Sunday at Prado Farms

SECOND WIND - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura () - May 14, 2011 - 12:00am

I heard about it first when I thought of ordering a biodynamic lechon for my mother’s 40th day (after her passing). But then, that seemed too complicated. It would have to be delivered from Pampanga to Calamba. They could only deliver to Pasay. I thought the lechon was expensive and did not understand why. I was told the pigs lived on arugula and yogurt and a week before slaughter — ripe mangoes. All these details made my eyes roll heavenward.

Then, last Sunday, my daughter Panjee invited me to spend Mother’s Day with her at Prado Farms, Reimon Gutierrez’s farm in Lubao, Pampanga. Of course, I looked forward to seeing it, expecting a simple farmhouse and piggery but when we got there I was so taken, so totally charmed by the whole place that my eyes stopped staring heavenward. They just really lit up. This mixture of enjoyment, discovery, work, creativity, and nostalgia looked and felt like the Filipino paradise.

As we approached the farm Panjee said, “It used to be an LPG refilling station, so you will see a lot of empty gas tanks at the gate and in the garden converted into sculptures.” Then, suddenly, a mustard structure appeared and beside it a dramatic gate made up of different-sized rusty gas tanks and I knew we were there. The gate alone was worth the trip. It wasn’t just a gate made up of empty gas tanks, there was art in it.

Kids love whiling away the endless day fishing at Prado Farms in Lubao, Pampanga, as their parents enjoy their merienda on the veranda.

We were there because it was May Mangan Yaman Food Festival and I was included because it was also Mother’s Day. We were welcomed with a late breakfast of kesong puti with a puffy omelet served with one delicious longanisa that was about an inch long, but was once about four inches, Reimon explained, only they cooked it until all the fat was out. It was delicious. This whole meal was served with three tiny pandesal and followed by a small cup of hot chocolate with pinipig and three small pieces of fried suman. A delicious, creative and very filling Filipino meal in Pampango style. Remember, my father was from Pampanga. I know the eating style.

After breakfast, by the water lily filled fishpond, we walked around the beautiful new-old houses designed by Reimon himself using recycled materials and dotted here and there by fenced-in animals. The first window had three white cows that reminded me of Wingle, my mother’s first brown cow, which she kept on her farm for my children, when they were small. Then there was the fat pot-bellied pig in another corner, lazy, half-asleep, grunting grouchily. Across him were goats you could feed from a cartful of grass and bamboo placed beside their corner. There was a lovely little duck pond with live ducks of all sizes swimming. From the trees that shaded us from the sun hung colorful acrylic pieces I recognized as Impy Pilapil’s work.

The endless meal of the Hacienda Day Package starts with minindal or morning merienda.

Across the duck pond we entered a little yellow house where Reimon’s sisters, who own Silverworks, display their one-of -a-kind jewelry. Go up a narrow spiral staircase and you’re in the library.

It was all so charming — this mix of old and new. How do you mix it well? Through art and creativity. Those are Reimon’s gifts. I would describe him as an outstanding biodynamic farmer who brims with art and creativity.

“Remember, Panj, when you fell down a spiral staircase?” I asked, smiling at the memory. She didn’t remember. She was so tiny then, not even two years old. Now she has children of her own. Where did all the time go?

“This, Reimon calls the kera-kera,” our guide said. That was supposed to mean something like lying down in Kapampangan. “Later you will come here, lie down, listen to a violin play and have your feet massaged.” Heaven, I thought, absolute heaven! We went up the small hotel where guests at seminars are billeted. Very pretty and comfortable, too. I will recommend this place for seminars. Then we went to the chapel, which was simple but very beautiful, too.

From there — believe it or not — we headed off to lunch. On our way we passed the family residence and admired another gate put together with steel doodads. An old iron or plancha in Spanish, as my grandmother would have said, welded on as the doorknob.

Under a canopy of trees, walk the sprawling grounds of Prado Farms — or go for a carabao ride.

We entered the pink building with a thatch roof marked “theater.” In there we would have lunch. The humba had overtaken us on our way, just as we passed the charming kiddie pools. On the long buffet was quite a display of vegetables and the Kapampangan buro, which I love to eat with dahon ng mustasa. There was corn soup, humba and lechon for the carnivores like me and the rest of our group. We were seven — Panjee, Dale, Monique, Girlie, Dida and Steve, me. I think only Panj ordered vegetarian, though she ate lechon from Dale. The lunch was delicious, vegetables all fresh and crisp, cherry tomatoes as big as aratiles but wonderful flavors. The lechon and humba really did not have as much fat as ordinary pork.

After lunch, we moved to the kera-kera, where a young man played background violin music. Monique and Girlie had foot massages. The rest of us sat around drinking coffee, eating cookies, very dirty ice cream (Reimon’s label), and butong pakwan. Monique looked around, “I grew up in a place like this in Malabon,” she said wistfully. I knew what she meant. Even I kept revisiting my childhood as we walked around, our farm in Los Baños, the carabao cart we would ride in whenever we went to another farm.

What’s a harvest if it isn’t shared? The Prado salad changes by the season and the variety never ends. They harvest before sunrise to surprise guests with the unusual. It’s all healthy and topped with buro or your choice of house dressing of the day.

This is truly Filipino, I thought. The old traditional Filipino life incorporated everything gracefully — duck pond across jewelry sales around the corner from the cows, goats and pigs, the old and the new flowing into each other so smoothly. And the wonder of biodiversity is everything is odorless especially the pigs who might eat arugula and yogurt, both made here, and other vegetables at the end of the day. You should see the adorable pigs. Little ones, the biiks, nuzzling to feed off mom who’s just lying there waiting for the little black, pink, and others who were pink with black spots piglets’ attacks on her breasts. Everything odorless.

I wish I could invite you to Prado Farms but they are not open to the public except in May, when they have the Mangan Yaman, fully-booked already, and in December when they celebrate GreenChristmas. They are only open for training sessions, seminars and similar projects for around 25 people. If you need more information just e-mail mailto:pradofarms@gmail.com.

* * *

And if this article leaves you with dreams of your gracious childhood, you might want to call Chato Lozano at 0917-8317773 and enroll in the next Jung seminar on dream interpretation. This session will be conducted by Rose Yenko and Dido Villasor, two of the outstanding dream analysts I have met. Rose analyzed one of my outstanding dreams that I wrote about in this column and she was right. My life is now way up on the upswing. Take this course. It’s worth the investment.

Please text your comments to 0917-8155570.

What encourages conversation? Butong pakwan, of course, casually served at Kera Kera lounge. Have some upland coffee, Prado backyard herb infusion teas, local cookies (araro and masapodrida) and dirty ice cream.

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