We left Manila before sunrise. We were heading to the province of Abra, around eight hours north of Manila, to interview a free-range chicken farmer and shoot her farm for food magazine, Yummy.
I pitched to my editor a story on the people who raise and grow our food. Good food. Literature and previous conversations with farmers on sustainable forms of farming were always driving this one point: nowadays, we don’t know where we get our food. Most of us don’t know how they were grown (whether they were soaked–not simply sprayed–in a vat of chemicals to kill all the bugs in say, ampalaya), how they affect the environment, what they were fed or in what conditions they were raised. The farmers I was going to interview were all devoted to the cause of bringing good, clean food to table.
There’s Nicolo Aberasturri of Down to Earth farm who raises grass-fed cattle in Bukidnon, Daisy Langenegger who has a farm in the province of Isabela growing vegetables and rice among other things (and a home in Quezon City filled with all sorts of herbs and vegetables), Ronald Costales of Costales Nature Farms for his organically-grown pigs, and Tina Morados-Papillon of Pamora Farm for her free-range chickens in Abra. (Though I interviewed them on those particular things, they all grow and raise a variety of plants and animals as it makes for a more sustainable way of farming. Take the pigs: they eat the organic vegetables, their manure goes to a compost or vermicast, worms feed on it, and it turns into fertilizer which is used on the plants, and the plants are fed to the animals again, and the cycle keeps going. Pretty basic stuff that it reminded me of grade school science class, but it takes time and time means money, so many farmers or ‘factory farms’ don’t resort to this form of farming.)
I was with a photographer, her assistant, and our trusty driver when we made our way to Abra. Surrounded by the Cordillera mountains, we found Pamora Farm in the town of Garreta (km. 396). Amidst nondescript houses, we saw a pretty wooden gate and a few meters away stood a dressing plant with the Pamora sign. We entered and a lady motioned us to go farther up the driveway. Flowering bushes lined the rest of the driveway until we reached a small house with a porch that had two tables and benches. Tina was out, but one of her sisters told us to wait; she was one her way back from the town.
When she came back, Tina was with her husband Gerard, a French national who’s made the Philippines his home. We were spending the night in the farm so after the gracious couple showed us to our rooms, they told us to join them for a late lunch. We ate the simple and lovely spread of Pamora’s eggs (hard-boiled), chicken liver pate, their mini chicken empanadas, and bread they have bought in a weekend market in Makati, where they came the night before. They have a home in Manila’s CBD but they regularly make their way to Abra. A long, exhausting drive that took us more than eight hours; Tina, who knows the road well, can make it in five.