Gratitude and Many Thanks Not Only On Thanksgiving

Returning to a place of the past can be filled with many emotions: happiness recalling the kind people and memories made, both comfort and sadness seeing that some things never change, and mainly joy in knowing there are pockets of the world that still embrace kindness and a true spirit of thanksgiving…. not only on the last Thursday of November.

This is how I felt spending the day Wednesday in the rural community of Ambongdolan, Tublay. This was the site of my main Peace Corps assignment nearly a decade ago, where I was tasked with training the community to support the potential eco-tourism industry of promoting their beautiful natural caves. While I did not spend a lot of time in this peaceful rural community, I do have wonderful memories of the kind people and humble lives they lived. Which after Wednesday’s visit proves to still be the case.

My host cousin Paul is a community nurse and his main post is in Ambongdolan. He visits every few weeks since it is about an hour-plus drive and hike from Tublay proper. We loaded on a Jeepney around 7:30am from Acop and after a 30min. ride we where dropped at the junction to the community. As Paul and I hiked the hour down to the Rural Health Unit (RHU) I was pleased to see the forested mountainsides, community protected forestland, and clean trails all around. Arriving at the RHU filled me with memories of the first-aid training we held for the community there in 2007 and of course seeing the Rural Midwife and her team of Rural Health Workers was wonderful. One in particular Ma’am Mercy, remembered me right away a said wow, “Sherry Manning you are back!” While I have come back to the Philippines nearly each year my time has been focused at ENCA so I had not seen these wonderful diligent community workers for a long time.

As I watched Cousin Paul and the others advise young mothers on how to improve their kids failing nutrition, administer MMR shots to babies, and engage in informal conversations with the community about life, love, and health I was overwhelmed with the joyful way this rural community lives their lives. While they may have to hike an hour plus to the main road, they may not have shiny cars and stores to frequent on #BlackFriday, they are gracious and kind hosts that work hard to build a better life for their families.

As we shared a beautiful lunch of chicken tinola complete with local green papaya, lemongrass I harvest behind the RHU, and guavas just picked from a household tree I was filled with gratitude for this Thanksgiving Meal. With friends old and new, even a decade apart did not dampen their kindness and memories of our time and work together. These are the things to be truly thankful for: community around the globe, meals prepared with love (turkey or tinola), and the kind and open hearts of friends and family each and everyday!!


Tublay Farmers Congress and ENCA Farm Update Post Typhoon Lando

Image above: The MAO, Mayor, and Dr. Sudaypan the event guest speaker.

Last Monday after a lovely morning coffee session with Lola Carmen, I headed to the Tublay Municipal Hall to talk with the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) about our seed saving programs and partnership.

I was pleased to see that Jeffery, the head of the office was there, and was also excited to learn that they were preparing for the start of a Tublay Farmers Congress. We spoke briefly about the seed saving program and they invited me to join the farmer’s congress, which I of course did! As we waited for the program to begin I was able to meet with the guest speaker for the event, Dr. Sudaypan. He is the Director of the Extension Program at Benguet State University (BSU). BSU is the leading agriculture college for the region. We discussed my history working in the country and Friends of ENCA Farm’s plans to help the growing community of organic farmers in Tublay and elsewhere, access seed saving education and training, and start a seed library in Tublay in the coming year. He was excited to learn of these plans and I look forward to following up with him and formalizing a partnership with BSU moving forward.

During his compelling talk he spoke to the room full of nearly 100 Tublay Farmers about the critically important role they play in the sustainable development and food security of the Philippines. He shared an acronym for the word Farmers that was both truthful and inspiring. Farmers are the following:

F- Firm
A- Agriculturist
R- Responsible
M- Manager (input-output)
E- Ecologists (maintain balance)
R- Resilience
S- Self-Sufficient

R for Resilience speaks a particular truth to me after seeing the damage caused to ENCA Farm from Typhoon Lando last month. As Auntie Olive showed me the fields of wilted lettuce and broken garden peas she is patiently transplanting and working hard to re-grow, I was struck with the level of resiliency needed to be a farmer in a country that is most venerable to the dramatic effects of climate change. The storms that hammer this island nation are only getting stronger so therefore the farmers are needing to embrace the realities of this acronym like never before.

This is where I know “the planting” of seed saving knowledge and educational programs will make a true and lasting impact in Tublay and beyond. In fact during, the farmers congress the MAO shared his own acronym called Tublay SEEDS, no accident that earlier in the program I was able to briefly introduce the seed saving programs we plan to launch, which were very well received by all who attended the congress. We are still working to finalize the date but plan to host the first seed saving training sometime the first week of December in partnership with the Municipal Agriculture Office and the Tublay Organic Farming Practitioners Association. The serendipity of timing on each of these connections cannot be understated!

As I spent Wednesday morning harvesting nearly 10 lbs. of coffee, listening to the incredible bird calls, and viewing the forested mountain sides at ENCA Farm…I was struck, as I always am here, with the beauty and balance that is abundant at ENCA Farm. Yes, there has been damage to the crops and physical structures, but when you take a moment to be still in a natural space such as ENCA, you slow down and have time to reflect on the great need for preserved farm land and natural spaces like ENCA. Perhaps these spaces are needed now more then ever in light of climate change, troubling news around the globe, and the far to chaotic life we experience in the urban environment!

Solar Light Presentations and Manila Reflections

As I de-boarded the plane in Manila last Wednesday, I was filled with energy and excitement about the work to unfold during the next month. The intense humidity and heat of the crowded Manila streets is palpable even through the air-conditioned walls of the NAIA airport. I gathered my bags, exchanged some money, purchased a local cell phone sim, and took the advice of Manila friends and requested my first Uber ride. Uber recently opened in Manila and it is a complete revelation in a city packed with far too many dishonest taxi drivers and traffic that is so intense it is impossible to describe in a simple blog post. After waiting only 10 minuets my safe, clean, and very affordable (under $5) Uber car arrived curbside and I was off to the high-rise concrete jungle of Makati!

On Thursday, I headed to the Peace Corps Office to see old friends/colleagues and arranged for a lunchtime solar light demo. The Peace Corps Staff was very excited to learn about the Nokero Solar Lights and the new GreenLight Planet lights we are distributing throughout the country. In fact the presentation was so successful we sold out of the new Sun King Pro 2 lights (complete with 3 light modes and two cell phone USB charging ports). I only carried over 5 so we could gauge interest and I am so glad that Peace Corps Philippines is excited to support this initiative. In light of this success related problem, we have found another local Philippine distributer of these new lights, Hybrid Social Solutions, and hope to order 5-10 more lights from them in the coming weeks.

Peace Corps Philippines Staff with Solar Lights

Peace Corps Philippines Staff with Solar Lights


Thursday evening I enjoyed street tacos with my gracious hosts in Manila, my old high school buddy Kent and his wife Susie have lived here for 2 plus years. Kent is a wildlife conservation photographer and videographer and Susie works for Catholic Relief Services. I am excited for Kent to head north in the coming weeks and capture high quality footage of ENCA Farm and our various projects.

I then braved the traffic to Quezon City to connect with Red at his iconic bar, Fred’s Revolution. Red, is the Executive Director of the fantastic local NGO The Institute for Climate Sustainable Cities. In August, we hosted him in Denver for one week to launch the incredible book Agam: Filipino Narratives on Uncertainty and Climate Change. Red and his team had just received the news that Agam was awarded the Philippine National Book Award! This is a huge honor and a great testament to the depth and beauty of Agam and the climate change mitigation work it supports. As we sat and enjoyed beers at Fred’s discussing our work and commitment to community development and sustainability I was reminded how blessed I am to be apart of this dynamic community of global change makers. All of this with only 24 hours in the country!

* Side note: Red is apart of the Philippine Delegation leaving for Paris in two weeks for the international climate talks. Last week he and others from the most climate venerable nations met in Manila to finalize their request for climate action.

Introducing the Friends of ENCA Farm Blog

As I sit in the comfort of my sisters beautiful mountain home in NE Oregon (with a small dusting of winters’ first snow still on the front yard), I prepare for my annual trip to the Philippines as I have done so many times over the years. However, this year there is a new excitement and energy that overwhelms me. This excitement comes from a multitude of places, and is fueled by the momentum and success of the past year and the larger impact Friends of ENCA Farm is starting to make.

We recently held our 5th Annual Nourish event highlighting Filipino Cuisine and gathering friends, new and old, for a fantastic day of celebrating Filipino Culture and our work in the Philippines. We also received some long awaited good news that we have been awarded our first grant from the Presbyterian Hunger Program to support the implementation of our organic seed bank and education programs in the Philippines throughout 2016.

Each of these recent successes are wonderful fuel for my up-coming trip to the Philippines. But, as I spend the day here, with my 5 week old nephew DeLos, I am struck by a new found motivation for the work I have been engaged in for nearly 10 years. Holding his squirming little body and thinking about the world I hope he will grow up in I am energized to know that the work we do is helping make this a reality. Respecting and honoring our food systems and the people that sustain them, working to protect and restore our natural world, and being an engaged world citizen are all values I hope to share and demonstrate for DeLos.

Auntie Olive and Lola Carmen

Auntie Olive and Lola Carmen pictured on Christmas Day in Acop last year.

These are the values and way of life I am always eager to return to in the Philippines. Sipping lemongrass tea with ENCA Farm Manager, Auntie Olive over evening solar light conversations. The warmth of Lola (Grandma) Carmen’s smile when I first arrive back to Acop, and the tenacity and vision of the entire Cosalan Family to launch a community movement to restore organic farming and ensure that their families 100 acre land inspires this critical work throughout the Philippines and indeed the world! These visions and passions are what continue to make me excited to support this work and return to a country half way across the world that I am blessed to call a second home.