BY PATRICIA BIANCA S. TACULAO
People have their own reasons for growing plants. Some do it as a hobby, while others use it as a source of food or income. Regardless of the reason, there’s no denying that people greatly benefit from growing plants.
Apart from being a productive or profitable hobby, growing plants also benefits people’s health. Numerous studies have been published to attest to this claim, showing how gardening or farming can help people recover from mental and physical illnesses.
Many farmers and gardeners in the Philippines have firsthand experiences on how growing plants helped them recover mentally. Here are five that have been featured on Agriculture Online.
Diverting his attention through gardening
Edward Y. Domingo is a civil engineer who is currently working as an entrepreneur. Back in 2015, he felt depressed and wanted to look for ways to divert his attention from his thoughts. Eventually, he discovered gardening.
Domingo was particularly interested in bonsai. He has been dabbling in bonsai since then. He learned the basics and techniques of bonsai making through experience, tips from friends who share the same interest, reading books, and watching tutorials on YouTube.
Through bonsai gardening, the entrepreneur found a productive distraction from his mental health problems. As his collection grew, Domingo felt the need to share it with others. In January 2021, he opened the Red Theodore Bonsai Farm in Ramon, Isabela so people can appreciate his work and the beauty of bonsai.
Finding respite with mayanas
Evangeline Villegas Almoite, a retired government employee and agriculturist, is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. Symptoms of the disease begin gradually and tend to get worse over time.
Although her illness is challenging, Almoite finds refuge in growing ornamental plants. She said that “through gardening, I’m a survivor.”
She currently grows a variety of plants such as crotons, pothos, calatheas, philodendrons, agloenemas, sansevierias, cutharitas, anthuriums, and more. But among these plants, Almoite prefers mayanas (Coleus blumei Benth) because of their multi-colored leaves.
As she battles Parkinson’s disease, the former agriculturist said that gardening makes things easier for her as she has found respite in an activity where she feels safe and capable of doing what she wants.
Taking a break from the hustle and bustle of life
Some years ago, Abby Yu Jeco from Marikina was diagnosed with Bipolar I disorder, a condition characterized by having severe shifts in mood, energy, and activity levels. For that reason, she found herself needing an outlet that can help her ease her mind, and their home garden happened to offer that.
Jeco’s doctor didn’t directly tell her to start gardening but she found out for herself that being in close connection to nature helped her cope with her condition. Since then, she has been growing vegetables such as chili, eggplant, tomato, and patola, dalandan, and some ornamental plants.
The millennial realized that gardening was important to her mental well-being. She thinks people who have the same condition as her should also give gardening a chance as there is no greater feeling than having your hands in the dirt to grow your food.
Recovering from cancer with the help of plants
After four years of living in the metro, Sharon Julie Evangelista was diagnosed with Stage IV uterine cancer and Stage III cervical cancer. Some of the contributing factors to her illness were stress, pressure, exposure to pollution caused by chemicals, and an unhealthy lifestyle from eating processed food.
But despite her condition, she still maintained her garden which helped her heal and recover fast as it gave her physical and emotional strength. The plants that she cared for became a reliable partner during her recovery stage.
It took two years for Evangelista to recover from cancer. Growing fruits and vegetables also helped in her healing because she managed to avoid stress and eat healthily.
Using farming as an outlet for grief and loss
Pinky Peralta is an interior designer and a weekend farmer who discovered farming 14 years ago. She started learning about the basics of growing, which eventually led her to start The Weekend Farmer, a 2.5-hectare agritourism farm situated in Alfonso, Cavite that houses perennial trees like Antipolo, coffee, bignay, madre de cacao, and jackfruit integrated with livestock, poultry, and beekeeping.
But Peralta’s choice to connect with nature came from the eagerness to overcome a troubling time in her life. In the same year that the farm was born, Peralta also had a miscarriage.
She used farming to heal internally and the farm became an outlet that helped her to recover from grief and loss. Now, not only has The Weekend Farmer become a coping mechanism for Peralta, but it has also become a source of food for her family and a farm destination for guests who also want to connect with nature.
As many others are discovering how gardening or farming helps people mentally, they, too, started to engage in the activity to experience it firsthand. After all, there is peace in routine, nature, and watching things grow under our care.