THE Happy Scion is a slice of paradise. We declared this space a happy place at the outset. When little garden hands would compete on who would do things or who would be first in the list, we would ask them to play Pik Pak Bom (Jack En Poy). The rules were simple. We asked for fairness and sportsmanship. No one contested the results. No one was sad over the results. Everyone was amused by the rules.
This is a happy place. No one cries over anything. For almost two years now, they would still go home remembering only the happy feeling.
The Happy Scion, a space that we are gradually turning into a beach-line food forest, is a slice of paradise on Earth. Nanay Nena, my Nanay, said so even during the first few weeks she was visiting this space of a garden. We were then starting to plant nothing but food crops like sitaw, okra, cardis, patola and malunggay. At the same time we had some volunteer edibles like wild ampalaya, gooseberries, amti, talinong, and singsing carabao, along with volunteer herbs lantana, bangbangsit, kulibetbet, andadasi or palutsina and makahiya. Weeds like saluyot na aso and an array of medicinal weeds that I could not name without my nanay around were also growing tremendously.
We coexisted with these plants and a number of shade trees and all living creatures that came before us.
Nanay Nena must be happy to see a wide open space on which to plant food crops. I am happier than her to discover through her that there are edible weeds around. I felt at the outset that people did not have to plant to eat. All they have to do is to properly identify what grows in the garden or surroundings. Are these edible? Are these plants and weeds used for healing? Do cows and goats eat these plants?
My Nanay Nena and her older sister, Nana Remy, came and again they were talking about having visited a slice of paradise. There has been a tremendous change in the garden layout .
Not all weeds are removed to extinction, but they saw more plants growing. There were no saluyot nor kalkalunay before. We had introduced seeds of these plants that eventually spread in time.
At almost the same time last year, we were planting kalabasa, okra and upo. We do not have seeds to plant now unlike before when several groups were dispersing seeds. Instead, we have creeping camote and cassava as staples. We have patola, which is still fruiting. Passion fruit vines now require sturdier trellises.
Our living fence has malunggay, mulberry, dragon fruit, tagumbaw and bougainvilleas. Neem and acacia remained as shade trees and our papayas and bananas are struggling but have started to bear fruits.
We are starting a nursery for our food forest that would include kasuy, atis, guyabano, langka, mangga, citrus, avocado, Mabolo, sineguelas, camias, coconut, dyatiles, camantiles, umbrella tree, katuray and sampalok. We are germinating zapote seeds, as well as duhat and rambutan.
We recently received native tree seeds like balitbitan and supa and these will also be planted to augment four narra seedlings that we have earlier planted.
We co-existed with these plants and, not minding the ants, beetles, roaches, even some mosquitoes. We enjoyed the low-flying feathered species that lay eggs anywhere. Grass nests stayed where they laid without being disturbed. We gathered scattered bird eggs that we did not cook. We simply enjoyed the chirping that appeared synchronized as if in an orchestra. My Nanay Nena and I would stay for hours in two yarn hammocks hanging between acacia trees. Time would pass by which we did not mind until the birds would noisily gather on treetops at midday signalling it was time for lunch, or time to go home, when they fly low to gather more grains, in the afternoon.
Nanay Nena has also identified the ants as kanit (tiny swift ones), ansit (larger biting) and gilata (biting). I would point out that there is an ant species that are larger than kanit but smaller than gilata. I agree that ansit is the biggest of them all and that this specie makes their colonies balling live leaves on trees and the patola vine. There are more ant species in our garden space that we cannot name.
We also share the space with bees, wasps, beetles, lady bugs, butterflies, moths and their caterpillars. Lately, I noticed dragonflies. Frogs occasionally show up, especially near the water pumps. Last year, I still heard tukko/tikka, which appeared to me as a larger house lizard. Yes, we also see monitor lizards around and our neighbors say there are bigger tilay around. I have not seen any snakes, but my garden companions say there are, as evidenced by snake skin under the bamboo stand.
Farm animals roam freely and tend to forage on our camote, bananas, mulberry and other seedlings but they do not eat atis, bougainvilleas, tagumbaw and banders Española, hinting what plants to leave unfenced.
A number of chickens are busy all day foraging for insects and underground larvae and little growing seeds. These also feed on young grass and seedlings. Actually these may spell disaster but a lot of patience is all we need to appreciate the existence of chickens and other farm animals.
It is an overstatement to say that we are recreating paradise. We are just enjoying what we have been doing since the pandemic started to cripple people and economies. We are only providing ourselves the opportunity to work with people and the environment. We are practicing and leading a simple life, however difficult it can be for us.
We have retrogressed into a life that my Nanay Nena used to lead. Mind you, we have adjusted and have learned to love to cook all our meals on a primitive wood-fed stove. Our bedroom is aircon (air continuous, as a visiting evangelical bishop describes our nipa-bamboo hut). It has no beds and we sleep on a slotted floor, with the old-fashioned mosquito net to protect us from insects. Citronella, senseveria, lantana and neem are said to drive away mosquitoes and other pests. That, we still have to prove.
There is no electricity by choice. Our neighbor has a connection with the local electric cooperative but we chose to harness solar power. Neither is there water utility connection. We have four water pumps that bring us underground water.
Our daily tea comes from a concoction of mulberry, calabash, lemon grass and butterfly pea flowers, which also gives us samsamping for our laswa, bulanglang or pinakbet.
We cook whatever is harvested just before mealtime. My favorite dish is KISS for kangkong, inihaw na isda or pork, saluyot and sabunganay (banana blossoms)papaya, patola, . Whenever available, I substitute or add kalkalunay, malunggay leaves, sitaw tops, alugbati or camote tops.
Our eggplants have been continuously giving us fruits for our dishes. To think that we just rescued these from a garbage pit last year, we are surprised that it has withstood several climate changes. Okra is also a great crop, which we maintain all year. Unlike samsampingó and talong, though, it has to be replaced once in a while.
The Happy Scion has come a long way. It has hosted quite a number of our family members and friends. It has humbly started to provide for our needs and wants. Most of all, it has helped us cope with this trying time of the pandemic.
The Happy Scion is not just a dream come true. It is a living space. It is a state of mind on a journey in life. It is us. We are The Happy Scion.