By Vina Medenilla

The first quarter of 2020 was undoubtedly a difficult chapter for many Filipinos. After the eruption of Taal Volcano on January 12, 2020, it was followed by a lockdown almost two months later caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The quarantine protocols kept the public from leaving their homes, personally going to work, and resuming their livelihoods. For this reason, countless families heavily relied on food and cash assistance from the government. However, aid from the government wasn’t sufficient, especially for low-income households.

Due to the perils of the pandemic on public health and food security, the number of individuals who started farming went up.

Among those who established a survival garden is Revelation Villarino Palado, a senior pastor at the New Life Christian Ministries church in Talisay, Batangas. 

It was not an easy start for Palado because his family was still recovering from the impacts of the volcano eruption when he decided to plant food. At that time, there was no arable land in his backyard since everything was covered in volcanic ash. This didn’t hinder the pastor from engaging in food production, so he began planting in containers and raised beds. 

Despite surging food prices in the market, Palado does not worry because his garden sustains his family with free vegetables and fruits.

Together with his family and friends, Palado sowed vegetables in his 50 sqm backyard and 31 sqm rooftop last April 2020. Since his backyard garden is found on a slope, he surrounded it with cement bags and a hundred sacks to protect the plants and garden from soil erosion. 

Tracing the roots of his passion

His love and appreciation of farming came from the influence of his mother, who is an agriculture graduate. At a young age, he used to accompany his mother in their backyard garden when she planted vegetables.

Although he had not built his own garden until in the course of quarantine, Palado shared that his food preference has always been vegetables rather than meat.

His sons are all smiles with their radish or labanos harvests.

A hobby that feeds him and his family

Palado frequently tends to his garden. When he’s not maintaining it, he’s performing his duties as a pastor. 

He grows all 18 crops mentioned in the Filipino folk song “Bahay Kubo” in sacks, plastic bottles, and other repurposed containers he can find at home. He grows other veggies and plants that are not in the “Bahay Kubo” song such as basil, mint, oregano, and pandan. 

Fresh harvests from the garden.

He carries out companion planting to promote biodiversity and help repel pests. To date, Palado’s garden grows over 250 plant varieties. 

He waters the garden twice a day—in the morning and afternoon. Since this gardener primarily raises crops for his household, he keeps the garden as natural as possible and does not use any harmful pesticides that can harm both the plants and their family’s health. 

Palado’s garden in Banga, Talisay, Batangas is found in two spaces: his backyard and rooftop.

Palado creates a homemade solution that consists of dishwashing liquid, baking soda, and vinegar. He uses this natural concoction alternately with oregano extract. 

His medium in his rooftop garden is made up of vermicast, rice hull, leaves of malunggay and ipil-ipil, and other dried leaves. Putting a plastic cover and fly traps helps him shield the plants from fruit flies and other pests. 

This pastor grows all the 18 veggies mentioned in the Filipino folk song “Bahay Kubo,” such as sitaw, talong, mustasa, bataw, and singkamas.

Since he does not sell his produce, Palado gives away excess harvests to relatives, friends, churchmates, and neighbors. He shares extra crops and seedlings and even offers delivery to others for free. This is his way of sharing his blessings and encouraging others to plant their own vegetables, too. 

Palado now harvests eggplants, bell peppers, okras, ampalaya, tomato, pechay, mustasa, long chilies, patola, and more. 

He wants to remind others that in the midst of discouraging times, do not lose hope and hold onto the source of life and He will take care of the results.

Photos courtesy of Revelation Villarino Palado.