Approaching the One Year Mark!

Trip Start Mar 21, 2006
Trip End Oct 05, 2008

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Flag of Philippines  ,
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Greeting's to all from the crazy city of Manila!

I arrived here last night to meet up with some other PCV's to catch a great native concert and plan a Environmental Leadership camp to be held at the farm in May. While I am not a big fan of the noise and pollution of Manila I am very excited because the main reason I came down was to meet my sister Heidi at the airport!!! She arrives tomorrow for a three week visit!! We will be spending the first week down south in the Visayas to soak up the sun and spend time relaxing on the beach catching up. Then we will head up north to my mountain home hang at the farm and she is going to facilitate a grant writing workshop for my community.

Other then anxiously awaiting Heidi's arrival I have been very busy the past few months. A few weeks ago we had a four day 1st Aid and Basic Life Support training for the cave guides and community members in that barangay. It went very well and the facilitator from the Red Cross was wonderful, in fact he is such a good facilitator we are having him help out with a leadership camp another PCV and I are having in April. It is always a fun process to watch my community participate in trainings and be apart of their learning and development.

Things at the farm have been going wonderful as well. We have recently been getting a lot of press with the two day region wide Organic Congress that happened a few weeks ago. The farm was featured and we had over 45 visitors that day. Wonderful exposure!! As my projects are beginning to take shape I am realizing the difficulties of trying to implement programs without funding. That being said we have been looking for grants and outside funding available for environmental projects. My host aunt and I just turned in a funding application to the Philippines Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation in the hopes to get funding for watershed and irrigation management training's, pine needle craft training's and road infrastructure to the farm. Access to proper farm to market roads is a big problem and truly limits farmer's ability to get their vegetables to the market and therefore be competitive and create a living. I am really hoping to get some funding through this organization... time will tell.

Recently there was a wonderful article written in the local paper about the farm. My sister was kind enough to type it up so that I could share it with you all. It really is a special place and I hope this article gives you a glimpse of its beauty.

On March 25th I will have been here for a year!! While there have been very slow days, weeks and even months to begin, I can hardly believe I have nearly been here a year. The longer I am here the more projects that are taking shape and at this rate before I know it, it will be June of 2008 and I will be leaving this place that has become a second home. Through, I should not jump ahead of myself there is a lot to be done and another boring rainy season to get through. Ha Ha!

As always know I am sending love to all and hope you are doing well where ever you might be! Next update will be about my island hopping adventures with my sister!

Peace and all my love,


Ibaloi Family Develops Land As Model Eco-Tourism Area
(Published in the Midland Courier newspaper)
By: Leia F. Castro

Most Ibaloi families have sold their lands or exchanged it for other materials but one family has opted to open their 20-hectare property in Acop, Tublay as an eco-tourism area.

The ENCA farms, named after Enrique and Carmen Cosalan, the descendants of Acop and Cosalan family, is a mixture of organic gardens, hiking trails, camping grounds, pine and broad-leafed forests, and recreation sites.

Marilyn Cosalan, one of 11 children of Enrique and Carmen, reminisces about their childhood days in the farm...saying that they came to help in the farm during weekends and long vacations.

Her parents used to plant rice in their terraces down by the river until the Santo Nimo Mines opened in the adjacent upper barangay [neighborhood/community] of Ambassador. She said their rice paddies back then were being irrigated by the same river that passes by the mines.

...The destruction caused by the mine tailings still affects the area even after the mine's closure in 1991. The family had no choice but to stop growing rice in the property. But they still planted vegetable gardens using water from another stream.

[Also,] many years later, Marilyn said they noticed that trees inside their property were being cut by outsiders.

They started developing the place again in 2003 with the goal of making it into an eco-tourism site and organic farm.

Sherry Manning, a US Peace Corps volunteer living with the Cosalan family in Acop, guided the Midland Courier editorial staff in a one-hour hike going down a dirt road behind the Tublay municipal hall to the ENCA farm. She said the main route to the farm for those with vehicles in the old Santo. Nino mines road.

She aslso gave us the guidelines they are developing for visitors to the farm, to ensure that the visitors themselves do not cause destruction to the farm's environment. "We have to teach them the mountaineer's rule of leave no trace," she said. "Some of the visitors in the past even took some of the plants from the farm."

The farm features organic vegetable gardens planted with pacu, pechay, beans, lettuce broccoli, bell pepper, zucchini, and other vegetables; nipa huts for overnight lodging; campsites with beautiful views of pine forests and mountains; backyard tilapia fishponds complete with a mock alligator sculpture; hiking trails; and bonfire area among other things. Visitors could also enjoy bird watching, identifying native plants, mushroom picking during rainy season, or just plain rest and relaxation.

ENCA farms, which was opened during the Adivay Festival last November, is one of the areas to be visited by delegates of the 2nd Organic Congress to be held in La Trinidad this February.

With so much land and so few hands working in ENCA, Sherry helped register the farm as the first WWOOF in the Philippines. WWOOF stands for Willing Workers on Organic Farms. She said it is a worldwide exchange program for interested people who would work on the farm in exchange for food and accommodations.

Marilyn says they are envisioning the place to become a demo farm of the Department of Agriculture. This way they would be able to help educate more people on organic farming. "The farmers don't believe us if we don't have actual experiences or a demo farm," she said.

The farm is also an alternative site for picnics or parties Marilyn said. "It could be a better alternative for our children rather than eat in Jollibee of McDonalds."

Recently, they celebrated her daughter's birthday there where she also invited a mountaineering club to set up rappelling and the Caballeros from La Trinidad for horseback riding. "At least the children could experience and learn about the environment in the farm," she said. Much like the way they did when they were kids.
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