Davao garden resort turns to farming amid COVID-19 economic blow

Rosette Adel - Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines — One agri-ecotourism resort in Davao City used to provide nature escapes to local and foreign visitors with its world-class hospitality experience offering from dining, accommodation, recreation to wellness activities before the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, with tourism on halt, Malagos Garden Resort Davao situated in Malagos, Calinan, Davao City, stopped welcoming visitors and instead focused on offering farm-fresh produce from its bounty 12-hectare land.

“Thank God that we have a soil. It’s a 12-hectare property, so we reinvented. We transformed it with–using land that we have around we turned it into vegetable farm. We’re now growing chickens, raising animals. We have our eggs. We’re baking bread, were raising aquaculture, hydroponics,” Olive Puentespina, cheesemaker and founder of Malagos Farmhouse said in the Re-imagining Food Tourism webinar late May.

“Everything that we can do first to support our people and in excess it’s to sell. So instead of people going to Malagos we have made our products available through platforms for deliveries,” she said.

In April, the Davao-based garden resort launched a website where consumers can choose a wide selection of homegrown organic and health and wellness commodities that can be delivered right at their doorsteps.

Aside from these, other signature products Malagos offers include ready-to-eat meals, cheese and its international award-winning, single-origin chocolates.

These farm-to-table products were featured in the Department of Health and CNN Philippines’ “Kain na!” documentary.

Late June, the garden resort also started offering potted herbs and other garden essentials so that their consumers can harvest their own herbs from their garden straight from the farm.

The garden resort said they have decided to bring the fresh harvest close to the people’s home “to help those who are quarantined in their homes maintain a healthy and equally tasty diet.”

Puentespina said the e-grocery and delivery service received a good response from consumers who are trusting their brand. However, she said that they are missing the visitors coming in the nature theme resort that houses the country’s first and only chocolate museum, Malagos Chocolate Museum, indigenous birds, and other wildlife species and native flora like the Philippine orchid.

“What we miss are the ‘Good morning, Sir,’ ‘Good morning, Ma’am. The rooms are empty of course obviously. We are challenged but I know that this is just a phase we hope to come out of this in a much better form,” Puentespina concluded.

Sustainable tourism in the Philippines

Last July 16, the DOT announced that it has partnered with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to promote farm tourism and help the country’s tourism industry recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Farm tourism is defined as “a concept which combines tourism and agriculture by drawing visitors to the farms to experience unique agriculture activities like harvesting agricultural produce, feeding and raising animals, fishing, camping, hiking and even sampling local cuisine.”

Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said it is an “important pillar for employment.” She said this partnership may equip local farm workers and fisherfolk with the skills and infrastructure support they need to survive the pandemic.

“This partnership with the DOT will truly ignite the development and the recovery of the tourism and agriculture sectors in the Philippines, which were both heavily devastated by the prevailing pandemic,” Xiangjun Yao, interim representative of FAO to the Philippines said in a release.

The DOT and FAO signed the memorandum of understanding during the first National Farm Tourism Online Summit last June 16.

The three-year pilot program has the three areas of focus which include the following:

  • Enhancing complementation between tourism and agricultural programming in the country;
  • The provision of technical support on capacity building, research and development, marketing and advocacy, and technological development to promote farm tourism development; and
  • The conduct of pilot activities in select farm tourism sites.

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