Reflections on a Sagada Native Wedding

Image above: The next generation learning to play the gangsa!

Last week, after a very productive Friends of ENCA/Benguet Tivangdal board meeting, during which we reviewed drawings and costing’s for the repairs of the Nipa Huts at ENCA and introduced Karen Hizola our new Baguio Based Program Manager (more about her soon). I headed North to Sagada for a dear friends native wedding.

It is always wonderful to return to Sagada a beautiful mountain town about 6 hours north of Tublay. Sagada is known for their amazing natural caves, peaceful mountains, and delicious yogurt at the world famous Yogurt House. Siegird, a local potter and environmental activist, has been a dear friend since my early Peace Corps days. She and her husband Steve, an RPCV from the 70’s (that has never left the Philippines), had a civil marriage seven years ago and have two beautiful boys Chico (6) and David (almost one year).

In Sagada, it is very important and as Siegird put it “part of their obligation” to host a native wedding. This is an opportunity for extended friends and relatives and most importantly the entire town of Sagada to celebrate the marriage and give their blessing and congratulations in the form of financial contribution. This also means the entire town comes together to help in the elaborate preparations of feeding literally 1,000’s of people. Sigerid and Steve purchased and extended relatives and community member’s butchered 14 pigs and 1 carabao (native water buffalo) for the party the lasted four days!

As I sat with women from all over the community (who each brought a bowl and knife to help chop the copious amounts of veggies it takes to feed this many people), chatted with the beautiful Lola’s who’s weathered faces tell a story that does not need words, and enjoyed the sound of the Gangsa (native gong music) till literally the wee hours of the morning I was struck with the true community that Sagada demonstrated to pull off this beautiful gathering. Loved ones near and far gathered to honor Siegrid and Steve as tradition has done for 100’s of years. Indeed I am blessed to have been a small part of this beautiful gathering and demonstration of true community and love!






Successful Planting of the First “Seed School” In Tublay

Yesterday, over 70 farmers and community members from both Tublay and La Trinidad gathered for Seed School at the Municipal Hall in Tublay. As the room filled with eager and energetic farmers I was overwhelmed with excitement for the launch of this important program.

I attended a similar one-day Seed School in Denver in August, facilitated by our new friends and partners from The Rocky Mountain Seed Alliance (RMSA). While there is far too much information regarding the history and great importance of seeds to share in just one day, RMSA has developed incredible curriculum over the years that they shared with me to adapt to the Philippine farming audience. I am forever grateful to Bill and Belle from RMSA for sharing this knowledge and helping make yesterday’s program a great success. Our big vision is for RMSA to come to the Philippines next fall to conduct more in-depth follow up seed programming with the farmers.

During the program farmers learned the history of seeds, why they are critically important to local bio-diversity preservation, all participants learned to save wet tomato seeds and got to take them home, and they also learned the basics of saving biennial crops (these crops such as carrots and cabbage take two years to flower and produce seeds). While only a handful of farmers said they are currently saving seeds, they all expressed and remember a time not long ago, when their grandparents saved seeds. This means that this indigenous practice is not completely lost and can be restored with the enthusiasm and hard work of these dedicated farmers.

Thanks to the great talent and passion of my host cousin, Chef Aguinaya Cloche (or as we call her Dimples) all participants enjoyed a delicious homemade local organic meal. The menu included: malunggay (local super food plant) pesto pasta, veggie burgers (made w/ tofu and banana blossom), spinach pie, rosemary roasted chicken, eggplant rolls, and a fresh green salad with sprouts and radishes. Farmers here work incredibly hard to produce these amazing veggies but they rarely get to see the diverse ways they can be prepared. It was wonderful to see their smiling faces as they enjoyed this unique, healthy, and amazing meal prepared with love!

After lunch we did small group breakout sessions where participants shared their ideas for future training’s including: bee keeping, mushroom propagation, advanced seed saving in the fields. Farmers also shared the seeds they would like to see available locally and Friends of ENCA Farm will help make this a reality. I was most inspired to see the rooms excitement about starting a local organic seed bank, in fact one group shared that their vision is to see farmers in each Barangay of Tublay producing their own seeds and saving them at the centralized community seed bank. Indeed yesterday was the start to see this big vision become a reality!

In the coming months, we will be conducting follow up meetings with farmers that said they want to be apart of the organic seed trial program. Friends of ENCA Farm will distribute organic seeds to the farmers that meet our requirements, and conduct field trials with these initial seeds to monitor their success and challenges. I am incredibly excited to have planted this first seed in Tublay and look forward to watching it germinate and grow over the course of the coming year! I am honored to work with such a passionate community of farmers all actively working to make this world a better and healthier place starting with each seed they sow!