By Angie M. Veneracion

Bulacan is located very near the National Capital Region (NCR), particularly Metro Manila, the nation’s commercial and industry center. It links product-rich Northern Luzon and the NCR, making it a “Gateway to the North” even for visitors and tourists.

Tourism’s benefits to the local economy are innumerable; thus, efforts are being initiated to increase tourist arrivals to Bulacan. Differently themed fiestas and festivals are celebrated to showcase the various products as well as historical and cultural activities of each Bulacan town. These events help a province gain visibility, which leads to increased tourist arrivals and improved local economies. The province’s rich historical and cultural heritage should rank it high among tourism destinations.

The passage of the Farm Tourism Law gave local tourism a boost. The law is aimed at encouraging rural economies to progress through agritourism. Bulacan is still predominantly agricultural, despite recent massive land conversions. With this law, new livelihood opportunities and income streams that come with tourism are opened up to farmers and farm owners. Farms can be converted into tourist destinations without converting them into resorts. City dwellers can easily visit, take a break from the urban hustle and bustle, and experience rural life and tranquility.

With this in mind, Bulacan farm owners, upon the initiative of the Provincial History, Arts, Culture and Tourism Office (PHACTO) led by department head Dr. Eliseo S. Cruz, met at the provincial capitol and organized the Bulacan Farm Tourism Association, Inc. (BFTAI). The association was organized with the aim of promoting farm tourism as an engine of economic growth in Bulacan. It also hopes to inculcate an appreciation of the values of sustainable agriculture and tourism activities that can promote the health and wellness of individuals, families, and communities. Existing and prospective farm operators will be trained and educated while unity and complementation is promoted among them.

The BFTA, Inc. is open to membership by Bulacan farms that are in agreement with the purposes of the association. Here are some of the pioneer member farms of the Bulacan Farm Tourism Association, Inc.; this can be considered a preview of Bulacan’s farm tourism destinations.

  • AXIS Farm, located at Brgy. Partida, San Miguel, Bulacan, is owned by Leoncio Alejandro. Tourists will certainly be charmed by the rural setting of a farm raising buffaloes for milk production. Carabao milk—the main ingredient of pastillas de leche
    and kesong puti, favorite San Miguel delicacies among tourists—comes from this farm.
  • Duran Farm, located at Salupungan- Basuit Road, San Ildefonso, Bulacan, is owned by Daisy Duran. The farm, a pioneer supplier of papaya and vegetable seedlings, is now a DA ATI (Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Training Institute) and TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) accredited training center for
    agribusiness and organic agriculture. The Duran farm offers different farm activities like hands-on planting of rice and vegetables, as well as pick-and pay activities.
  • Biscocho Integrated Organic (BIO) Farm located in San Rafael, Bulacan, is owned by Ma. Lourdes Bischocho. The farm cultivates vegetables and plants organically integrated with various livestock like pigs, ducks, chicken, and sheep. Tourists will be delighted by the variety of vegetation and livestock available at the farm. It is also an accredited learning site for organic agriculture with training and accommodation facilities.

    Sheep and other livestock are grown at BIO Farm.

  • AVEN Nature’s Farm and Rabbitry, located at Sta. Barbara, Baliuag, Bulacan, is owned by Art C. Veneracion Jr. The farm is easily accessible by public transport. Its main product and attraction are its meat rabbits. Rabbit production seminars are being conducted at the farm regularly to help teach Filipinos that rabbits are a good source of income and nutrition. Tourists may ask for tour packages that include farm cooked meals with rabbit dishes and a farm tour of the fruit tree conservation farm where children and adults alike will be reacquainted with Philippine native trees.
  • The Reyes Strawberry Farm located at Calumpang, Calumpit, Bulacan, is managed by Andre R. Borja. The farm is already a tourist destination, having been featured in television morning shows and newspapers. The farm raises different varieties of strawberries; people flock to the farm for a look at and a taste of lowland strawberries. The farm also raises dragon fruit, grapes, bananas, and assorted fruiting plants and trees. It also has a wide assortment of ornamental and flowering plants, herbs, and spices. The integrated farm also grows livestock and the farm is surrounded by ricefields. It also has amenities that include a nipa hut, a function room, and swimming pool.
  • Munting Paraiso ni Yolly Farm is an integrated organic farm located at Sta. Cruz, Angat, Bulacan. Owned and managed by Yolanda Riguer and family, it is also an accredited learning site for organic agriculture. Tourists will be charmed by the traditional rural setting and its bamboo entrance surrounded by luscious green plants and flowers. They will marvel at the efficiency of the farm setup with the land fully utilized, very productive and self-sufficient. Visitors are served organic food and drinks concocted by the farm. They can also buy organic rice (brown, black, and red), organically grown vegetables, and fruits in season when they visit.

The BFTAI currently has 24 active members and membership is continuously increasing.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May 2018 issue.