To me, the province of Nueva Vizcaya, used to be just another stop on the way whenever I’m going to Banaue, Kalinga or Tuguegarao. But last weekend, I made a stop at the towns of Santa Fe, Kasibu and Bambang, and I was mesmerized. I love Nueva Vizcaya already.
You can soak in the beauty of its mountains and rice terraces, with everything around you so green, so verdant, so lush. I could not capture the total effect on my camera but the total experience is best put in one’s memory.
The trip is as far as Baguio from Manila (250 km) except everything else is affordable—lodging and meals, and most everything including a delicious P30 leche flan in the city’s premiere grill house. Now that’s worth a visit.
Next, there are fruits from Kasibu, which are native oranges. They also have tourist spots like the oldest acacia tree and the oldest church beside it dated 1776. They have fresh vegetables, good pinakbet and fresh fish which comes from Dagupan.
Nueva Vizcaya has cool climate as most of the towns are at least 300 meters above sea level—perfect for growing coffee, too.
Thanks to the people I met, Juliet and Andrea of the famous Bumolo clan, I got a short “primer” on Bambang and how vegetables from even as far as Baguio end up here at the NVAT or Nueva Viscaya Agricultural Terminal Inc. Andrea, a director of NVAT tells me how all the vegetable farmers now benefit from having their own terminal. Though not all the veggies are certified organic, farmers now find it easy to transport their produce to this hub which then takes it to Manila’s terminals like Divisoria or Balintawak.
But wait, Juliet had another bright idea. What if she started an organic vegetable farm? And that’s what she did. Even if many farmers think organic is the “hard way to take” she still pursued a small organic farm in her hometown of Kasibu, 10 kilometers from Bambang. For our final lunch before heading down to Manila, Juliet prepared everything from her garden—-fresh salad, “lasona” or leeks and tomatoes with bagoong to pair with fried fish and local Nueva Viscaya rice. We went around Juliet’s pilot farm where she also has coffee seedlings and ducks for rice duck farming. Did you know ducks are the best way to eat the snails that damage rice? It’s a perfect set up where the ducks are fed, while they protect our food from damage by snails. When rice harvest is over, you can now sell the ducks or eat them.
“I need to start it so others may follow” she says humbly of her organic farm. Soon, the farmers will surely follow her example. She grows her own food and makes sure her family eats only the healthiest of produce from Kasibu. “Start small and lead the way” seems to be her motto. Well, I trust Kasibu will indeed follow if I judge it by the numbers of Juliet’s followers among her townmates at their recent farmers’ meetings.
I take my hat off to people like Juliet. She is a true farmer but she has a vision as a community leader to make Kasibu the best source of organic vegetables. And organic coffee, soon, very soon. She has sowed over 70,000 coffee seedlings that will be planted all over the Kasibu mountains and forests.
Cool weather. Organic vegetables. Affordable lodging. Visit Nueva Vizcaya. You will wonder why it took you that long to discover it.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium, Centris QC mall, Davao, Cebu City, Antipolo and Iloilo City. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on sustainability, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org