Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Failures, Weakness, Inspirations and Hope

For the past few months SG has been very quiet. You are probably wondering what happened and maybe some of you thought that we are not going to continue this project anymore. Well to be direct, we fail and we were not efficient this time but at least we have never been passive or asleep. Although for the past few months we were not so much into action in terms of weeding, tilling, planting, or improving the garden, there are still things that helped for the growth of our project or vision.  We were not mainly focusing on the garden as of continuing to do what was planned because there are so many obstacles and there are very few volunteers. First example of these is the soil quality; although it is not totally useless, we can now accept the fact that it cannot produce enough vegetables for many people. We spent so much of our effort doing what we can to improve the area and produce food to share especially to those who help and value the importance of the project but a lot of it was put in vain. 
To be honest, I personally felt so depressed during those past few months but I still don’t forget that there were many positive outcomes along the process. In just more than one year we gained many interesting friends, learned about them and what they do personally or as an organization. We heard about how they appreciate the vision and our dedication and how they love to follow the story of Davao SG. We’ve discovered so many things regarding sustainable living, intentional community and organic gardening. In addition, we’ve bought enough tools for starting another garden anytime and we now can try some methods regarding how to manage a space for organic garden. 

 We’ve also influenced few individuals here and abroad. It’s seems conceited to say but I humbly share this to you because it is actually true. In few parts of the Philippines and in Germany for example, there were few people who started gardening because they were inspired by our project (of course along with other great community garden example they found in the internet). In my experiences talking to many people, I was happy to learn that many of them see this kind of project as a very important thing to learn for everybody, adult and children. It looks sad or pity to me that they can’t totally do it because of their everyday financial obligation but I don’t totally agree that they have no time for this desire anymore. Some of them are cab drivers, vendors, parents, teachers, pastors, petty government officials, ordinary workers, artists, laborer, students and many others - socially concerned and responsive, willing to get off the grid anytime they have a chance! Hopefully, they will find the right time to start actualizing their simple way to self-sufficiency and social sustainability. Another good thing to notice is by how my neighbors react now every time they see me gathering cow dung. It seems that they really try to let me know that they appreciate the fact that I am doing that. They greet me with smiles and utter words of encouragement; even little kids who mostly find it very awful are now interested to help me find it easily. Unlike before, some people laugh at me because they find it unusual and awkward. 

 In terms of producing organic fertilizers, we are not that fast and we can only have very little result of our compost (mostly banana peel and cow dung) so that’s why we still need more time for that. Another thing is, we cannot easily open a water connection since we don’t own the place and installing rainwater catcher is not a smart thing to do because the area is completely open for thief. I remember one day when I was trying to water the plants, when I checked the buckets on the corner, which I covered with leaves and grasses for hiding, one of those was gone! Not having any idea who took that old but big bucket, I just shook my head in disappointment and placed the two back inside the premises of my neighbor. This neighbor is helping me before by letting me keep the buckets inside their premises and offered me water as long as I help them pay the bill. So what happens is, during late afternoon, around 3-5 PM, I go to the garden and water the plants. But before I can do that, I first need to lift the water so high and hand it over to another person over the wall. It needs so much energy and time. After I finish watering the vegetables, I fill the bucket again with water and wait for another 30 more minutes. But since tap water in this area is now very limited, controlled and diverted to other housing subdivisions, available only during late at night and very early in the morning (from around 11PM to 5AM), I cannot do that anymore. I can’t go to my neighbor’s house at around 11 in the evening and fill the bucket or wake up 4 in the morning, still dark, and water the plants. Also, because my back often hurts, I think my body is quite weak to carry heavy things every day. And besides, we don’t have a budget allotted for paying the water this time so I stopped doing that.
As of now there is not enough water to keep some of the plants alive and there are not enough good areas to plant vegetables to keep the volunteers motivated. So for now we only depend on rains but in spite of it, I am still continuing the productivity of the place. For as long as it is available and open for us, we will use it. And even though it is not producing much food for many people, we will still continue growing stuff there. It’s a good thing as well that another people from the neighbors are now planting some things in the garden. Well it’s just some few sweet potato and okra (they are just using a very small part because they already have a garden in their church) but it’s great to see them starting to be interested in that area. So there are times that we work together, fixing the fences, clearing the weeds in some parts and keeping the goats and other animals away. So as of now there’s not much exciting things in the garden but we are constantly working there, waiting to see how it goes this second year. 

 Speaking of water, I am also very happy to tell you all that earlier last month (May) we had a very wonderful opportunity of meeting an important activist and film enthusiast. Steven Starr, the executive producer of The Garden and Flow: for the love of water (both documentary films screened last year for the community here at Bread Homes as part of the SG education program) came here in Davao. So together with the organizations BALUD and KAUBAN (social and environmental groups), we organized another screening of Flow, this time in a much bigger venue and with more people. It turned out very effective and viewers were moved by how the film clearly discussed the global water situation and by the very serious calling it presented. Some of them were surprised by the water crises brought about by different sinister transnational corporations such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Vivendi and many more, who privatized the water sources for dam purposes and some are for manufacturing their products. They were quite disgraced to see how these corporations are destroying the environment and poisoning the main water sources around the world. After the movie, people exchanged questions and ideas regarding how to get involved in taking actions for the benefit of our future water consumption and watersheds. In the end, a loose organization was found to kick start a new water vigilance group. In the evening, Steven and his friends spent time with us while we were having a dinner. After a while he then hugged us goodbye and promised to come back later this year. He also left a copy of The Garden, a documentary film about the South Central Farm community supported garden in California.
So for now these are the usual things we do in terms of gardening and community education project. Most of my routine is composed of garden works in the morning, selling cds in the afternoon, and writing (songs, poetry, and essays) afterwards or in the evening. Luckily I also still find time to read books, watch documentary movies, meet my friends and even perform my music at gigs. I also appreciate the fact that every now and then, mainly because of SG project, we meet people from different parts of the world. We are very pleased to have those meaningful times in the garden, together with those people, doing small things that help us all. With those people from France, Germany, Switzerland, and Manila, our SG experience is, in general, very uplifting and colorful. Also because of this project, the principal and some teachers in a high school nearby requested and elected me as one of their partners in improving their school (Bernardo Carpio National High School). I am now one of the officials in their school so it means I have another opportunity to help more people, promote the project or maybe to start another one. Speaking of projects, we also just finished our summer art class. Although it was very short (12 days in three weeks), it was still worthy and meaningful. Most of the participants are earlier volunteers of SG so we are all quite familiar with each other. Somehow, it was easily done. 
We gave them 3 lessons per day, not so much but sad to say some of them didn’t finished the whole class. For whatever reasons, I am not sure. One possible reason is maybe because some of the parents still doubt us; it was because we were honest about our true beliefs in life and our disbelief in Christianity and other organized religion. We cannot go on forever denying our real thoughts and feelings especially about this issue…not anymore! For them if you don’t worship gods, or join religion, you must be an “evil person”. It’s another prejudice embedded deep in the bowels of “filipino” psyche and culture, it’s utterly destructive and limiting so it needs to be confronted and stopped. Anyway, these are the news we want to share to you. As of now we can’t show you more photos because our camera was stolen some months ago and another reason is, there is not much thing to show as of now. Thanks for your time and please watch out for more post in the next few days.   

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