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.

24 September 2013

Around Lipa: Cafe de Lipa

Now this is far more homegrown and speaks volumes of the city's rich coffee heritage. It's refreshing to see there is a brave local businessman who's willing to take the risk and measure up to imported coffee chains now altering Lipa's cityscape. They proudly call themselves a Filipino Coffee Company, and rightfully capitalizes its flagship products on the local favorite, the Baráko.

You'll find it in a free-standing coffee shop right outside Robinson's (ironically behind Starbucks), in SM City, in the Petron Station along Star Tollway, and a pilot branch in Metro Manila; in Market! Market! in Bonifacio Global City.

21 September 2013

Around Lipa: Coffee Shop Chains in Coffee Country

Nothing is more paradoxical and strangely inorganic than alien coffee chains sprouting around downtown Lipa. In a city whose heritage is strongly identified with coffee farming, trade and export, it is practically sacrilegious to be promoting "Kona" and "Java" blends or beans grown in Guatemala or Bolivia within hearing distance of the cathedral's bells.

Figaro (left) is not that bad; after all, it is a locally-owned chain and kudos to them for giving imported brands a run for its money. But still, it's sad to see that our own local coffee, as it is, is actually far more superior, bean for bean, than most that are popular around the world. Local coffee is just not packaged and marketed creatively, and the industry has absolutely no government support.

25 August 2013

Cassava Suman

It's our first time to attempt making súman from our cassava (and banana leaves) and it  turned out to be really good! We're always on the look-out for any recipe that would utilize our own homegrown produce. We've made cassava cake plenty of times, but we only thought of making suman just now. It's hard to keep the sizes consistently uniform though, as it's not as shape-able as sticky rice.

03 August 2013

Fixing the Roof

It's been more than four years since we constructed the cabaňa and the natural anáhaw roofing is starting to show wear and tear. A small portion on one side, where a langka tree sheds its leaves on, has rotted faster than the rest.

We do not have the existing, mature harábas variety but we do have young trees that our caretaker, Marvin harvested some leaves from (left). Instead of going to the hardware or a home depot to replace a roof, we instead go to the garden!

27 July 2013

Philippine Tree of the Month: Rambutan


 I purposely waited to blog about this until now that it is fruiting! The Rambután (Nephelium lappaceum) is a true Southeast Asian native, and grows indigenous in the Philippines especially in the South. Now, it is widely cultivated especially in our Makiling-Malarayat-Banahaw triangle. It is a small tree that looks simple and unassuming until it fruits once the rainy season starts (left) and will turn flaming red come September. It is related to more popular fruits, the lychee and the less known lóngan.
We have mature, fruiting trees already that have been planted even before we procured the farm. We also added three around the gardens largely because of its attractively-red, and intensely tropical-looking fruits.

21 July 2013

A New, Old Dish

It's been some weeks and we still haven't had our fill enjoying a dish; ginataáng santól (above), since our santól trees (Sandoricum koetjape) have been loaded with fruit. It's a dish more traditionally identified with Bícol than Batángas, and is one you'll hardly come across served in restaurants or even parties. This is true, rustic, home-cooked farm-to-table dish at its best.

It's actually very simple to make. First, you peel off the skin and then grate the pulpy flesh, which you will saute and eventually add gata (coconut cream) and chilis. That simple! And also, cook plenty of rice!

13 July 2013

Potted Ferns

It's been more than a year since we started propagating ferns in pots, and now we have extremely satisfying results. In this case, we focused on two polypodium types: a medium-sized and light frond (above & right), and a much-larger and heavier frond (topmost). The lighter one, we opted to let grow on a bucket shaped terra-cotta pot (right), which looks in proportion to its slender and lightweight appearance. Just a few more months and the fern will fill the entire pot, giving it a lush and full look.

15 June 2013

Hot-Looking Chili!

Attractively-ripe for picking are these wicked-looking chili peppers, so red you can see it from a mile away! Our staff, Edwin happened to see this  chili type among condiments that were brought along some grilled items one weekend. He "connived" with Lorie to swap it with our homegrown local chili (síling labuyo) so he can let it dry and use this one solitary piece as binhî.

Now, it's two dozen small bushes fruiting with scores and scores of chili pepper!

08 June 2013


I cannot have enough of this beautiful Davalia fern, which has gracefully flourished on the side of a mango tree in the garden, giving the Bird's Nest Fern (Asplenium nidus) an intricate, lace-like skirt to cover its underside. This is one type which we have not successfully propagated yet; it seems hard to train and quite sensitive to human interference.

02 June 2013

Strapleaf Ferns

 Several varieties of Microsorum ferns, apparently collectively called Strapleaf Ferns, but I have also read some that refer to the one above as Sword Fern or Climbing Bird's Nest Fern (Microsorum punctatum). They have spreading rhizomes, and has generally thick, narrow and shiny yellow green leaves. The tips vary though: from pointed (above), ruffled and twisted (left), and lobed (below).

They produce their own spore case (sporangia) and would cling itself to trees, fern slabs, and practically anywhere i can get moisture and shade. All three are mature enough by now and produce their own spores on the leaves' underside tips.

31 May 2013

Philippine Tree of the Month: Santol

 A beautiful local tree that's part of our everyday life is the common backyard tree, Santól (Sandoricum koetjape). Many people are familiar with this as it is one of the few tropical trees with random leaves that turn red before falling off. Its trunk is usually straight and can be sawed as lumber. In fact, Mang Pilô from whom we bought the farm, asked to cut three trees for lumber to make a new house before turning over the land to us, and a tall and regal santol tree was one of them (the other two were duhat and muláwin).
And who wouldn't know its fruit? I think everyone's grew up with it, peeled and eaten with rock salt, cringing from its slightly acidic taste just to get to the luscious whitish pulp at its core. To this day, it's such a simple pleasure to end a long, weekend lunch with a bowlful of santol, eating candy-like the sweet white pulp around the seeds. I guess it is for this reason some foreigners call this the lolly fruit!

26 May 2013

Spathiphyllums in Bloom

The gardens look dazzling now that the spathiphyllums are in full bloom! They are in the pink of health and look like they're bursting with energy.

When I did not have the farm yet, I used to grow these in pots in Manila and were perpetually undernourished, no matter what I did. Now, we hardly mind them and they look like they even prefer it! They're actually low-maintenance plants that would always look good in a garden, what with its shiny, dark green leaves and creamy white spathes.

25 May 2013

Six-Foot Long Ferns

After a long, dry hot season, it's so exciting to see the ferns grow back to life and regain its lushness and beauty. And nothing is more enchanting to see than the amazingly-long Goniophlebium ferns (Goniophlebium subauriculatum), elegantly hanging like long green feathers gently brushing our faces every time we pass by the fern garden. 

It's strange though that something as stunningly desirable as this has no common name in either English or Filipino. I've been researching on and off for some years and I have yet to find out how this is commonly known as. 

It's been three rainy seasons by now since this transplanted fern has established itself and flourished this much here in its new environment.

17 May 2013

A Bowl-ful of Macopa

A bowl-ful of lusciously-crimson macòpa (Syzygium malaccensis), slightly chilled to make it even more refreshing on this hot summer day. Our lone tree, planted by the gate, always makes a lot of guests wax romantic about childhood days and lazy afternoons, long weekends in the province and family time that everyone now just can't have enough of.

28 April 2013

Philippine Tree of the Month: Katmon

A small yet handsome native is in flower now just outside our kitchen; it is called Katmón (Dillenia philippinensis), another endemic tree, naturally occuring nowhere else in the world but our archipelago. It's awesome to know that our islands host a staggeringly-diverse and unique ecosystem, beginning with trees that so effortlessly grow in our part of the world. These, including the Katmon, play its part in maintaining the balance so important to keep our lives in equilibrium.

In the wild, it is most often seen near rivers and can grow with only partial sun. So it perfectly thrives where we planted it: just by the kitchen under the roof's edge where it gets plenty of rainwater.

Its fruit also happens to be not only edible but delicious! I have yet to photograph it though as it's always eaten by the time I get to the farm. Lucky for me though that this weekend, it has plenty of flowers: white and showy, as big as saucers.

21 April 2013

Lumpiang Ubod

We've had a steady supply of fresh úbod in the last weeks and is a good excuse for May to perfect our own home-made wrappers. It's a waste to make lumpiâ with the freshest, healthiest coconut piths and prepare it with store-bought, tasteless, parchment-like wrappers.

Ours is made from batter using native farm eggs, some flour, some milk, and a pinch of salt. She cooks it in a big, flat pan just like cooking crepes. It's quite daunting though, to take it out whole and roll the lumpia without tearing it.


14 April 2013

Another Bench

We recently bought another garden bench, complementing the older one with the back and armrests, though we did not necessarily lay them out side-by-side.  It's made of exactly the same wood, apparently Dungon (Tarrietia sylvatica), a hardwood that resists rotting so it is suited perfectly for outdoor use. The wood is very tasty though to a particular wood-eating grub (right) that is responsible for the random yet artistic surface design once you cut the old wood up into planks.

16 March 2013

Philippine Tree of the Month: Anubing

In the middle of the fern garden, amidst a grove of mango trees, is a lone Anubing (Artocarpus ovatus), another endemic tree, which means it only naturally occurs in our islands. Being an Artocarpus, it is closely related to the Antipolo (which I have yet to feature), the Rimas, the Langka (Jackfruit), and the Kamansi. I was absolutely ignorant about its significance when we began here; it's a good thing the locals empathically suggested we keep this as we cleared the overgrowth in the would-be garden. At that time, it was still small (just twice my height, I reckon) and was rather puny since it was in the shaded midst of mature mango trees. But now, it is a towering specimen with a perfectly straight and upright trunk and a full crown of leaves.

And speaking of leaves, one of the Anubing's unique characteristics is its leaf's underside sticks to clothes like Velcro (right)! Apparently, it fruits too but is quite insignificant as it isn't edible. It's also a hardy tree and would thrive in rather difficult circumstances (i.e. lowland thickets, shaded areas), making it a good tree for reforestation.

Being in the middle of the fern garden, we transplanted Pyrossia on its trunk (below) and it has nicely thrived and blended amidst the fernscape.

10 March 2013

More Bromeliads

For some weekends now, I have been sorting bromeliads into rows on steel racks I ordered from a neighborhood shop. I didn't realize that we have so much variety already, from Neoregelias (above) to Tillandsias, Cryptanthuses to Ananas (below left).

Some are so prolific in producing suckers; we have one mother plant must have generously given us two dozen! There are some though that baffle me since they only produce one in their lifetime.

09 March 2013

Tiny Purple Orchids

Although the flowers are tiny, this profuse mass of epiphytic orchids made a dazzling appearance this weekend! I remember this particular cascade "hitched" alongside a bird's nest fern that we bought some years back and mounted on a mango tree in the fern garden. Little did we know it will bloom this profusely! I don't even know what they are called, but I just wanted to post it right away even without properly identifying it.

03 March 2013

After a Long Wait...

... the Rimas has fruits! And not just one, but three! I think I've already told the story to how much length we went through to find seedlings, so we're quite excited to see that it has clearly established itself in our locale. It's been many, many years since I've last eaten this fruit cooked, and we're looking forward to preparing the ginataan dish with the rimas' young meat.

02 March 2013

Flowering Fruit Trees

 It's that time of year when the fruit trees are all blooming and some are even fruiting ahead of the rest! The avocados (above left) are still in a flowering stage as the fruits are usually ripe for picking around July,but the macopas (above right) are already young fruits! Of course, the Indian mango trees (below) are not to be left behind!

23 February 2013

An Assortment of Orchids

A lot of friends have been giving me orchids for the last months and we've slowly been increasing our variety. I'm no expert in it, and in fact, we hardly take care of them; at least not in the way I hear how others fuss no end about their orchids.

The beautifully-hued flowers on the left is a Dove Orchid (Dendrobium), practically a maintenance-free plant that generously flowers every so often.

 The Scorpion Orchid (Arachnis, above left) are hardy orchids whose flowers last long while the stunning purple Vanda (above right) is just the first among the new type that we are collecting.

17 February 2013


Rather taken for granted, largely due to its profusion are these fairly common bromeliads, a small Neoregelia (above) and a Bilbergia (left). But they're very attractive nevertheless, and it's just a matter of blocking them in a garden to be fully appreciated.

And they're vividly red this Valentine weekend! Red happens to be my favorite color, and I'm partial to anything in this blazing hue. The Neoregelia above blushes at the center when it is fully mature and flowers, while the Bilbergia shoots up a brightly-colored bract before it finally wilts and produces young.