I finally got a bahay kubo!
A bahay kubo is a Filipino house made of bamboo. It has a thatched roof made of palm leaves.
When I started this endeavor, I initially thought of building something from scratch. However, after some brainstorm on design and after scoping the materials and labor; I realized that I did not have much time to devote for a do-it-yourself project. Also, a DIY project will still require a shelter of some sort; hence, I was convinced to buy a ready-made house for my temporary shelter.
The house I got was 6×12 feet. It has a small indoor dining area and a small bedroom.
I saw it along the side of the road while driving home from a weekend at the beach yesterday.
I have seen ready-made bamboo houses sell for 50,000 pesos (1,100 USD) on the Internet. This one sold for 36,000 pesos (800 USD) including installation. I thought that this is a fair price so I got it!
The seller told me that it takes them a week to complete a bamboo house. They still need to install windows and varnish the whole structure before it is ready to be installed.
I’m very excited to return to plot next weekend for the installation!
I was worried about the possible heavy traffic on the road due to people visiting the cemeteries, but I drove to the farm anyway.
The drive was actually swift, there were fewer jeeps and buses on the road.
For the second time, my car was full. I had to fold the backseats so that I could fit the logs of Dracaena (Yucca) in my car. I collected these just last weekend. The goal for this visit was to continue where I left-off from the green fence planting.
Lucky, I wasn’t working alone. My friend Gab was visiting Manila for a few days, he phoned me since he wanted to check on the farm plot while he’s here. So, just like that, I got help.
We started planting at the back portion of the lot. Planting the first five logs was quite fast since the area was a bit clear.
Before this, It was difficult to determine the boundaries at this portion of my property. While digging, I found patches of ginger. I plucked a stem for me to take home.
As we continued, the land started to slope down, the soil became harder, and the area was overgrown with coffee, banana and weedy vines. It would take more time and more people to clear and plant on this area.
It was noon…so we deserted this task.
Before leaving, I proceeded to attach some orchids that I brought. I also checked on the other orchids that I planted just two weeks ago. These are probably the easiest to plant; I just tie these on to some coffee trees.
It’s a delight to do this since it makes me feel that I’m “moving” the land. It also gives me something new to check-up on every time I visit.
I really need to move the land more though… But for now (and for the past few months) I’m glad that I’ve gotten to know the land well.
I was in my car, driving away from the my weekend farm, when I noticed a nice looking black pick-up suv heading towards my direction.
I came from a dead-end, where the dirt road becomes impassable. The road was narrow and to let the car pass I had to stop and move the car a bit to the right side. From inside the car, I waved to greet them so they can pass. I figured that they could be my neighbor.
At the spot where I stopped, I noticed that a man was standing nearby. I scrolled down my window and the man introduced himself as Nestor, a local coffee farmer. He was with his son and daughter, both of the kids were probably less than 9 years old. Excited to finally meet a local neighbor, I told him that I spent the day planting branches for a green fence, and that I have a few left-over branches which I could share to him. I proceeded by asking him if he knew who the people from the black pick-up were. He said he has not met them. I told him I was interested in meeting them because they might be the neighbor directly beside my plot, so I excused myself and backed-up.
His name was Marlon and he was with his wife Len, both of them in their late 30s. They were not my neighbors, they came to visit a plot of land near mine which they were considering to buy and re-sell. Len recognized my name, she shared that I contacted her last year at a time when I was looking for a plot of land to buy. I told her I got my land already, I showed it to them. I told them that I spent the whole day planting and that I have a few left-over branches of Dracaena which I could share. Len was so happy to see left-over cuttings, She asked for just one piece. Marlon was pleased with the area I selected, He told me it was a good choice; a good investment. He went on to share his story; how he started as an employee, how he moved outside of Manila to start brokering real-estate, how he met his wife through the seminars he attended, and how they are planning to buy their fourth car. He went on by recommending that I should buy an oil-powered grass cutter or pay people to clear the weed and grass so I can bring my car closer to the plot.
While talking to Marlon, I noticed Nestor and his kids waiting for me. So I excused myself so I can approach Nestor. I gave Nestor a Dracaena cutting. He told me he’ll plant it in his house which he described to be just a few minutes walk from both his farm and from mine. He asked me if I was just by myself. I told him that I usually bring friends and that I enjoy doing most of the work, with or without help. I showed him the patch of pineapple I planted, the rows of Draceana I set on the ground for my green fence, the patches of weed, grass and banana which I hacked, and the many orchids which I’ve attached. He shared how he has been noticing the orchids I’ve been attaching and he bid me well by asking if everything I planted is still there, and not taken by others. I expressed my gratitude by giving him an orchid. Nestor bid his goodbye and told me that if I need any help he is mostly nearby. He said he has a oil-powered grass cutter and that I just need to bring gas so we can clear the area together.
Marlon’s story was that of success brought about by grit and hard work. Decisions and actions were made by spending money where it could potentially earn for him.
On the other hand, Nestor, did not share a story; he just smiled as I told him stories of the work I’ve been doing on the plot of land.
The seller sells and the farmer farms.
I was so glad that my neighbor is a farmer!
Last week, I wrote about my plan to build a green fence to surround the property. The northern and western sides of the property already have green fences made of sarrassa and croton bushes along with a few coconut trees. I was thinking of working on defining the eastern portion of the plot before I work on improving the existing green fences. (Yes, I used a compass.)
I shared that I want to plant Dracaena, Rambutan and Lanzones as part of the green fence. Serendipitously, a friend asked me if I can help collect cuttings of Dracaena multiflora; more popularly called as Yucca. The “Yucca” trees seen in gardens of Metro Manila for decades actually do not come from the Americas. These are native to Mindoro and the Visayas islands in the Philippines.
I spent Sunday morning collecting the branches and preparing them for my weekend farm visit. Yesterday, I brought the Dracaena branches to the farm. For the first time, I visited the farm alone.
I got to the farm at around 9 am. I started by unloading the branches.
My weekend farm is a rectangular plot, already defined by a muhon on each of its four corners. A “muhon” is just a cement cylinder which is around 8 inches in diameter and a little over a foot long. These are submerged by the land-surveyors of the local government unit to mark the edges of a defined plot.
Alone in the plot, I realized that what I was about to do is not as simple as I’ve thought it would be. I needed to know where to plant the Dracaena since my eastern border does not exist.
It was past 9am and I haven’t started planting. For a few minutes I just stared at the things I unloaded; the Draceana cuttings, a saw, a machete, a large shovel, some native orchids and a bundle of straw twine. A quick thought came, I grabbed the straw twine and cut a piece that spans the muhon on the western side and the muhon on the eastern side.
This straw twine segment helped me mark the spots where the Dracaena can be planted.
By noon I finished planting around 5 branches. It was hot so I rested under the shade of a banana plant. I was alone and it was quiet. For a time I could hear the sound of a few motored tricycles passing along the main road,which was probably around half a kilometer away. Then a bit of breeze came and I noticed how the banana leaves made weird sounds when wind passes thru them. It was at that moment when I realized how alive this place was! I saw a large bird (not sure what it was but definitely not an egret or an eagle) fly across my farm towards a nearby tree; it was very boisterous and it squawked while it flew. Then just a few seconds later, I saw a pair of small black swallows that chirped and chased each other. Then a few butterflies appeared but these did not linger in the plot. I found it funny how all these animals suddenly appeared all at one short instance! My thoughts were: “I really need to build a shelter so I can enjoy more of these soon!”
After that short break, I resumed planting even if it was still midday! This part was more challenging, I had to clear the weed, coffee branches, and banana plants before digging at the marked spots.
At around 3pm, I was able to plant 9 Dracaena multiflora branches. I was only able to plant the Dracaena in less than half of the border. I will need more Dracaena branches to continue.
I had a few small Dracaena multiflora cuttings left over, these are not as big as the ones I’ve set on ground; so I decided not to include them. (Plus I was tired from clearing and digging by that time)
I’ve experienced a bit of Eco-tourism or Farm-tourism around the Philippines, these can be very inspiring and insightful; but I wanted more than that!
I wanted a more hands-on experience, a more personal experience.
Farming is a personal endeavor, it entails the original and authentic vision and hard work of an individual. A person deeply interested in farming is not satisfied in just seeing things or joining a demo. It is in being part of an undertaking where farming can truly be appreciated.
I started this endeavor to satiate this deep interest…and as I got more involved, I realized I can extend this experience to others.
Several people have been supporting me from the time I started. Some have been constantly joining me whenever I visit the plot.
Although my plot is small, I still have a lot of unused space. Kiko and Francis were moved after seeing the rows of pineapple which I planted, so they claimed their own spots!
Metro Manila streets were flooded with rain brought by typhoon Mario.
I was really hoping for clear weather so I can spend a day of planting.
This morning, I checked my weather app and it gave me the go signal to drive to the plot. I called up two friends and drove to straight to the plot! I had two things which I wanted to do; plant pineapples and waling-waling.
There are pineapple plants growing wild and I intended to plant them neatly so I can enjoy getting fruit a few months from now. However, everything growing close to the ground was smothered with weed and grass! My attempt to make the area look a little cleaner was to create a border of pineapple to define the frontage of the plot.
Weeding the area was especially tough. Using a blunt machete and a big shovel, I spent two hours slashing weed and grass and planting around fifteen pineapple plants. By noon, I took a nap under a make-shift shade to let the midday heat pass. I set out to continue work around an hour after. By 3 pm, I finished planting 48 pineapple plants!
After the difficult manual labor, I tied around 30 Waling-Waling orchid seedlings on a few coffee trees. Joy, our friend who joined for a picnic at the plot, bought me a bottle full of Waling-Waling seedlings when she visited Davao (Mindanao) last week. I have never grown orchids from the flask and I would not even attempt to grow these in Metro Manila.
I will have to wait for three to five years before the plants bloom but, as Joy shared, this is just one more reason to keep visiting.
I invited a few friends for picnic again.
From the previous picnic, I was convinced that I need to set-up temporary structures to make visits more comfortable. These will allow me to stay longer in the plot and accomplish more work.
By next year I want to build my bamboo hut! But for now, I want to set up a temporary shade area. I also want to make an outdoor shower of some sort so I can clean up before entering my car after working on the plot. I also need to build a toilet so the friends I invite can spend more time in the plot.
We had wine, cheese, some fancy dips and tapenades for brunch. It was hot. There were some ants.
I left my friends under the shade to check the water pipe. I was not present when they installed the pipes but I knew where they laid it. I needed to know what it looks like so I can progress with installing my outdoor shower.
I planned on replanting the pineapple in neat rows. I got help from a few friends who held the machete to slash some weedy patches. It was midday. We went back under the shade.
At 1pm it became cloudy. It began to drizzle. I brought with me around thirty orchid plants. I did not want to bring them home again. My friends helped me attach the plants to the coffee trees.
Drizzle became rain. The rain was as cold as cool drinking water. I told my friends, “I told you it’s cool here!”
How I wish I could watch the rain under a nice shade.
Clean up was not the goal for this visit. I just wanted to see the extent of the damage.
I wanted to check which of the few things I planted were damaged by the storm. I was expecting to see impassable roads and felled coconut trees.
Along with a few adventurous friends, some food, and wine; I brought a ground sheet and a shade cover for our make-shift picnic area.
I thought of sharing a story about cleaning up and re-planting after the storm, but I realized I have not started much yet.
Having looked at how the few plants I planted were faring, the land told me a different story.
The Phalaenopsis aphrodite that was attached to a coffee branch had three fresh sets of leaves and new roots firmly attached to the branch.
The Platycerium grande (Giant Stag’s-horn-fern) from Mindanao which I flimsily attached to a coconut managed to stay put despite the strong wind of the typhoon.
The Taiwanese olive tree has also sent out a robust set of new leaves. It was lucky that no tree or banana was felled on top of it.
It was not good news for some other plants.
This Vanda javierae, a native in the mountains of Nueva Viscaya, was struggling to survive in the lowlands of Quezon City. It was attached to this coffee tree a few weeks ago. Now, it finally dried up. Perhaps it really needs higher elevation or perhaps it was too weak when I planted it out here.
Despite being slightly uprooted, the 7-ft Yakal tree is thriving. With proper support, its roots can be given more time to set itself firmly on the ground.
Other then some felled banana trees and coconut saplings; it was this Tipolo tree that was the noticeable casualty of the storm.
Our picnic was pleasant but it could be more comfortable. Perhaps I could use that Antipolo tree to build a temporary shelter.
I found it March this year.
It was a compromise. My resources could only get me to as much. I had to risk getting a parcel of land with difficult documents. I wanted a cool-montane tropical climate at a location that is fairly easy to visit during weekends. I could have waited for a time when I would be more comfortable…but I want this to exist now.
I know that this is a kind of lifestyle I will be doing for the rest of my life.
This has been a private undertaking but I realize that there is a story to share.
I’m excited to allow my story to unfold here; whether, it will be just be very expensive learning experience due to failure or an opportunity for something great!