By Vina Medenilla
Antonio Go Corado, M.D., 58, a general practitioner, has been fascinated with ornamental plants for three decades. However, when he discovered his love for photography, he left his ornamentals unattended for a while. Since the community quarantine has been imposed to contain the spread of COVID-19, he has been using his time to tend to his plants again, which for him, is stress therapy.
Corado manages two gardens and a two-hectare farm in Isabela that’s less than an hour away from their house. His first garden is an ornamental and herbal garden measuring about 300 square meters located at the back of their hospital. This serves as a therapy garden not only for him, but also for his patients. It also has an artificial pond and falls where he raises tilapia and million fishes. He tends the garden at around four to five in the morning every day before seeing his patients for consultation. “I only assign watering to household workers if I have no time. But mostly, I do that daily because some plants do need not much watering,” said Corado.
His second garden is two kilometers away from the hospital. It is a 500sqm lot that their family considers a resthouse. Although they have a caretaker, Corado regularly visits his second garden to make sure that the plants are well taken care of.
Corado’s garden collections are composed of Calathea, monstera, alocasia varieties, aglaonema, giant alocasia, pothos, philodendrons, creeping plants, rare caladiums, colocasia, different ferns, ornamental grasses, aquatic plants, and more.
Marketing the ornamentals
When asked where his knowledge in growing plants came from, Corado said that it was with the help of gardeners and sellers where he bought his plants from. He enriches and develops his knowledge through the internet.
Corado also collects rare varieties from his friends, propagates them, and sells them at a much cheaper price. He added: “For example, the market price of a certain plant is three thousand, I sell my young propagation from P250 to P500. Ornamental plants are a good investment if you know how to take care of them.”
As a seller and grower of ornamental plants, Corado finds the current plant craze ‘insane’. “I’d rather invest my money in edible plants that will be more sustainable. Ornamental plants are just a craze. In a while, prices will drop and your investments will be gone.” He adds, “30 decades of having ornamental plants will earn you money temporarily.” With the increasing supply for these ornamental plants, Corado sees a declining market for them as the supply goes up. “Once consumers collect those plants, they will propagate and sell them as well,” he added. He points out that at a time like this, people must be practical and must grow veggies that they can both consume and sell.
Incorporating crops into their growing spaces
Last October 2020, Corado thought of growing something more beneficial to his family’s health — fruits and vegetables. “We decided to buy two farm lots of about two hectares [that are] just a 30-minute drive [away] from our house in the province of Quirino.” When they bought the land, there were already fruit-bearing trees including mango (50 trees), dalanghita (100 trees), lemon (50 trees), coffee, and calamansi. At present, they’re adding more crops like rambutan, durian, and satsuma oranges (Citrus unshiu). Some of the veggies they produce are pepper, eggplant, squash, ginger, cassava, sweet potato, horseradish, potatoes, okra, different varieties of tomatoes, gabi, sayote, and carrots.
Corado and his wife Mitos tend the farm themselves. They rarely hire extra farm hands because for them, performing farm tasks are their form of exercise that can provide them a greater benefit.
They fertilize their vegetables with vermicast and chicken dung and do not use any insecticide. They also practice composting. In terms of marketing the products, it is not a problem for the Corado couple. Their daughter Iana is a dietician and entrepreneur who uses the farm harvests to offer and supply meals to her sick patients and clients who are on diet.
However, the journey was not always smooth sailing for them. They have faced watering problems and have encountered plant mortality, especially in the beginning. To address these challenges, Corado says that visiting the garden every day, combined with proper time management, has always been the key. “When the pandemic came in, I intensively revived my plants and bought some more. Putting time for them resolved those problems.”
The pandemic may have turned this decade-long ornamental plant hobbyist into a farmer in no time, but his advocacy in saving Mother Earth has always been the same.
Photos from Antonio Go Corado, M.D.