Farmbiz sa Pandin: A marriage between farming and theater

NEW BEGINNINGS - Büm D. Tenorio Jr. - The Philippine Star
Farmbiz sa Pandin: A marriage between farming and theater
Lake Pandin, one of the famed seven lakes of San Pablo City.

At the onset, they seem to be an unlikely pair — agriculture and theater. One is in charge of growing crops; the other, talent.

Their union became possible when the people behind Farmbiz sa Pandin cultivated their dreams and defied the stark differences between farming and the arts. The three-hectare farm in San Pablo City is now poised as a venue for creative pursuits.

It all began when David Gesmundo Cosico, my good friend and contemporary in UP Los Baños, came back to his hometown of San Pablo at the height of the pandemic in 2020. What better thing to do during lockdowns than to attend to his family’s farm? While the klieg lights of show business (he is the manager of singers Morissette, Wency Cornejo, Shiela Valderrama and Polly Cabrera) were dimmed and the theater scenes had yet to see the curtains rise, David, a retired Trumpets and Repertory Philippines actor, cleared the parcel of land of heaps of garbage. He was turbo-propped for some serious farming.

David has a mind that is a cornucopia of creativity. You can take him out of the stage, so to speak, but you can’t take the stage out of him. He gathered his friends from the biz and together they formed Farmbiz sa Pandin. It was his business partner, Stella Sison of Stages, who coined the name Farmbiz, a contraction of farming and showbiz. Pandin is one of the seven lakes of San Pablo, which is just a 10-minute walk from the farm. And with their other partners — Jun Ofrasio, Jingay Kaimo, Polly Cabrera, Bambi Santos, Chona Ponce, Cris Ojeda, Agon Gaurana and Jhune Aycardo — they started to dabble in farming on a rolling terrain that is dotted with fruit trees and a running brook.

Though farming is a prime composite of their endeavor, they also position Farmbiz sa Pandin as an artist village with nipa huts.

Farmbiz sa Pandin.

“This is to be a site of an artist village. The plan is to partner with art stalwarts and build bespoke nipa cottages to be their vacation get-away. What could be more inspiring for artists than to be surrounded by the beauty of nature? The huts will also be made available to the public as AirBnB,” explains David.

He adds, “Weekend performances and workshops of all sorts will be offered — painting, pottery, song writing, playing instruments, acting, dancing, etc.”

The weekend before Valentine’s Day, in a picnic set up under a canopy of stars and coconut trees, 20 guests experienced at the farm the thought-provoking Asawa/Kabit, which, according to David, was the first ever play staged during the pandemic while Laguna was on Alert Level 3. The play, written by Palanca awardee George de Jesus III, was deftly directed by stage veteran Audie Gemora, David’s mentor and family friend, who gave dignity and honor to the joys and travails of the wife and the mistress in the play. Gem Padilla-Thomas and Mica Pineda essayed the roles with believable and incandescent depth.

Guests laughed and cried as they watched the play while partaking of the sumptuous Mexican fare prepared by Azutea Taqueria y Cervezasp. (In front of Farmbiz sa Pandin, because it is along the highway of the city center, is a restaurant called Casa Bravo that serves yummy silog meals and a very mean gotong Batangas. San Pablo is a food haven.)

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the restaurants around San Pablo will get their fresh produce from the farm because it grows okra, eggplant, pepper, Red Lady papaya among other cash crops.

“The idea is to keep growing crops, at the same time, host goings-on at the farm, to lure the Laguna residents out of their homes, draw the Manila folks out of their metro, get all of  them to spend a few hours at the farm and join in the fun,” David says.

Audie Gemora and David Gesmundo.

“Nature camps for the youth will also be a staple. Parents or schools can bring city kids to experience nature — run in open fields, climb trees and play in tree houses, feed farm animals, plant trees and crops, pick farm produce and cook meals with it, swim in Lake Pandin and visit the six other lakes San Pablo is famous for,” says Audie Gemora, the president of Philstage, a coalition of Philippine live theater, dance, and opera companies.

“This summer, a rerun of Asawa/ Kabit, with another play during Holy Week, and ‘Palarong Pambata’ are all in the works,” adds Stella Sison.

All these will happen as the marriage between farming and the arts takes center stage at Farmbiz sa Pandin. Long live the couple!

(For your new beginnings, e-mail me at [email protected]. I’m also on Twitter @bum_tenorio and Instagram @bumtenorio. Have a blessed weekend.)


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