“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.”
It has been a year of coming full circle for me, coming back to where I started. This time, returning to the roots of my island farming career once more – to the tiny island known around the world as “Amanpulo.” This was where “island farming” was first coined, as a fun status update on my Facebook page which I wrote on my first visit here over three years ago. Ironically, I am also writing this from Casita 30 – the same treetop cottage I was given on my first visit here back in 2008. I was still a novice farmer then, and Amanpulo was my first ever project outside of our farm in Negros Island. I had been learning the ropes of organic farming then, having gone back to my home island of Negros after 3 years of living in yet another little piece of paradise called Boracay.
This time around, I was in Amanpulo with an organic guarantee inspector, to have our little organic garden finally certified – the highlight of over three years of patient work. We were set to become the first island resort in the Philippines to have a certified organic farm. And as I looked back over three years of painstaking work, I gave myself a little tap on my shoulder even as I was out laying on a beach bed overlooking the neighboring island of Manamoc. We had truly created a gem of a garden here and I was mighty proud of it too.
It was a truly daunting task when we started this garden in 2008. The island had a tiny garden with a few plots, some clayish soil and some puny little plants in it. The island, itself, has no top soil. Essentially a huge sand bank where plants started to grow, Pamalican Island is barren, dry and has a large number of animals and birds roaming freely around it. We started using kitchen waste for our vermicomposting substrate,, mixing it with shredded garden waste which was collected daily. These were put in compost pits to decompose and fed to worms later to create fertilizer. We started to ferment fruit scraps, fish guts and seaweed – all waste products from the kitchens as well as the beach that were being collected everyday.
Today, the organic garden supplies a good amount of the vegetables the resort consumes regularly. At several of their food outlets, farm-to-plate salads are served to guests straight out of our daily harvest. The garden also grows native herbs that are used for Vietnamese restaurant. The Picnic Grove serves fresh arugula salad for guests as an addition to their ordered pizzas.
When you grow lettuce in a farm with top soil and adequate sunlight, it may seem quite normal and the work of nature. When you do this less than 50 meters from the beach, in a hot and humid tropical island, that would already be close to a miracle. As the French would say, “Tout es possible,” or everything is possible. What we can dream and conceive, we can truly achieve. Even making a certified organic farm in a barren tropical island in the middle of the Sulu Sea. Nature can put on an awesome show, we just need to be creative enough to give it a unique venue.