also didn't know what it is).

It's grown to be a remarkable specimen, flowering practically all year-round and has produced small legume-like seed pods once. 

06 January 2012

January Bird of the Month

The Olive-Backed Sunbird (Pipit, in my area also known as Pusit) has been easy to photograph lately, since they've been enjoying the nectar from the Firespike bushes the last weeks. Otherwise, these perky birds flit from one coconut treetop to another and its image can be real challenging to capture. They also happen to be tiny, in fact they are one of the smallest birds, alongside the Lowland White-Eye. But sunbirds have minute, curved beaks that distinguish them from other birds, and belong to a group that has some of the more brilliant plumages in the tropics.

They have a melodious call, and fly in pairs or small groups around the trees and the gardens.

05 January 2012


Some days back, I was amused no end to find some loofah sponges drying in the wooden walkways. When I started the farm, I admittedly dreamed of harvesting truckloads of coconuts or making our coffee beans well-known, but never did it cross my mind we will ever come up with loofah sponges!

Yes, they're from our own produce! I do have an inkling that it comes from a plant but it's different if you walk through your yard, knowing you'll find vegetable patches with gourds, but instead you stumble upon a bath accessory.

Believe it or not but loofahs are mature patóla (sponge gourd), the same vegetable we eat with misuă soup. To cook the gourds, you have to pick them while they're still young. But if you leave them on the vine until they mature and let the skin dry up, you'll end up with the sponge that we know. That's it! It's that simple.

It's awesome that at this age, there are still a lot of simple and mundane things that we do not realize are actually very elementary. I grew up seeing these packaged and labeled and marketed and distributed. Conversely, the locals might wonder why my curiosity is so piqued by something that they actually consider wastage (from patola that was not picked). Wait until they see I actually blogged about it!