Saturday, February 2, 2013

Of Feasts, Farms and Feeling 12 (Part I)

I'd been looking forward to Moveable Feast's farm-to-table event for weeks now, a brainchild of my former colleague and marketing genius Jenny Pascual, and had asked two friends to come along. Nonoy offered the use of his car and driver, but I said I didn't mind driving, provided he act as navigator.

"I e-mailed you the map, and it's pretty straightforward, no?" I said.

"Yeah, I've already looked it over and printed it out," he assured me. "We take the Santa Rosa exit, just drive straight through and eventually make a right. I know where this is."

The trek started off smoothly. We exited at Santa Rosa as planned and drove for about an hour, after which I asked if we'd be turning right soon.

"Probably," he said, gazing fixedly out the window.

"What's the name of the street where we turn?"

"I don't remember, but it's far pa."

"Well, let's check the map just to be sure. Where is it?"

Nonoy turned up the radio.

After Groundhog Day-ing this conversation three or four times, Nonoy finally yelled, "I don't have it, okay? I forgot it!"

"What? Well, do you at least remember the name of the street where we were supposed to turn?

Nonoy turned up the radio some more.

"Let me get this straight. Your only job was to navigate, and you forgot the map?" I said.

"Yes, because I knew where we were going."

"Okay, so where are we going?"

"I don't remember, nga e!"

Then I turned up the radio.  It's a wonder poor Philip, who was sitting in the back, didn't go deaf.

After more bickering ("You're driving too fast." "Shut up. You forgot the map.") and lots of stopping for directions, we finally found Malipayon Farms, nestled in the heart of the Commissioner's Farm, a huge expanse of land with a lovingly restored main home, guest house, several gazebos, a campsite and a lush garden teeming with all sorts of exotic flora.

Despite our navigationally challenged ways, we were the first to arrive, which gave us a chance to stroll through the gardens, as well as gorge on organic pesto and lettuce chips with an unbelievably creamy cheese dip and a refreshing basil-dalandan (native orange) concoction.

Philip rattled off the names of several flowers and plants authoritatively, as I pointed to each one.

"What's this one called?" I asked.

"That's Mayana."

"What about this one?"

"That's Mayana, too."

"And that one? What's that called?"

"Mayana, also."

"Is Mayana code for 'I don't know?'" I said suspiciously.

Philip looked around the garden, probably for a radio to turn up.

Shortly after, the rest of the guests began to arrive and the event proper started.  I have been dreaming of this event for six years now," said Jenny Pascual, describing her vision of bringing together farmers, chefs, and food lovers for an unforgettable dining experience. "We want people to have an appreciation for food by connecting them back to the land and finding out more about where it comes from, as well as the people behind it.  No judgements, no telling you what you should or shouldn't do, just a fun, enjoyable, enlightening and delicious experience for everyone."

Force of nature Jenny Pascual

She then introduced Gejo Jimenez, owner of Malipayon Farms, or the farm formerly known as Kitchen Herbs. Gejo began to talk about how he got started with organic farming. To Gejo, gardening and farming were hobbies until his children were diagnosed with pre-diabetes, and he realized a long-term lifestyle change was in order. He turned to organic farming as a profession and never looked back.

Gejo Jimenez of Malipayon Farms

"True organic farming is, as Michael Pollan puts it, 'farming in harmony with nature,'" Gejo said. "The farmers are treated fairly, the land is treated respectfully and the quality of the produce reflects that. I've had some commercial farmers buy my vegetables for their personal use because they won't eat their own produce. I want to be proud of what I sell and know that it's good enough for me and my family."


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