When Urbanites Go to a Farm Fair

City folks that we are who operate on a different time zone, we naturally came late to the Malagos Farm Fair on Sunday, August 8th, the second and last day of this first-of-its kind event in the country.  Our late noon arrival was greeted by Davao rain and some people were starting to get into their cars and heading home as we were getting in.

Charita Puentespina (or Tita Charie), is the mother of the amazing Puentespina brood and Davao's waling-waling

Charita Puentespina (or Tita Charie), is the mother of the amazing Puentespina brood and Davao’s waling-waling

Angel Puentespina greeted us at the reception area and he and Neil immediately engaged in bonsai talk.  A few weeks earlier Neil and I were at the Puentespina Gardens in Bolcan Street, Agdao looking for bonsai pots.  Angel happened to be there and helped us rummage through their old pots, unearthing treasures under the thick dust in their storage area, and delighted that someone is nurturing an interest in cultivating bonsai and gardening in general. Angel’s mother, Tita Charita Puentespina, has a beautiful bonsai garden in Malagos, which she left for cacao farming, where her heart now lies.

Angel Puentespina and Neil Cariaga exchange bonsai stories

Angel Puentespina and Neil Cariaga exchange bonsai stories

While Neil found a mentor in Angel for his bonsai hobby, I was begging Olive Puentespina to take me as her apprentice in wine and cheese making and creating great food.  So far, I am starting by baking cabrito (baby goat) from Malagos Farm with a special marinade of olive oil and fresh herbs created by Olive.  It’s been a great success over the weekend that I am inspired to experiment with more dishes using Malagos produce (their French beans is another favorite of mine).

Because we came at one in the afternoon, we missed the roast beef for lunch. Good thing there were still lots of roasted chickens, corn on the cob, Purefoods hotdog, pasta, fresh green salads, and the tableya cake!  Olive said they roasted three cows that day and it was all gone just like that.  They didn’t expect that many people would turn up — entire families with children of all ages. Malagos Gardens was a huge fiesta party filled with city folks having the time of their lives.  “We don’t know where all these people came from,” she said in disbelief.

Neither did we. Who would have thought that going to a farm would turn out to be such a hit for today’s young urbanites of the Internet generation?

City dwellers on board a festive tractor that tours them around the farm

City dwellers on board a festive tractor that tours them around the farm

I must admit that I am one of those city dwellers who won’t last a day in a farm. I have always lived near the downtown area wherever I am in the world.  I kind of like the idea that I am just five minutes away from a shopping mall, supermarket, theater, and restaurants. I hate waking up early and I take my sweet time in getting ready when going out so I have to be near where I go to school or work as I am always rushing.  I don’t drive so I rely on public transport to take me from point A to point B so living in a remote area would be a challenge. I didn’t cook (but I am starting to love it now) so I want to be in a location where my favorite fast-food can deliver.

I am not exactly your outdoorsy girl who is into nature trips either.  The prospect of climbing a mountain or hiking in the woods (or any form of physical activity for that matter) do not excite me.  I only like going to the beach if the weather is gloomy (no sun).  I went on a trip to the Grand Canyon and got bored. I am of the belief that if you have seen one waterfall, you’ve seen them all.  When we took the great ocean road adventure in Australia, I stayed in the tour bus after about three scenic stops. I can only take in so much beauty of nature, too much of it makes me cranky. And don’t get me started on going to the zoo because it’s my least favorite in any travel itinerary.

Mother and child enjoy riding on horseback

Mother and child enjoy riding on horseback

I don’t have the patience and the nurturing skills needed to have any kind of pet.  I had a pet rabbit when I was about two years old and I choked it to death. Then I had a dog when I was a little girl — a black “askal” with a racist name (I won’t disclose it anymore for fear of offending the President of the United States and having my visa revoked) who got run over by a truck right before my very eyes because I let it loose.  My last pets were two Japanese turtles which I “smuggled” through airport security inside my purse (I forgot to get proper permits for them to travel and, as usual, I was running late for my flight to Manila).  I may have eluded the authorities in my illegal trafficking of turtles, but our dormitory manager was on to me (there were no pets allowed in the dormitories in U.P.) so I had to donate my pets to the pond of the Philippine Center for Economic Development (PCED) on campus.  The turtles were better off there anyway because it would only be a matter of time before I’d forget to feed them.  Besides, isn’t stuffing turtles inside one’s purse for hours considered cruelty to animals?

City Agriculture head Leo Avila cheering on city kids catching tilapia

City Agriculture head Leo Avila cheering on city kids catching tilapia

So I found it really strange that I was actually excited to go to the Malagos Farm Fair to interact with goats, cows, pigs, and chickens.  If Dr. Bo Puentespina knew I had once killed an innocent rabbit with my bare little hands, he probably would have requested for a protection order for his precious farm animals and attached it to my entrance ticket.

Experiencing the Malagos Farm Fair with countless other urbanites was like being a kid again on a field trip for the first time.  Everything seemed new and fresh — like I am seeing the world in all its glory for the first time after being boxed in solitary confinement for a long time. After watching city kids try to catch pigs and fish, I realize that it’s easy for urban dwellers to take food for granted.  It’s what Oprah would consider an “Aha!” moment.

Young urbanites of the Internet generation explore the farm on their bikes

Young urbanites of the Internet generation explore the farm on their bikes

Perhaps when they had the Malagos Farm Fair when I was a kid, I would probably turn out differently.  I would be drinking fresh milk (I only take milk mixed in ice cream), eating fresh vegetables (I only learned to eat veggies as an adult living in Northern California), and raising farm animals in my backyard (instead of having them in my pantry as canned goods).

Seeing how the Malagos Farm works and understanding the process involved in growing the cacao in my chocolate cake and raising the goat that produces my cheese inspired me to have a better relationship with food and the decision-making involved in my food choices. I considered all the hard work and the many pairs of hands it took to prepare my food and that encouraged me to eat slowly and savor every bite and thank God for farmers like the Puentespina family.

This little piggy refuses to be caught

This little piggy refuses to be caught

I am happy to have been given a second chance (as my life begins again at 40) to appreciate the value of fresh local produce and the blessing of living in typhoon-free Davao City.  Why I ever left Davao to live somewhere else is baffling to me now.  It must be all the junk food I ate in my youth.

So when urbanites go to a farm fair they get transformed into mindful eaters and thoughtful participants to the process of life and creation.  That’s more than agri-tourism, that’s actually living.

First appeared on Mindanao Times, August 17, 2010