The past few days have been quite eventful for us interns here on the farm. I should have been writing things down as we went, because now I can barely remember all of it. On Tuesday, we were supposed to slaughter chickens, but something I have learned quickly about this farm is that often things don’t go as they were originally planned. There is disorganization and miscommunication among the people here. This is totally understandable, though, considering the purpose of this farm is not to accommodate the interns here to work, it’s to better the livelihood of the poor. Also with that being said, this farm is only 7 years old. That is actually really new if you think about it. It’s hard to build a “business” (more like town) like this one in such little time and have it as functional as it is.
So back to my Tuesday morning. The plan was to slaughter chickens, but instead we were sent to one of the enterprises that was started here called the Golden Duck. We cleaned around 2,000 eggs and also learned a little bit about their business. I have a lot of things to share about a lot of enterprises, so I will try to sum it up for each one. The Golden Duck makes and sells different duck products from both duck eggs and duck meat. It was one of the first enterprises started here and one of the few that has lasted as long as it has. Someone recently incorporated a duck burger which I am interested in trying. We have also been told by multiple people to try balut. This is a duck egg that is boiled during development–so basically eating a duckling–no thanks!! After we cleaned eggs, we walked around the farm some more and then met with the ladies that have been in charge of our internship here on site. Their names are Mai and Ate Mia. Mai is the same age as us which is why we don’t have to call her Ate. At this meeting, they gave us a 7 day challenge. It is a list of things to complete on the farm in order to better get to know the people and the businesses.
Also at this meeting, in groups of 2, we were assigned a Tita for our internship. She and her family will be who we visit with the most and go to for dinner every so often, and just overall form a bond with. Katie and I were assigned Tita Carla, so on Tuesday afternoon we went to meet with her. I figured she would be an older woman looking for company, but in fact she is pretty young. She has five sons, Vincent (14), King (13), Clark (12), Naht-Naht (6), and Kai (1.5). Her husband and her mother in law also live in her home with her. She and her family are so nice, and the kids are very cute. They are definitely my favorite part about my internship so far. I am always looking forward to our visits. The kids in general in this community are very friendly and like when the interns come and play with them. The older boys love basketball. The younger boys do a lot of watching of the basketball, since the older ones dominate the court. During the day, I often see the little ones playing in the water to stay cool. They are always finding ways to stay busy.
On Tuesday night, we went to a going away party for a couple of the french interns. The food spread at one of these parties was very interesting. They line up all the food in the middle of a bunch of tables and then everyone surrounds the tables and digs in with their hands. I’m not going to lie, it grossed me out a little because another thing I have noticed about this farm is the lack of soap. So it was not the cleanliest meal, but everyone seemed to enjoy it and it made the whole thing a lot more social than your average meal.
On Wednesday, Katie and I went off to try to complete various tasks off the seven day challenge sheet. One of the challenges was to find the bee hives on the farm and Katie and I decided to do that first. Unfortunately the bees were about impossible to find and so it took around 3 hours. And we still aren’t sure if what we found was the right thing, because the hives contained the strangest looking bees I’ve ever seen.
Another important part about Wednesday is that our new friend Maiki arrived on the farm and stayed with us. She and her brother are Filipino but lived in Singapore for quite awhile. Their dad and mom have been involved with GK since the beginning, and Tito Tony (the founder) is even Maiki’s godfather. I just think that is very cool which is why I shared it. On Wednesday afternoon, all of the IWU interns, plus our new friends went to learn about vermicomposting from Tito Jun. It was very interesting and showed us sustainability at its finest. All of the food is broken down by these worms and then the compost is used around the farm. It is also sold and is a business in itself. One of the other enterprises, Bayani Brew, also works directly with Tito Jun by giving them their leftover sweet potato plants. Tito Jun regrows them by segregation of the stems and then addition of water. They are then replanted and the purple leaves are used for Bayani Brew drinks. And then the cycle starts over again.
We also stopped by Tito Jun’s house Wednesday night and listened and sang with him while he played guitar. That man is hilarious and I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with him and the other interns. As for Thursday, it was a packed day, visiting and learning from the other enterprises and buildings on the farm, plus slaughtering chickens in the morning.
The chicken slaughter was not my favorite thing in the world. I helped round up the chickens to be killed, which means I learned what sound a chicken makes when you grab it by its feet and hold it upside down. It’s not pleasant. The french interns have the process of the slaughter down to a science. I won’t go in to detail because it was kind of gross, but I do understand the necessity of it and was impressed with the efficiency of the whole thing. Unfortunately (not really), we had to leave early to make it to all the enterprises we had planned to visit. I will go through the ones we stopped by and say a little bit about them.
Plush and Play: This enterprise was started by a french intern when he came here a few years ago. It is a toy store that makes stuffed fruits and veggies, as well as various customized stuffed toys too. It was made because the founder noticed the kids here didn’t play with any Philippine brand toys and he wanted to change that. It is very successful and has given jobs to many of the Titas in the community as seamstresses!
Bayani Brew: This is a juice/tea enterprise that was started after a woman in the community had been making drink concoctions in her home. They are made from all natural ingredients grown right here on the farm, and sold here but also sold elsewhere, such as some seven eleven’s and some shops in the Manila.
First Harvest: This enterprise makes things such as peanut butter and other spreads and snacks. We got to taste test and they were delicious! They also have a building on the farm where all of the creating takes place. I am not sure if these are sold outside the farm yet, but they should be –it was all so tasty!
Eri-Silk: This is where silk worms are used by taking their cocoon (with out harming the moth that comes out) and making it in to thread. This is then used to create scarves, headbands, and bracelets. The moths then reproduce to form more silk worms so it is just an ongoing process. We got to see the silk worms in action and it was pretty cool.
Oasis: This is not an enterprise as far as I know, but a hotel that is on the farm for guests. There are 10 rooms total but they are very nice. They also usually offer massages at Oasis, but I don’t think that is happening currently.
So clearly we learned a lot on Thursday! It was very intriguing. Also, on Thursday evening we met Kuya Shanon, the CEO of the farm. He was very interesting to talk to and hear from. Like a lot of the people working on this farm, he left an ideal life to come here and find whatever it was he was looking for. I don’t know yet what it is about this farm, but there are a lot of people who have left their fortunes and their pre-planned lives to devote themselves to a new life here. It’s all very interesting to say the least.
On Friday, we received an internship packet of our week by week expectations and our over all goals for this summer. Although earlier this week they told us we would be specializing in one thing, they changed their mind and we will be working in all parts of the farm village all summer. During week 3, we have to present a business model to the farm board for something that would better the community. We also have to do one research project for the farm, 4 group projects with the other interns, plus a video of our experience when we are done here. It feels like a lot, but I think it will be pretty fun!
On Saturday, we went to Taal Volcano and hiked up to see the most beautiful view I have ever laid my eyes on. The picture at the beginning of my blog is from that experience. Traveling will be more difficult than I thought here because we only have one off day a week, so each trip will have to be a day trip. That means no Thailand for me! Maybe I will be able to go at some other time in my life. I am sorry for the length of this post, I even felt like I left some important things out and it is still so long. I’ll update you all again soon!