Lola must have arranged everything from heaven because it was one serendipitous thing after another on our weekend trip to La Union with my dad and brother. Papa kept saying that it was Lola’s joy to make the yearly trip to pay taxes for a beach front property, but when she passed away, nobody has made that long ride since.
The ruin of an old Spanish tower stands on the back portion of the lot, a part of which my dad donated to the municipality of San Juan because of its heritage value. The mayor said that they were using it for their pawikan conservation project. True enough, when we drove there, a sign pointed to the protected pawikan site but when we got to the tower, there was nothing except some young people hanging out in the shade, whiling away their time. We wondered where the pawikans could be.
That night, we met Papa’s friend who invited us to have lunch at their beach home the following day. That led us to solving the mystery of the endangered species we were searching for.
I had a long lost friend who built a beautiful house in San Juan, La Union. It was a house that would make you fall in love with design and architecture as pure art. I was hoping my dad’s friend might know their family since they both had homes by the same beach. It turns out that my dad’s friend’s neighbor is my long lost friend’s niece who was looking for my dad because my long lost friend told her my dad owned the beach property with the tower ruin which she wanted to use for their pawikan conservation project. If that sounds confusing, the bottom line is, we finally saw the baby pawikans in a blue pail kept in the room of Sachi, my long lost friend’s niece. They were going to be released that afternoon into the sea.
Meeting Sachi and hearing her talk passionately about the NGO she started called CURMA – Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions - made me think of how I was when I was her age, full of idealism, living like the world was our oyster which held out endless possibilities. Then age creeps in and circumstances happen and that idealism dims, slides some notches down. We become realistic and then jaded. We settle and then rationalize settling. We let some dreams go only to find them knocking again during unguarded moments, threatening to break the door with incessant pounding.
Finding Sachi was like finding the missing piece of the puzzle that Lola wanted us to assemble. She not only led us to the turtles, she also led us to the farm dream. Our talk meanders to the topic of agriculture and it turns out that Sachi’s parents have an organic farm in a nearby town called Dasay.
Although I never met him, I knew Sachi’s dad from stories told by my long, lost friend who was always proud of her brother, Toby, the beekeeper. He had been based in Baguio for many years where he nurtured and expanded his honey business but having become disenchanted with the city’s unstoppable, insensitive development, he decided four years ago to move to La Union.
He and his wife were on their way to visit Sachi so we immediately grabbed the chance to see their farm which was in line with my recently-figured “what to do next in life.” When Sachi introduced her parents to us, I whispered to my dad, that’s how I wish Jason, my hubby and I would be when we’re older – two funky farmers of the earth.
Their farm embodied all their ideals of self-sustainability, bio-diversity, eco-friendliness – tags that are not meaningless marketing words but daily creed. They’ve filled once barren mountains with different types of trees and plants that change the micro-climate of the place, making it degrees cooler. They grow red rice and hardly need to go to market because they raise their own food and even make fertilizer from enzymes. When they started out, they lived in a nipa hut, used a solar cooker and had no electricity. Now, they have solar panels on the roof of their more conventional house oriented to catch the breeze and shaded from the harsh afternoon sun.
Toby said that a lot of people think that farming costs a lot of money but he doesn’t think it should if you know how to utilize the resources. I’d like to study in detail how they do things and I could listen to Toby talk the whole day about trees but we had to head back to Manila.