We live a natural lifestyle. As much as possible, we plant, grow what we eat and use.
We care for a vegetable garden. We have sweet potatoes, cassavas, a variety of yams and other root crops. Coconuts provide food, fuel, utensils and tools.
We have planted selected fruit trees and always have fruits in season.
We care for a lot of herbs and medicinal plants.
What we cannot produce, we source from our neighbours.
Our business uses natural ingredients. What we cannot produce from natural ingredients, we do not make. We sell only those products that we have been using ourselves in our household for decades.
We are quite amused that our lifestyle has now come into vogue, after having lived it for more than 30 years. We are thankful that the "natural" movement is gaining ground. Many people have actually made the shift from living in the city to farming.
From the start, we recognized that our farm was our host. We knew that, rather than us owning the land, the land has owned us. We have been very careful about any of our "interventions" to settle and live in this place; conscious of our impact on our local ecology.
We have been acutely aware that whatever we contrive to do to allow us to live here pales beneath the complexity and majesty of God's creation. We have adopted our role as stewards of this place, even as we feel that she has begun to grudgingly accept us.
Ilog Maria Honeybee Farms sits on 10 hectares in Barangay Lalaan 1st, Silang, Cavite. We are bounded on the East by the "Malaking Ilog" which drains the largest river basin in Silang. We also have a small stream that flows from 7 natural springs within our land – the Ilog Maria. Both the big river and the small stream meet here.
Whatever exists here now is a work in progress; a correction of past mistakes; a fine tuning of present living; a painstakingly careful planning for future generations. We are always designing, redesigning and fine tuning our operating systems to be more naturally sustainable.
This is our primordial role and responsibility. After clearing the land, about 30 years ago, we planted hectares of kakawate (a leguminous hardwood with many uses), black pepper and coffee. We also planted narra, mahogany, bamboo and gmelina.
We have planted over two thousand "kawayan tinik" (thorny) bamboo plants to make a living fence around Ilog Maria.
To increase our production of food, we are planting fruit trees, bananas, cassava, sweet potato, gabi and other root crops. We have recently planted a vegetable garden with all the veggies mentioned in the song "bahay kubo" and more.
To promote biodiversity & conservation, we have started our collection of about 500 indigenous, rare, endangered and selected fruit trees like: bignay, katmon, lipote, lovi-lovi, kamansi, mamoncillo, acerola, araza, berba, biasing, jaboti caba, pitanga, apali, binukaw, pulasan, bago, batuan, kamansi, Philippine lychee, etc.
We are also planting over three thousand indigenous hardwood trees in 2 hectares above our springs to further increase the output of water from them. We have planted indigenous and endangered hardwood trees such as: aliwasiw, binukaw, balitbitan, basiad, botong, balitbitan, bitaog, dao, dungon, kamagong, kupang, molave, supa, red lauaan, alawihaw, rain tree, talisay, etc.
We are now designing our farm to eventually create more energy than the energy that is put into it.
CONSERVING AND BUILDING SOIL
We practice no tillage soil building and have planted leguminous vines, shrubs and trees over a large part of our farm. We plant leguminous ground creepers over the open areas of our farm.
We weed by slashing unwanted grasses and vines so more useful species can sprout. We use all farm refuse as mulching.
We keep earthworms and use their castings to enrich and inoculate our soil. When our vermi-compost production is not enough, we buy truckloads of organic compost.
We also use natural enzymes, hormones, bacteria and mychorriza as we plant and when mulching.
We have tapped the aquifer that feeds the Ilog Maria springs; downstream from them. We are carefully and judiciously using this pure water for home use and for our products.
We have been continuously planting for 30 years. We have created a mini-forest. This mini-forest has improved our watershed and improved the flow of water from our natural springs which feed the Ilog Maria. The natural die-back of branches supplies us with more than enough firewood for our fireplace and brick oven. Typhoons have donated tons of firewood.
We have erected simple check dams across the Ilog Maria and the Malaking Ilog. These impound water and allow it to seep into our aquifer to recharge it. Overflows can be used downstream. We are finalizing plans to dam a large portion of the Ilog Maria to allow more water to percolate back into our aquifer to recharge our springs. We are learning how we can install a piko-hydro electric generation system at this dam.
We harvest rainwater and river water. We have devised a network of pipes, tanks and cisterns to collect and distribute rainwater and river water. We use this for washing clothes, cleaning and flushing.
We use deep well water for drinking and for our laboratory. We also use it for bathing, laundry and washing utensils when rainwater is not available.
We use grey water from our sinks and laundry to water our plants.We use a windmill to supply us with all our water. This facilitates easier recharge of our aquifer because this simple pump has a very slow rate of water flow. We constructed a fishpond at its base. We use pond water to irrigate our vegetable garden.Moving water is the largest expense on a farm. Our windmill pumps water up to tanks on top of our house. Our windmill tanks overflow into our roofdeck tanks. Our roofdeck tanks overflow into our five rain collection tanks. The windmill and rain waters overflow into our cistern, which irrigates lower parts of the farm. Our windmill also fills our fishpond, which overflows to our vegetable gardens. Our entire water system is powered by the wind, rain and gravity. The windmill conserves a lot of energy.
We are learning how to make a biogas black water bio-digester to safely and naturally process our sewage before allowing it to seep back into our aquifer.
We always seek to minimize our negative impact we have on our environment.
Our bees create no pollution whatsoever.
We have found ways to use all "waste" in our operation: e.g., we use the remnants of honeycombs – bee cocoons, from our solar melter as flower inducers for our plants.
We compost everything that decomposes.
We minimize paper use. We use electronic communication and archiving whenever possible.
We recycle everything many times over.
We sell what we cannot recycle.
We bury what we cannot sell.
We burn only in our smokeless fireplace and brick oven.
We send our children to nearby schools to cut commuting time and improve the quality of their lives. The friends they make in their schools are their friends for life. They are also local residents.
We buy local. This has a far reaching multiplier effect not only on the economy but also ecology wise. We support like-minded producers.
CONSERVING NATIVE POLLINATORS
We continually plant wild flowers & wild vines to provide additional pollen and nectar for our honeybees. These wild flowers also provide forage and shelter for a variety of insects: butterflies, moths, mantises, ladybugs, spiders and many other beneficial insects.
We keep native bees: trigona or stingless bees, apis cerana indica and apis dorsata. These native bees coexist happily with our European honeybees.
Our honeybees and many other native pollinators increase fruit, nut, grain and seed production of our neighbouring farms and the areas near our migratory bee yards.
CONSERVING WILDLIFE AND PROVIDING WILDLIFE HABITAT
We have been continuously planting for more than 30 years. We plant to enhance our bee pasture, for our use, to foster biodiversity, to create a micro-climate and to provide a natural habitat.
Every time some land is sold around us, the former owners cut down all the trees and firewood. Gatherers decimate what is left. All that land's wildlife runs to us.
We only intervene with wildlife to create a balance in favour of beneficial species.
We have been noticing that the birds that inhabit our farm are increasing in number and a portion of their population changes with the seasons. For this reason, we are planting many fruit trees that provide food for birds and bats: mulberries, palo maria, tagisi (a tree native to Bikol whose fruit birds eat; it can also be used as a live fence and for timber) & several species of durian which are bat pollinated.
We have several pairs of wildcats roaming the farm: civet or "alamid" or bobcats or "musang". These wildcats forage on palm kernels: kaong and betel nut. During the coffee season, they feast on ripe coffee beans in our coffe forests. We are also increasing plantings of kaong (sugar palm), betel nut and coffee. The numerous wild fig trees here feed our growing bat population. Several owls now reside here and prey on rodents and baby snakes.
We have never allowed hunting or trapping here. This is also one of the reasons that we have double fenced our farm with barbed wire and "kawayan tinik".
Our efforts are being rewarded. Each morning, it seems that there are a lot more birds singing. Everyday, we see many new species of insects, ground creepers and plants. Some months ago we were able to rescue a baby palm civet or "alamid", its right paw, bent by a trap. It is now well and free. My son James, heard it's call. It is just nearby. Safe.
FREE RANGE LIVESTOCK
We take care of native and Sasso chickens, turkeys and geese. We allow them to roam free to graze on a variety of grasses and leguminous (high protein) creepers. These recycle our leftovers and provide us with nutritious eggs.
Even our dogs are tied to very long cables that allow them free movement over large areas. We unleash our dogs whenever possible. They love taking long walks around the farm.
We keep goats for milk production. We will stock our fishpond with algae, "kangkong" or water spinach and tilapia. This pond drains to our vegetable garden.
COMPOST & NATURAL FERTILIZER
We practice green manuring of the entire farm. We compost a lot of our farm refuse with African night crawler worms. We use this vermicompost liberally throughout our farm to increase soil fertility and beneficial organisms.
NO CHEMICALS, NO WASTE
We have used no chemicals or pesticides for the last thirty years. This enabled beneficial insects and organisms to flourish. We are very pleased to report that our burgeoning spider population has sustained a native population of spider wasps, their natural predator. This, in turn provides additional food for numerous bird species that make Ilog Maria their home.
We are slowly restoring the balance.
We now cook with wood or coco charcoal as much as possible using ingenious locally made stoves. We are studying how to construct and use a biogas digester to supply biogas for our kitchen.
We admit that we still have a long way to go to make our operations 100% friendly to our biosphere and ecologically sustainable.
We receive many suggestions from our visitors. We have taken all these suggestions to heart. The more we study, the more we find things to do. We still have a lot of homework to do.
We are doing more homework on: cheaper, more efficient wind turbine generators, piko-hydro power generation, solar power generation, power amplification and storage, better rainwater collection systems, better processing & use of greywater through constructed wetlands, how to properly construct a dam or weir, hydraulic rams, commercial biodiesel production, petroleum trees, indigenous fruit & hardwood trees, micro-irrigation and how we can eventually sell our excess power back to the power company.
We are implementing these technologies as they feasibly fit into our existing ecological systems.
CAN WE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?
People ask us if our tiny efforts are making a difference.
We say, "If we are not part of A solution, we are definitely part of THE problem."
We believe we can show our fellow Filipinos that we can make a difference through locally available and affordable technologies. We will continue to search for and implement new technologies to enhance our alternative lifestyle.
We believe that by continuing to live here in Ilog Maria, as we have done for more than three decades; we can make a difference.
WHAT HAVE WE ACCOMPLISHED?
When we take stock of what we have done, we console ourselves with these facts:
We harvest eggs, vegetables, herbs, medicinal plants and fruits in season. We are now learning many ways to preserve our surplus harvests. We may soon be milking our goats.
Our plantings and water impounding have increased the flow of water from our natural springs, despite the encroaching development around us in Silang and above us in Tagaytay that continue to deplete our aquifer.
Our planting of leguminous trees has added about 18 to 21 inches to our topsoil.
Wildlife has increased. Ground crawlers, snakes, flying insects, beneficial insects, rodents, bats, wildcats, reptiles and birds are now thriving here.
We now have an abundant source of timber and fuel wood.
We now have an abundant source of bamboo that we are putting to use in thousands of ways on the farm.
We no longer buy timber; this discourages depletion of Philippine forests.
We hardly ever go to gas stations. If ever, just for a little LPG and unleaded E10. We dream that the little foreign exchange this saves hopefully keeps a Filipino father home with his family.
We are not only carbon neutral; we are oxygen positive. Visitors always marvel at the quality of the air here.
It is always a few degrees cooler here than other places in Silang or Tagaytay. We have created our own micro climate.
There is always a lingering fragrance around us; from the many herbs and aromatic grasses, the many perfume plants and trees; from the products in our store; from Mrs. Magsaysay's
lab…as evidence of the care with which we live in harmony with nature.
We are providing livelihood for more than 20 people and dozens of suppliers in Silang and around the country.
We run a small business selling natural products, using many raw materials sourced from our farm.
Through our many patrons, our business sustains our efforts to continue to preserve and enhance our sanctuary – Ilog Maria.
Friends, acquiantances and business associates have movedd out of the city partially. A few have done this permanently. Many have plans to do this soon.
The ranks of Filipinos who love natural living continue to grow.
We have been running the Ilog Maria Bee Museum since 2006 and show children "Natural Living through the World of Honeybees". How everybody can learn to live off and maximize the benefits from their surroundings. How they can do their part to mitigate "Global Warming" and climate change and make our Earth a better place to live in.
Click the Photo to see how we lessen our carbon foot print :)