The women of socio-civic group Quezon City Chamberette, Inc.—who showed me the importance of lending a hand to the less fortunate in the community through my growing up years—vow to nurture a green thumb in between running their free day care centers and holding medical and dental missions from hereon.
This happened after the club, to which my mother and her closest friends belong, were inspired by the talk of their guest speaker Senator Cynthia Villar. The senator also stood as their inducting officer earlier in the year—a function which I hosted as a “new generation” member of the organization—and had promised to talk more about her advocacies in food and agriculture.
Doctor and “RX Plus” TV host Cecile Catapang passed on the leadership of the Quezon City Chamberette on that occasion to this year’s president, former Santiago City Mayor Amelita Navarro, who were both all ears with the rest of their officers and on the topic of urban gardening.
“Grow pechay, lettuce and other leafy greens closer to home. Enjoy eating fresh and healthy produce grown from your own garden, even if you are living in an urban community like Quezon City and the rest of Metro Manila,” Villar encouraged them.
Sponges for anything to do with healthy living, the “Titas of Quezon City” as I like to call them, were all the more intrigued on how to go about urban gardening when the senator noted how the practice has become a fast growing trend in New York and other European cities.
Villar cited the benefit of eating fresher and safer edibles this way especially with the use of store-bought fertilizers that generally have zero chemicals.
“To nourish the soil for healthier and bigger veggies, make use of organic fertilizers too,” she advised. “You can use kitchen waste as compost as well as used water to irrigate the soil.”
Moreover, the senator cited how gardening can also lead to a closer community once neighbors find a common interest in growing their own vegetables.
“There are endless benefits to urban gardening as you can see,” she enthused. “You may also want to model your future projects after ones we have already done in Las Piñas, where we give cash awards to residents engaged in urban gardening in three categories: inter-barangay, inter-public school, and inter-homeowners association. We also regularly distribute organic fertilizers to communities involved in urban gardening for support because later on, this can also be a source of income for housewives and families in general.”
Besides literally planting the seeds for healthy eating, there are also obvious environmental benefits to be had from urban gardening.
“This is a practice that will help us wisely use open spaces in subdivisions and barangay communities,” Villar continued. “You can start by growing your food in small spaces until you get the hang of it. You just have to be resourceful and creative, and before you know it, you’re not just doing your family a favor but the whole community as well.”
Delighted by the positive response of the Chamberettes, Villar—who described herself as an “environmental warrior” besides chairing the committee on agriculture and food since her election in 2013—extended an invitation to a 36-square-meter open space in BF Resort Subdivision where she started out an urban garden in 2015.
“There we have three varieties of lettuce and a pond of red tilapia, and it serves as a showcase of more gardens we’ve helped set up in urban areas around the country, in partnership with different government agencies.”
Villar finally pointed out that as female socio-civic leaders of Quezon City, the Chamberettes can very well become effective advocates of urban gardening starting from their very own homes.
And with that, the officers and members of the club felt empowered by the thought that the simple act of gardening can make a huge difference in the lives of so many others. Ideas for future projects sprouted like—well—vegetables.
Congratulations to the officers and members of QCCI: president Amelita Navarro, immediate past president Cecile Catapang, 1st vice president Jo Catapng, 2nd vice president Fay Mauricio, secretary Ine Mauricio, treasurer Linda Velasquez, auditor Fely Sanchez, and PRO Patti King; directors Julie Espinosa, Angie Mauricio, Naty Ng, Nene Callanga, Bea Tan, Rhina Garcia, Elvie Quiazon, and Cecile Twitt; Presidential Action Officers Peachy Catapang, AC Sunga, Sharon Fong, Beng Gadon, and Prime Sison; president emeritus City Sanchez; advisers Ester Florendo, Tessie Rodrigo, Pilar Ongking, and Emma Gutierrez.