By Vina Medenilla
Celebrities are often expected to live luxurious lives due to their fame. However, once the cameras and microphones are turned off, not everyone can see that they, too, can be human beings seeking a simple life.
It is this way for the Philippines’ Pop-rock Royalty Yeng Constantino-Asuncion, who started growing food with her husband, Victor “Yan” Asuncion, during the first week of the COVID-19 quarantine period.
In an attempt to achieve self-sufficiency, the Asuncions built a backyard garden on their beach property in Quezon province that is planted with eggplants, okra, and tomatoes.
A few steps from the first vegetable area, they grow sitaw, camote tops, and kangkong, both in containers and on the ground. Then adjacent to it is another area for more okra plants (grown from seed) as well as calamansi.
The said house is an Airbnb accommodation, but due to the travel restrictions amid the pandemic, the couple was forced to postpone opening it to guests, deciding to stay there for several months instead.
Yeng mentioned in a vlog that she loves fruits, so they also planted fruit trees in the area, including papaya, macopa, and bayabas. She then showed viewers seeds of Pico mangoes and avocado, which had yet to be sowed.
The singer said that they bought fully-grown or established vegetable plants from local sellers and planted them in their veggie patch, allowing the couple to harvest veggies in just two months.
“Since we have a sandy soil here, the nutrients are not enough to support the plants, especially as they mature,” said Yan, adding that they solve this problem by adding compost to the soil.
The couple uses an old bucket as a compost bin. It is filled with kitchen scraps, paper, cardboard, rice, and soil. Their technique is to crush the materials into small pieces so that they can be composted more easily. Yeng saw that after applying compost, the plants fruited in just a week.
She documented herself harvesting crops multiple times, but she didn’t stop there; she also featured her vegetarian recipes, such as eggplant burger steak, gravy, and fried chicken using the garden produce. She even had a ‘mukbang,’ or eating broadcast with her husband using the crops they farmed and harvested from the garden.
Yeng encouraged her viewers and followers to plant vegetables because they are beneficial to one’s well-being and can help one save up financially. Gardening can “enrich one’s soul,” she added.
The couple was able to cultivate vegetables in a sandy area in just a few months, so imagine what others can do in idle spaces that are suited for food production.
Even after leaving their beach property and returning to Manila after the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), Yeng and Yan continued planting vegetables in the metro. In raised beds, they grow eggplants, okra, ampalaya, kalabasa, sitaw, tomatoes, herbs, and more.
The vegetarian couple aims to source 50 percent of their food from their urban garden. They also plan to produce mushrooms in the future.
In her recent vlogs, Yeng shared a glimpse of their Quezon family farm where his father and sister currently reside. Since local travel restrictions have been lifted, the couple frequents the farm to see their family. They also built a house for themselves to stay in while there.
Yeng grew up watching her father raise chickens. Now, she helps him feed them when she’s at the farm. In her vlog last November 2021, she showed their chicken coop that houses seven Rhode Island Red (RIR), four Orpington, and four Silkies.
Staying in the province has taught the couple a lot about farming and life in general. Ultimately, they found solace in two things while the world is in isolation: living simply and cultivating food.
Photos screengrabbed from Yeng Constantino’s YouTube and Instagram accounts.