When we hear the word farm, we always think, a place with a lot of vegetables, fruits, animals, a place where you can be close to nature and just breathe. I was able to see all of the things mentioned above and yes, was able to be close to nature and breathe fresh air. But for once, the word farm meant so much more.
Not a lot of people have heard about GK Enchanted Farm, unless you mention that GK means Gawad Kalinga, only then will it ring a familiar bell. I have known about it for a while and have dreamed of going there so when the opportunity came, I made sure to take it.
Last May 17-18, my sister and I became two of the several bloggers invited to join GK Enchanted Farm’s Blogger Weekend. This program is a way of introducing the farm to the Philippines and the world by having people experience the farm themselves then write about those experiences.
If I can sum up what I learned from my experiences at the farm during the 2 days I spent there, I would probably use three words: Social Entrepreneurship, Social Tourism and Community. The first two words I have borrowed from the people behind Gawad Kalinga, and the last is a word I not only heard but deeply felt during my stay at the farm.
Gawad Kalinga supports and cultivates a total of 13 social enterprises namely: Human Nature, AgriCool, Bayani Brew, Blue Bamboo Ventures, Cream of the Crop, Enchanted Farm Cafe, Golden Duck, Gourmet Keso, Grassroots Kitchen, Hamlet, Plush and Play, Red Carpet, Theo and Philo Artisan Chocolates and Trese.
“What Filipino entrepreneurs need today, especially young and rising ones, is an environment that will help bring their ideas to life and challenge them to aspire for greatest social impact. This means keeping connected to Community and gaining access to good mentoring, value-adding networking and basic facilities and resources – what the GK Enchanted Farm offers and even more!” (from the Gawad Kalinga website)
The farm assists young entrepreneurs with great ideas by using the farm itself to “incubate” that idea until it hatches into a full fledged business that not only gains profits but also gives back to the community. The farm lends its facilities and resources in order to test the business prototype.
We were able to experience firsthand some of the enterprises through live workshops where participants can join in the process of making chocolates, cheese and Pinoy stuffed toys.
I greatly enjoyed the hands-on demos of some of the products being sold at the farm, more so tasting these yummy and healthy products but I cannot deny that what had the greatest impact to me was the passion–seen in the eyes of the young Filipino entrepreneurs who talked about those products, heard in their voices as they explained how and why they started the enterprise, and the smile in their faces as they see how enthralled we were of their stories.
And so I wondered, why can’t each and every business in the Philippines have the same goal of giving back?
If you feel like you cannot do business but still wishes to support Gawad Kalinga, GK Enchanted Farm houses venues for farming activities, special occasions, vacations and relaxation. Don’t get me wrong, though. GK Enchanted Farm is not a resort so please do not envision it as just that. The farm simply created more ways for people to help the Gawad Kalinga cause by providing more opportunities to give back to the community while enjoying yourselves as well.
“The GK Enchanted Farm, true to its name, shall enchant its visitors from all over Philippines and the rest of the world through lived stories not only of successful enterprise but also of concrete acts of caring and sharing. It is gearing up to house pioneer centers and social enterprises for sustainable development, farm high value crops and gather a robust selection of plant species. See for yourself and rediscover the beauty of the Philippines and the magic of being Filipino!” (from the Gawad Kalinga website)
The later part of our day was focused on the Farm Tour as Raf Dionisio showed us the different structures inside the farm including: The Hyundai Center for Green Innovation, Bamboo Palace Center for Development Design and Berjaya Culinary Arts Center (where we had buffet food for the entire stay). Some of the other structures are the IASIS health and Wholeness Center, Lifebank Center for Bayanihan Economics, and Shell Center for Enterprise and Innovation. Some of these venues are still under under construction as of our visit.
Raf showed us around the farm and the amenities and we were surprised to know that the farm offers places to stay for couples, families and big groups so people will have more time to experience the farm, relax, and enjoy.
You can also buy plants from the farm so you can get started on building a farm of your own.
As the our first day ended, we were invited by Raf Dionisio and the other volunteers of the farm for a quick catch up about what we have learned so far. Over a cup of tea, the bloggers talked about what touched them most about the stories they heard and the things they saw in the farm. Most of the people talked lengthily and I cannot blame them, for there were just too much we absorbed and became aware of so far.
What I shared though was a lot simpler: What resonated with me most was what GK Founder Tony Meloto said in our talk earlier that day–that we should empower the men. When I first heard what he said, I was thinking why? Women are the ones who bear the difficulty of being poor as they take care of the children, who are usually victims of violence. But then Tito Tony explained it so well: the men who resort to violence, to vices (drinking, womanizing, gambling) are the men who feel powerless because they do not have jobs, are uneducated, are unappreciated.
And so it dawned on me that indeed, if we equip Filipino men with the opportunity a get good education, to work decent jobs, to have a good home, to be able to support their families–they would feel good about themselves, would feel empowered and would want to be better for their families and for their communities.
The following morning, we met Cherrie Atilano, the president of Agri-Cool and my ultimate girl crush. She is co-founder of Agri-Cool, a proud farmer and a woman advocating agriculture as trendy and fashionable.
That morning she toured as around the farm to talk about how they started with the farm. She also showed how they are taking care and feeding the animals. What is noteworthy is how they feed the animals Azolla, a water fern that is cultivated using animal waste. This means that nothing os wasted in the farm.
Rather than going to some other beach resort to relax with family or friends, you want to consider going to GK Enchanted Farm instead to make your vacation more meaningful. Take the farm tours to learn a few things about organic farming, the demos to appreciate Filipino products and of course, still get to swim in an infinity pool, breathe fresh air and relax for your weekend.
This way you are not only helping yourself by taking a weekend escape but also supporting the community supported by the farm. 🙂
I may be going back and forth here but even though we met him during the start of the Blogger weekend, I opted to place meeting Tony Meloto at the end of my post.
We sat under a tree, all of us bloggers and a few budding social entrepreneurs (a Business Camp was also taking place that same weekend) to listen to Gawad Kalinga’s Father and Founder, Tony Meloto.
I wish I could have taken a video of his talk but I guess I was so engrossed by his words that all I wanted to do was listen, really listen.
He talked about how GK Enchanted Farm is another phase of Gawad Kalinga (the more popular one is the phase of building homes for Filipinos). They started the farm to ” raise social entrepreneurs, help our local farmers and create wealth in the countryside.” What used to be a slum in Barangay Encanto where criminals dwell is now a farm that brings livelihood and jobs to more than 200 families and bring children of those families to school.
The farm is a self-sufficient community, only relying on its own resources and manpower to live each day and even has enough to provide for communities outside.
Tito Tony shared how he and other volunteers are sharing the cause to other countries and how they are becoming a model of sustainability to other groups in and outside of the country.
I usually call my travel weekends Wanderful Travels because they have always been about wandering about, taking pictures of me and my friends/family at the beach or in scenic places. This time that title does not hold true because it is more that wandering and taking pictures. It was about learning a way of life that is not just about yourself and what makes you happy, but about doing something that helps others live happy and meaningful lives too.
The GK Enchanted Farm is open to the public from Tuesdays to Sundays, 7:30 AM – 4:00 PM and is accessible via private and public transportation. Check here for directions.
Until the next meaningful travel,