Well, I’m writing this last blog post in the airport as I await my flight back to the US. It has been an exciting 2 months and I feel like I’ve learned a lot, both on and off the farm. I will definitely be taking many good memories back with me. I felt like I was out of my comfort zone for the first few weeks I was here, constantly meeting new people, being looked at as a foreigner and experiencing a developing country for the first time. But these last couple weeks, I’ve felt a deeper connection with the community and some of the other interns. It has been two months, and looking back we’ve done a lot, but it feel like it flew by. I was able to spend some quality time with my favorite community members this week, and I ate with Tita Aida and Tito Ver and their family twice this week. Saying goodbye was actually pretty sad, but Laurence and I assured them that we will come visit if we are ever in the Philippines again.
My last week was spend primarily meeting the new batch of SEED students that just arrived on the farm this week. This is the largest and most diverse group of students as they are coming from all over the Philippines. The SEED Philippines program initially started with students only from the surrounding areas in Bulacan. They were all very excited to be on the farm, starting their two year journey and discovering all there is on the farm. It was cool to meet them and hear some of their stories even though I won’t spend any time with them. I also planted more string beans, and got the Need for Seed project ready for the next interns. While I’ve been here, I realized how many things are very similar to the US, even though I initially came in with this idea that things would be wildly different. I’ve noticed that the Filipinos are very resourceful and reuse a lot of things, which may be out of necessity, but it is something that you don’t see as often in the US. People are more likely to throw away “old” things or “garbage” and just buy new stuff, instead of trying to repurpose or continue using the old things. This kind of thinking is something I’d like to take back to the US with me. I’ve also observed a lot of other sustainable and unsustainable practices while here.
Almost every meal we ate here was eaten off of banana leaves, which is not only economical, but also sustainable. The banana leaves don’t need to be washed after, they are simply composted. I’ve also seen big plastic bottles be used as planters for gardens. Although a large amount of garbage is produced, they still find ways to make their garbage useful. However, I have also noticed that mostly everything is sold in small, single servings, which seems to be part of their current way of life. Most people cannot afford to buy, say laundry detergent, in bulk so they must buy individual packages, which produces much more waste and is very unsustainable. I did notice that all of their plastic bags (ones you would get from a grocery store) were labeled that they were biodegradable. This is something I’ve never seen on plastic bags in the US, but whether or not I truly believe that those bags are biodegradable is another issue.
As far as other sustainable practices, carpooling is big in the Philippines… we actually had a couple people from the farm ride along with us into Manila on our way to the airport. They planned to go into the city later in the day anyway and heard we were leaving early Saturday morning, so they decided to get a ride. I’ve been told that in Manila cars are not allowed to drive on the roads one day each week. This is determined by a certain letter on their license plate and they will be fined if they are caught driving on that specific day. Manila traffic is horrific and the streets are often congested and there is visible pollution. This initiative was taken by the government to limit the amount of vehicles on the road and to help cut down pollution. Although I’m not entirely impressed, it does show that the government is at least taking action to try and address the pollution problem.
Here in the Philippines, mostly all glass bottles have a deposit on them, so technically there is an incentive to recycle. Some states already do this, but most do not, but I think they should because it could increase the amount of recyclables diverted from landfills. And, I know some of the community members sometimes collect glass bottles to make extra money, so it was also a way to help support some people.
I was glad to see that composting was a big thing on the farm, with the vermicomposting station as well as other areas set aside for composting. We had helped initiate a large compost project and a lot of food waste is diverted from the garbage to feed to the dogs, cats and pigs as well. Watching food be thrown away at home is something that has always bothered me, so to see the things that the farm is doing was reassuring.
As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, a good amount of garbage is burned, which is terrible for the environment and for our health. Although poverty does induce or perpetuate unsustainable practices that many of not necessarily aware of, it also includes many sustainable practices. Overall my time in the Philippines and at GKEF was an incredible experience, and it has definitely changed the way I view the world and has made me think about all my privileges. It has made me think about what I value and helped me expand my definition of family. My experiences have helped me think more broadly about the global environment and the challenges we face, and helped me compare the similarities and differences between a less developed country and a more developed country. I will remember everyone I met at the Enchanted Farm fondly and I thank the community for letting me be a part of their lives this summer.
Thanks for reading!