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.

23 July 2012


In just a little over three years from when we more or less started, a starfruit (Averrhoa carambola, balimbíng) seedling we planted has matured and bore fruit! It does not even grow in ideal conditions; initially I was afraid we planted it too close to the kitchen and that passersby regularly brush off its branches and leaves. But it is a resilient plant and after some anticipation of periodic flowering, they did become fruits!

 It's a relatively small tree with minute fuschia & white blooms that become these giant shiny, green, five-sided fruits, looking like bigger versions of their smaller cousins, the kamiás. If you slice them up on its cross-section, they will look amusingly like stars. It's not a very popular fruit here in the Philippines, unlike in the rest of Southeast Asia where I always find it in dessert buffets in Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. I even see it as a drink, mixed with lime and lychee syrup and once, with ginger and honey.

It is nice and crunchy (ours, at least), refreshingly light and seems to cleanse the palate. It is rich in Vitamins A, C and iron.

20 July 2012

Vegetable Farming, First Time

I think we're fairly successful in our first attempt to plant vegetables from seeds! If one gauge is if it tastes well, then I think we're on our way to organic farming :) Seriously, my local staff are not as certain with radishes and bokchoi as they are with eggplants and beans.

Their ideal for leafy vegetables are flawless and commercial-looking, and I guess the same goes for radishes. But for crying out loud, I'm more concerned that they don't have carcinogenics! It's perfectly fine that they're not "perfect." Considering that radishes are root crops, ours look quite gorgeous! We did not use synthetic fertilizers (actually, not even organic) and all the more, pesticides. Nevertheless, we are asking around for healthy methods how to do this even better.

14 July 2012

White Bird of Paradise

Finally, after a looooong wait, one of the centerpieces in the front lawn has finally flowered! It's such a slow grower that I did not notice the plant has even moved at all. It is the White Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), a more exotic version of the more common purple & orange variety. It's only when I compared it to my file photos of the lawn that I realized it was only knee high when we planted it but now, the leaves have gone way higher than the bamboo fence. From what I've researched, it will eventually grow taller and start having suckers until it will be a clump of small trees. Watch out for it around July 2017!

11 July 2012

Piedra China

We found a great deal offering one lot of piédra chína, numbering around forty hefty and heavy blocks of dense, raw stone yet naturally polished over hundreds of years. They are of similar sizes but are all uneven; no two pieces are exactly alike. Some are squarish, some have slants. Some have a tinge of pink, while some have longer and shorter sides.

It was both challenging and exhausting to lay them out! I wanted them to look randomly,  naturally in place, as if it has always been there, organically part of the landscape. It has a very practical purpose: I needed to connect the entrance driveway through the muláwin gate all the way to the cabáňa with a solid pathway as it always gets either dusty or muddy to walk through.

It was extremely back-breaking to establish a pattern, through trial and error, with stones as heavy as tree trunks! Not only are they uneven (above left and right), I also needed to make the path curve as gracefully and effortlessly as possible.

Their thicknesses also vary widely, so the depths we had to dig to make the finish with an even surface was different for each piece! In the end (below), all the hard labor paid off with a handsomely paved walkway gracing our garden's foyer.

09 July 2012

Filipino Country Furnishings

The Philippines has a rich history of furniture, however it is hardly or loosely curated as in other cultures. I have yet to hear a local (Filipino) term that would classify  country furniture into an equivalent of "Shaker" in the United States or "Provençal" in France.

We have a wealth of artisanal pieces that have survived to this day, despite the fact that country furniture are extensively used and abused, left to the elements even. You don't have to go very far: a lot of times, they are the familiar pieces we have grown up with yet we do not see them as the next stylish piece for the weekend house! I have been scouring around for many years, collecting and streamlining as I go along. Way before we acquired the farm, I gravitated already towards more rustic pieces; with simple lines, hardly any ornamentation, spartan hardware, weathered edges, and a whole lot of character. I don't have much, but what I have all looks and works harmoniously together.

One of the very first things I moved years ago is a very straightforward mésa altár (top), rather uneventful in the Manila house but looked very appropriate in the cabáňa. A wooden batyâ (basin), a brass kawáli (wok), and a burnáy (Ilócos earthenware) jar complete the rustic tableau. The batya is now hung in the kitchen (where it really should be anyway), the kawali we use to burn incense to fumigate the huts, and the burnay always receives brightly colored heliconias or whatever flowers are in season.

Also looking odd in a bedroom in Manila then was this armário (above left), which I recall contained some books on one level and a boom box and some CDs on another. But now, it serves its original purpose as a pillow rack (and baníg [sleeping mats] in the olden days).

Old kitchen implements like these two mortars (below, left and right) serve as accent pieces around our place. A stone almirés gives visual contrast to white sampaguíta and kalachúchi, and a beaten lusóng (wooden mortar) which I just found among my neighbor's junk and asked for is now re-purposed as a bromeliad pot. I'm even on the lookout for more labangán (trough, bottom), in case you have a lólo or lóla who took care of pigs!

06 July 2012

Rain Lily

One of the pleasant things the wet season brings are the simple yet pretty pink flowers of rain lilies. For much of the year, the narrow, grass-like leaves look just like long, uniform tufts of dark green weeds but once the monsoon starts, they suddenly transform into charming and flawless rose-colored blooms.

02 July 2012


Scattered around the farm, especially on the ravine are numerous trees filled with golden yellow fruits, not many young people know no longer what this is. I myself could not tell at the onset, for some reason this was something that was no longer served to us when we were young. 

Commonly called chesa (also spelled tiesa, Pouteria campechiana, Sp. zapóte), everyone says they have heard of it but I'm certain no one can identify it if it were mixed up with others in a basket. All the more I can tell, no young person has tasted it. The English has a more descriptive name: egg fruit, not only for its yolk-like color but for its pasty texture which actually reminds me more of camóte than eggs.

01 July 2012

Bamboo Shoots

A nutritious, filling, and highly-fibrous vegetarian staple is Labóng (young bamboo shoots), generously flourishing now in the farm at this time of the year. They are literally what they are called (and shown on the right): suckers growing out of the edges of the grove, harvested right when it juts out of the soil.

Bamboo is actually a kind of grass, a very stiff and tall variety but grass nevertheless. It spreads just like grass, through an underground network of rhizomes

You'd want to take off the outer part to get to the soft, edible core. You can slice them thinly or julienne; the smaller, the easier it is to eat, enjoy, and digest. In our house, we cook this with gata (coconut milk) and occasionally add small shrimps for flavor.

Remember that just like ubod which comes from the pith of the coconut tree, labong is the fibrous component of bamboo which eventually becomes the strong, sturdy bamboo that we use to construct and make furniture with. It's a great detoxifier especially for our digestive system, apparently containing phyto-chemicals and potent anti-oxidants. It kinda makes sense because in its compact form, all the necessary nutrition the mature bamboo will need is practically present already in its young form.