Monday, June 23, 2014

Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm : It's More Fun and Fulfilling in the Philippines

by Shawi Cortez

The first time I heard about the GK Enchanted Farm was when I visited the Human Nature shop in Commonwealth.

Inside the shop, they showcased various products of social entrepreneurs--golden duck eggs, locally grown organic coffee beans, Bayani Brew (a special concoction of kamote top leaves, calamansi and/ pandan to make a refreshing drink), stationeries made from dried hyacinth and water lily, to name a few.

Human Nature shop in Commonwealth
Photo :

The idea that these businesses were helping local communities sparked my interest, and have wanted to visit the farm since. I just never gathered enough friends to join me since our available schedules never matched. So when I read a post from Lois Yasay (of wearesolesisters) inviting bloggers to the farm, I instantly grabbed the chance.

Not wanting to enjoy the trip by myself, I arranged for my family to join me (and yes, they had to pay for the fees). The trip to GK Enchanted Farm in Bulacan took about an hour and a half.

We arrived 8:30 am and checked in early. We stayed in an octagonal hut called Shell Villa that comfortably houses 5 pax. Each bed is placed on one side of the octagon, leaving an empty space at the centre. Toilet and bath is in a shared common area. The hut is situated very near the infinity swimming pool.

Shell Villa octagonal hut

This air-conditioned hut accommodates 5 pax, each having a towel and blanket

Infinity swimming pool

Clementine, the Bloggers' Weekend coordinator, instructed us to be at the Grassroots Kitchen by 10am where our day tour will begin.

GrassRoots Kitchen

more seating areas

herb garden on the way to the kitchen

Come 10 am, we were back freshened up and ready to experience the farm village university. We were led to the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation where Fabien (a 20-ish Tagalog-speaking French social entrep) await us. He gave us an introduction about Gawad Kalinga, social enterprise, and what the GK Farm Village University is about.

Hyundai Center for Green Innovation (HCGI)

staircase inside HCGI

Front Desk at HCGI

Massive hall where Fabien introduced Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm
and the Farm Village University

inside looking out

He also showed us a clip about the vision of Gawad Kalinga towards nation building, where the video ended with the line "Together, we can end poverty". To reiterate this point, Fabien asked us if we remembered the last line, and somehow urged us if we really can do it together?

Saying "yes" out loud was for me a declaration of hope, for our nation.

But also a declaration that yes, even if I am one person, I can contribute in helping alleviate poverty from the Philippines.

Arch Angel - GK Center for Arts and Culture

We walked towards the next building the ARCH ANGEL-GK CENTER FOR ARTS AND CULTURE

the hall

paintings of GK Heroes

What stood out for me was their manifesto, painted in the walls of the hall.

I have been proud of being a Filipino; but Manifesto 02 hit it home for me :
"God did not make a mistake in creating me Filipino.
I am honouring God's plan for me as a Filipino by loving my country."

Manifesto 02 hit it home for me

The Community

On our way to the Bamboo Palace, we stopped by the community where Fabien passionately explained how the villagers were taken out of poverty, given training on values formation, and how together they built the houses. The fun and exciting part? The villagers didn't know which house they were gonna get, so they had to make sure that the effort they put in building was the same for each house. They only knew after they finished building all the houses, through lottery, so no one can complain.

the GK Community

Fabien talks passionately about GK and social enterprise
under the heat of the scorching sun

Bamboo Palace

The Bamboo Palace is a sight to behold.

entrance to the palace

Along the concrete path that leads you to it, are snippets of information about bamboo.

Did you know that bamboo produces 35% more oxygen
than hardwood trees?

The bamboo palace is a 2-storey hall that is held together by bamboo posts. The structure is open, allowing in the breeze to reinvigorate you. It's a perfect venue for conventions,  team building activities and even yoga camps or weddings!

two-storey palace

Bamboo Palace is ideal for team building activities,
yoga sessions, and even wedding receptions!

The second storey overlooks LIFEBANK CENTER FOR BAYANIHAN ECONOMICS (LCBE) and the plantation area, where we would do farming activities the following day.

take a seat in this plush-toy-covered chair for a cozy
view of the plantation area

LCBE is interestingly designed as a rain catcher so it can supply water to the nearby plots. The roof is made up of several triangular pieces, placed one on top of each other until it forms a circle and covers the entire hall.

LifeBank Center for Bayanihan Economics

A closer look at the structure

Look up and you'll see it's not one contiguous roof 

They're specifically designed to catch rain water

to be stored and used to water plants during the dry season

Plush and Play

We took a different route on our way back to the community, and dropped by our last stop before breaking for lunch--Fabien's very own Plush And Play. This enterprise came out to address the issue that most of the toys that are imported to the Philippines have toxic elements. On the other hand, it also brings out the Pinoy genius of women having sewing skills.

Fabien talks about his very own Plush and Play

The sewers from the community

Display of their products

To illustrate the process of how they make the toys, each of us were given a chance to outline, cut, sew, and stuff our very own heart-stuffed-toy :)

Step 1 : draw an outline of your toy (heart-shape)

Step 2 : Cut the outline, leaving a quarter of an inch space

Step 3 : Hand it to one of the community mothers to sew it in a machine

Step 4 : Turn it over so the sewn part is hidden inside

Step 5 : Stuff it with synthetic fiber

Step 6 : Sew it by hand to close the opening

They figured out a way to make the stuffed toys popular, by giving the characters catchy names like Manny Pakwan, Buko Martin, Mais Ganda, Dalan-Daniel, Apple de Ap, Ann Kamatis, and so on.

Say "hello" to Buko Martin and Apple de Ap

Mais Ganda is hiding her star tattoos

Time to Eat!

Lunch was served at the Grassroots Kitchen, where ingredients are sourced locally, meaning the food on your plate is freshly picked from the farm.

Want to see how lunch is prepared? Take a peek through
the glass windows of Berjaya Culinary Arts Garden

Lunch and Dinner buffet served here

Food is prepared at the Berjaya Culinary Arts Garden, which showcases the culinary talents of the community, and which feeds every visitor to the farm.

The Golden Duck

After lunch, we went to the Golden Duck Hut and were introduced to Alvie, the half Indian half Filipino social entrep behind The Golden Duck. To support duck farmers, they made a better version of a breakfast dish Pinoys love--pink salted egg. Their duck eggs on the other hand are salted for 15 days in a special mixture of nuno sa punso soil (yeah I kid you not!), water and salt. They're then rinsed with vinegar and later on colored yellow using turmeric powder.

Alvie talks about the duck industry

Golden Eggs being salted

key ingredients to make the perfect Golden Egg

Golden Eggs are ready!

Aside from the eggs, they're also introducing duck meat to the market. What better way than by serving duck burger? A huge serving of the burger (which is heavily laden with fresh veggies) costs P160. What we missed is their must-try signature Enchanted Burger, decadent GoldenDuck sisig foie gras. Oh well, that gives us another reason to come back.


We went back to the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation to listen to John Paul talk about Hamlet. No, not Shakespeare's Hamlet, but ham. The pork kind. Their enterprise promotes natural meat products without the harmful additives and preservatives. Their community partners Tita Lolit and Ate Jane were sent to be trained, and the recipe they came back with is a sure hit! Tita Lolit shared their simple recipe, while Ate Jane prepared the dough and demo-ed how to wrap it. I had a try at wrapping, and for that, they gave me a Hamon plush toy! Yey!

John Paul is the man behind Hamlet

Tita Lolit and Ate Jane show how they make
those delish dumplings

Trying my hand at wrapping the dumpling

But the others didn't go empty-handed. The bloggers were served a sample of their bestselling dumplings. Yum!

Yummy serving of dumplings

Gourmet Keso

While enjoying our dumplings, the guys at Gourmet Keso were pulling out pots and pans inside the hut. Once ready, we were invited in by Paul and Edward (French interns whose mission is to perfect the artisanal cheese-making process). The original Pinoy genius is ate Maricel, community partner who showed us how "kesong puti" is done.

The Gourmet Keso Team : Edward, Paul, and Ate Maricel

First, they heated the milk. In one basin, she poured a cup of vinegar, then slowly added the heated milk. The milk slowly began to separate into chunks of curd and the watery part called whey. With plastic gloves on, she gathered up the curd and squeezed out the liquid until she was able to form a ball in her hands. She then placed it in a square mold, and transferred it in a bowl of brine.

Step 1 : add vinegar to the heated milk

Step 2 : Separate the whey and collect the curd

Transfer it into a metal mold to form into a cube

Transfer it into a bowl of brine

They did it a second time. After which, Paul pointed out that the first kesong puti is becoming brownish than the second one. One factor is because the vinegar has been used several times.

So to keep the consistency, they tweaked the process by adding rennet, of which they could not demonstrate anymore due to time constraints.

Our session ended with a sampling of the Kesong Puti and some cream cheese on crackers.

Tasting the kesong puti

and some flavoured cream cheese : herbs and garlic

Gourmet Keso addresses the issue that we import our cheese from countries that do not even have cows. Their goal is to give the market world-class artisan cheese, made from milk sourced from community farmers.

Infinity Swimming Pool

Day one ended with a relaxing dip at the pool. The water was very warm, and even has a separate pool for children.

Taking a relaxing dip at the infinity pool

Shallow area for children

After freshening up and grabbing dinner, Leslie, a Fil-Am intern facilitated our discussion as we took time to process all that we learned and experienced for that day.  

with Leslie and the bloggers

As I have told the group that night, this first hand experience is life changing for me, and I will never look at social entrepreneurship the same way again. I have a choice, and I can contribute to help end poverty in the Philippines.

Do watch out and stand by for Part Two...


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