Friday, February 24, 2012

Meeting a curious ostrich, a smiling lamb and a horse named Justin Bieber

Hacienda San Benito Expressive Ostrich II
An emotive ostrich shot up close with a 60mm macro lens
Our invite was for a lunchtime taste test but what we had was much more filling -- a taste of the farm life.  While the chef (Chef Teresa Lobb) busied herself with the intricacies of preparing her dishes, we took the opportunity to go through some portions of the 22-hectare Hacienda San Benito in Lipa, Batangas.

Two years ago, I got to spend three days in this place on a photo assignment for InFlight Magazine.  Then as now, the hacienda remains a curiosity to me.  On the surface, it seems to be a rich man's farm-playground, suited to people with the money to buy a farm but not the inclination to put in the requisite sweat (and dirt) equity.  I've learned from Mang Nev, the resident farm manager, that they're open to farmers from the area to render farm work, thus, generating additional livelihood for local farmers while taking care of the overhead costs.  The farm is more than the usual agricultural farm though, Mang Nev Villamar pointed out but rather a hexa organic sanctuary.  The concept is interesting to a nature lover like me whose secret ambition is to someday have a farm, grow my own food and find the connection to the earth that I somehow lost for having lived all my life in the city.
Hacienda San Benito - Smiling Lamb
The smiling lamb

The farm is a model of symbiosis - from the vermiculture that produces composting materials to fertilize the crops, to the apiary that facilitates pollination of the plants and trees.  There are also livestock and animal husbandry not only to produce meat but also for the waste byproducts.  To talk about the systems in place would take a lengthy discourse better left to an environmental scientist (and lest I forget, one of certified Pinoy researchers for NatGeo) like Mang Nev who worked for Australian companies before finding his way home here.
Hacienda San Benito Justin Bieber
Meet Justin Bieber
I choose to delve instead on the different farm animals and finding an instant connection with them.  The stillness of the afternoon is every now and then disrupted by the distant neighing of the horses, one of them curiously coiffed with a beautiful mane which unsurprisingly earned him the moniker, Justin Bieber (I just doubt his juvenile namesake is as coltish or studly, though).  Moving nearer the stalls, we found (or rather chased) the shy sheep.  The lamb apparently has not yet acquired a fear for human strangers, bleeting with a smirk that seems to me a rather cute smile.
Hacienda San Benito - Brando Profile II
Sleepy-eyed Brando
The ostriches are a different case, showing no fear but rather interest in us newcomers.  One fearless female eyed us with child-like curiosity; only thing is this one stands almost six feet tall with legs that kick harder than any horse.  Coming back to the Terrazas, we were greeted by Brando, the sleepy-eyed resident Black Lab who wants nothing more than a pat on the head and a lengthy scratch of his tummy.  Lucky dog, he has hectares of ground to roam.  Call it positive energy, but there's something about communing with nature and interacting with animals that I find energizing and life-affirming.  (I wonder if places like this would ever consider the farmstay concept?  Saw something like this in Cat Cat in North Vietnam years ago and it would be a good idea for urbanites to reconnect to their rural roots)  Guess this will do until that day when I can have a farm.


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