By Vina Medenilla
From being a broadcast journalist to a three-term senator and now, a deputy speaker of the House of Representatives and congresswoman of the lone district of Antique, Lorna Regina Bautista Legarda, or Loren Legarda, is a notable Filipina who is recognized for her contributions in various fields and advocacies, including environmental protection.
Leading towards a sustainable lifestyle
During the COVID-19 lockdown in the Philippines, Legarda keeps herself busy and isolated from the threats of the virus on her farm.
Karen Davila, a broadcast journalist and news anchor of ABSCBN, takes her YouTube subscribers around Legarda’s farmland through a vlog.
When Davila asked about how her farming journey began, she answered, “I’ve always wanted to grow my own food.” Legarda remembers traces of her fascination with growing plants from childhood. As an environmentalist at a young age, she vividly recalls herself playing in a garden in Malabon and planting their vegetables.
The two women first went to the greenhouse where several crops are planted such as saluyot, onion leek, thyme, aloe vera, and arugula.
As they entered the greenhouse, Legarda went straight to a corner where several recycled envelopes were laid, containing seeds of different crops like adlai, lettuce, upo, among others.
As a seed saver, she said that disposing of seeds is a no-no. She then showed her organically-grown pechay, which can be grown in just a month.
There are lots of health benefits that one can get from consuming pechay such as vitamins C and E. While sharing these advantages, Davila picked and ate a few fresh pechay leaves.
One of her secrets to successful farming? Singing songs to her plants. On the vlog, she sang a few lines of an English folk song “Scarborough Fair” popularized by Simon & Garfunkel.
Atop three of the hanging planters inside the greenhouse, there are harvested chilis that, Legarda said, will be dried so they can get more chili seeds for future planting.
A small portion of the greenhouse is devoted to snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata), which is a variety that she also tends in her office because it is an excellent natural air purifier.
Every tree on the farm has a label or marker. As Davila roamed around, she saw a row of siling labuyo, that she says aids in losing weight, relieving pain, improving the immune system, and providing the body with vitamins and minerals.
A natural insect-repellent can also be found on the farm, namely citronella, which can be a profitable source of livelihood since this can be processed into essential oil, soaps, and other products.
Later on the vlog, Legarda prepared food for her farm guest using crops that she personally planted and tended, like lettuce, mint, purple corn, mangoes, and avocado. She also prepared a healthy and refreshing hibiscus or roselle (Hibiscus sabdariffa) juice.
It is not mandatory to have a farm or to own fancy pots to grow food, said the environmentalist and farmer. As long as there are old bottles, plastics, or tin cans, anyone can grow anything even in small spaces.
Moving on to other parts of the farm, there’s a small nipa hut, which Legarda calls ‘materials recovery facility.’ This is where they segregate materials like bottles, papers, latak or residue, cans, cartons, and plastics. Since Legarda also practices composting, she also has a compost shed where she produces natural fertilizer for her plants.
Repurposing materials is a typical practice on the farm. Two of the repurposed containers that were shown on the vlog are a clean old bathroom sink and an Oli toilet bowl where she planted ornamental plants.
Amid the pandemic, the biggest lesson that she learned is the importance of not giving up. “It’s not how you perform in life, but how you rise after you stumble,” Legarda said.
At 61, Legarda remains steadfast in campaigning for nature. In her own ways, she plants what she eats, and encourages others to do the same.