Going back to the land

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I have always been proud of being a farmer’s daughter. Pop, although a surveyor by profession, is still actively farming and has dedicated several decades of his life to the land, as his father had been. He once told us that he helped clear the land which he farms until now, with his father, when he was 8 to 10 years old.

So my fascination with farming is understandable. But apart from a one-time experience in the field, planting rice seedlings when I was seven, I never had any opportunity, nor will to work the land. I think the city got into me. We moved to San Mateo from Mindoro just before I turned 8 and it completely cut me off from the land (and the sea, but that’s another story). The nearest I got to the land is by playing on the nearby open fields after the rice has been harvested. Little by little I saw those fields turn into residential villages and we had to find another place to play and run and bike. Concrete grew wildly and land became a memory.

My classmates and I started frequenting Paraiso, then a high end cemetery where we had our small picnics and bike rides. In school, we didn’t have gardening, like we did in Sambat Simaron Elementary School in Sta Isabel, Calapan. We had a few potted plants in our apartment, and a dainty dish garden that was the centerpiece of our small living room, and that’s it.

It IS the city that took the land away from me. As I was growing, the city grew faster and took my full attention. The city had so many things to offer, stores growing into department stores and then supermalls that made me an impulsive shopper; streets that grew into highways and into super highways that turned eveything concrete, buildings that grew into skyscrapers that blocked out the stars at night. But as the city changed, or should I say deteriorated, I started to change too, but hopefully for the better.

Fast forward to the present. I feel the land calling me. There is almost a palbable desire to go back to the land. The clearest inner call is, I want a garden, but everything around me is concrete as I live in the heart of the city. How do I go back to the land when I don’t have an inch of it where I am?


My niece Issa harvesting cherry tomatoes.


I can’t fight this feeling any longer, and yet I’m still afraid to let it flow. Photo from

My sister who lives in Saudi Arabia plants a garden every year. Yes, every year. She starts in October and harvests in February, by March, with the summer heat, almost everything starts to die. Her passion is almost devotional. She couldn’t wait for October to come again and plant her garden once more, a lush, beautiful vegetable garden in the desert city of Dhahran which her friends rave about.

I look at the pictures of her garden and feel a sudden pang of envy. If she can do it in the desert, maybe I can do it in tropical Cebu. I can almost feel her anticipation for October as I try to visualize my own. I even placed a picture in my Vision Book!

The prospect of a garden is both exciting and frightening at the same time. Imagine, having small container garden, waking up to its green beauty everyday, nurturing the plants, being rewarded by a tomato or two. Idyllic. On the other hand, I would have to actually touch the soil and might even encounter a worm or two. Even more frightening is trying so hard and failing, because I might not have the green thumb that Papa and Ate Roscel have. The horror!


This is the idea. Rina and Gingging of MISSION Cebu will help make this a reality. Photo by Debbie Kong.

Hoping for my garden to materialize is like going through a multi-layered lemniscate. I want it so much that I’m afraid to do it, afraid to take the leap, afraid to find out that I might not be a a green thumb after all. But there are imaginals who are prodding me on and co-imagining the garden with me. They are helping me make things happen, albeit little by little.

Rina collected and recycled containers into pots. Gingging made a garden plan and sent it to my email in the wee hours of the morning. If they have such dedication to my soon to be garden, then I would have to be as dedicated too. I would have to see it through

The land is calling me, it’s almost primeval. I will give in and the garden will materialize. If going back to the land means planting on pots in the middle of the city, then so be it. Green thumb or not, I’m going to try. After all, I am also a farmer’s daughter.


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