Most people may think that when you’re a farmer your job is to simply grow food. We now realize after a few years of this kind of life that it is just part of the pie and that it is beyond the daily chores of tilling, sowing and taking care of the livestock. The past few weeks have taught us that when you work with nature, celebrating life and accepting deaths makes most of that pie.
The months of April, May and June are our birthday months, April 16 for Cye, May 2 for Ranie and June 15 for me. This year, we decided to celebrate along with Cha, Cye’s sister whose birthday also falls on May. But we didn’t just want to have a typical party all by ourselves. We wanted to give more meaning to our special days. We decided to have a children’s party with our neighbors’ kids, something that we didn’t experience when we were young. And instead of asking our friends for gifts for ourselves, we asked for their pre-loved items that we could give away, like toys, clothes, books, school supplies and then some. We were surprised to have received a lot, not just used items but some brand new ones.
It took us a few days to sort the gifts we received. Special thanks to Cha who took time to solicit these items from friends.
We were all excited on the day of the party last May 16. We danced, we played, we ate, we partied! We didn’t just give away gifts to the kids but we were also able to give books, toys and school supplies to the village daycare center. Even the parents received some gifts. It felt good to have shared with the community especially the kids, all farmers’ kids.
On the same week of our birthday bash, we also celebrated the birthing of our livestock. Ka Ambing, our goat, gave birth to two kids, a boy and a girl. While Biiktorya, our native pig, gave birth to nine healthy piglets. And just days after, our native hens hatched a total of 27 chicks. Witnessing births first hand and helping give life are simply amazing. We wouldn’t have done it without our friends in the community who coached us on what to do in assisting the mothers, especially Biiktorya.
You can just imagine how tired we were that week of birthing.
But as we celebrate life, we also mourn the passing of our neighbor and close friend, Zaldy Laroya. He practically helped us kickstart the farm the past three years. He helped build our bamboo hut, mud house, Pinoy banga (ferrocement tanks), pump house among others. What we loved about Manong Zaldy were his willingness to teach us his skills especially in building with bamboo and his eagerness to learn new things from us.
It was Manong Zaldy who observed, in August of last year, when our bolo bamboos dominant at the farm started to bloom. He told us it’s a rare event and that elders usually say when bamboos flower, “thirst and hunger will follow.” It made sense to us that time because we were in the middle of the El Niño phenomenon, which was expected to be one of the worst El Niño ever. Eventually we found out that bamboos live for 40-100+ years and die after blooming.
We are now challenged to harvest the dead bamboos and clear the clumps. But as what permaculture has taught us, problems should be seen as opportunities. We now see the death of our bamboos as an opportunity to make a part of the forest a “bambooseum” where we can diversify and plant other bamboo species and another part where we can start a food forest. We dedicate this bambooseum project to Manong Zaldy. He will forever be part of The Pitak Project family.
While I ponder on these events, I put wonderful rich soil in bags and pinch a seed into each while watching seeds earlier sown sprout and grow to become trees. I now see the meaning of life and death in a different perspective. I know there is a better life for humankind – new beginnings, new economies, new priorities to restore ecological and social health. And if we cannot live to see it, then we will die trying to achieve it.