“If you really want to be happy, don't just go for the money. Go for the relationship that lasts. Go for things of greater value.”
― Tony Meloto
Solitary walking helps clear my mind. It has become sort of my meditation when I want to banish negative thoughts. So without any important thing to do one weekend, I decided to practice walking meditation in the first farm village university in the world also dubbed as “the Silicon Valley for Social Entrepreneurship” and “Disneyland for Social Tourism” – the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm.
Located in a sprawling 34 hectares of verdant and fertile land in Angat, Bulacan, GK Enchanted Farm was launched in 2011 with the building of 30 houses for the informal settlers of Metro Manila, and the commitment of the private sector to actively engage in GK’s Social Artistry Development Program. It was named after the barangay where it is located – Encanto, a Filipino word that connotes supernatural and magical. And the place didn’t disappoint for it is truly enchanting being a farm, home, village, garden, recreation center and education hub rolled into one. This was made possible under the leadership of philanthropist, social entrepreneur and GK founder Tony Meloto who is relentless and passionate in seeing to it that the movement’s vision to end poverty for 5 million families in the Philippines someday become a reality.
Originally, I wanted to avail the Visit the Farm Package C. But the guys in the registration said that it’s unavailable and so I just ended up with Package A + DIY Tour, missed some demos but nonetheless, enjoyed the whole farm experience at my own pace.
The landmark state-of-the-art building of the farm is the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation. Donated by the HARI Foundation (the corporate social responsibility partner of Hyundai Asia Resources), the advanced green innovation center marries the ethnicity of the bahay kubo and the Hyundai design philosophy of Fluidic Sculpture. The carved wooden fishes exhibited in the lobby seem like a testament to the adage “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.”
The open theater of the farm is the Arch Angel-GK Center for Arts and Culture, built in partnership with the Angelo King Foundation. It is also used for community gatherings, cultural shows and other events.
The Bamboo Palace, made of indigenous Filipino materials such as bamboo and rattan, is an architectural masterpiece. It’s a traditional Convention Center, ideal for intimate parties, events and gatherings. Some of the local children spend their pastime swimming on the pond beside it.
The LifeBank Center for Bayanihan Economics was constructed with help from the microfinance group LifeBank Foundation. The center serves as an innovation and commercialization hub to advance social enterprises and “bayanihan economics” as a key strategy in breaking the chains of poverty. It has a mini garden with cute pig planters made from recycled water bottles.
The sumptuous buffet lunch (fresh salad with fruits, ginataang tokwa, bagnet, ginisang munggo, banana turon) was served at Berjaya Culinary Arts Center. The food, which is organic and healthy, is mostly sourced from their own fields to provide everyone with the freshest farm-to-table meals. I was surprised to find out that about 90% of the diners are French and other foreign interns studying, volunteering, and staying at the farm.
There are different types of accommodations (Hyundai Cabanas, Shell Villas, Grass Villas, Garden Villas, DENR Villas, Bamboo Villas, Farm Terraces) scattered around the farm for those who want to stay overnight, immerse or experience longer a simple farm life. It also has a swimming pool overlooking the farm.
Iasis (a Greek word for healing) is the high-end spa and wellness center of the farm. It offers heart and soul retreat package, detox program, and healing by design program for those who want to experience total rejuvenation and wholeness.
There is a solar-powered water filtration system (courtesy of Schneider Electric), which provides clean, potable water for the use of families residing in the village. It is also used in the irrigation of farms.
Some of the animals raised in the farm include naturally grown pigs, ducks, chickens, turkeys, goats, sheep and horses.
The most interesting and inspiring feature of the farm is the unique and exceptional social enterprises incubated within the area by young social entrepreneurs. These include Bayani Brew (healthy drinks brewed from lemongrass and purple leaves of sweet potatoes), Golden Duck (the healthier version of itlog na pula, dyed using natural turmeric), Human Nature (the indigenous and organic version of AVON cosmetics and personal care products), Theo & Philo Artisan Chocolates, Gourmet Keso, Kabutehan (oyster mushrooms), and Plush and Play (hand-stitched cute stuffed toys). These businesses employ most of the residents and beneficiaries of GK, and thus have helped them become economically productive members of the society.
My tiring but meaningful walking tour around the farm was an eye-opener for me.
I saw how social entrepreneurship helped the poor escape from the clutches of poverty. I saw how foreign strangers find meaning in their lives by serving those most in need. I saw hope in the eyes of local children who are given the opportunity to dream and fulfill them. I saw the most incredible display not only of nature, but most importantly of humanity.
There really are no excuses such as “being too busy” or “no resources to offer”. If you really want something, if you really care for someone, you’ll make time for them.
Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm
California St., Pandi Angat Rd.
Tel No.: 0916-2253363