QUEZON CITY -- Jeffrey Cano has been a member of a fraternity for the past three decades. He recounted how he has experienced a lot in the name of brotherhood, but it did not include farming or planting.
"Dati naming ginagawa toma, tambay... Pero no'ng nagkaisa na kami sa pagbabago, ito na tuloy tuloy na," Cano said.
(Before, we we just drank, hung out. Eventually, we decided to change.)
When the lockdown was announced Ina ng Lupang Pangako Parish in Payatas B and the local government of Quezon City encouraged Cano's fraternity to try farming.
The church gave them seed starters from the local government units.
They didn't have any knowledge about farming. But now, this is a part of their daily lives.
"Ung unang halaman namin kamatis, kangkong, gabi, mga malunggay, sitaw, pipino... Ngayon, may okra, talong, saluyot, kamoteng kahoy. Halos lahat po ng gulay sa [kantang] 'Bahay Kubo', meron kami," said Jeffrey.
(We plant tomatoes, kangkong, taro, malunggay. There are also string beans and cucumber. Now, we have okra, eggplant, saluyot, kamoteng kahoy. We have almost all of the vegetables mentioned in [the song] "Bahay Kubo".)
In another part of Payatas, mothers take solace in the greenery at a private vacant lot, where its owner let them grow vegetables.
Besides food and livelihood, residents from Payatas also reaped new friendships, and rekindled old camaraderie through urban farming.
Testament to this is Diding Libao, another resident who engaged in urban farming amid the lockdown.
"Ang mga nanay, hindi masyadong magkakilala. Dito po nabuo ang kanilang friendship," Libao said.
(Mothers did not know each other well back then. Their friendship grew here.)
"Kailangan mo siyang (mga halaman) alagaan. Para kang nag-aalaga ng bata... Matiyaga ka lang, masipag, nandoon ung passion mo rin sa pagtatanim, aani ka rin talaga," she added.
(You need to nourish them (plants). It's like taking care of children... You have to be diligent, you have to have passion for planting, then you'll be able to harvest.)
The QC Food Security Task Force said there are at least 50 urban community farms in the city.
Based on the latest survey of the task force, there are about 300,000 square meters or 30 hectares of land that can be converted for urban farming, which could aid in food production.
Emmanuel Hugh Velasco, head of the Sustainable Development Affairs Unit and co-chairperson of the QC Food Security Task Force, said food security is "end to end".
"'Yong pag-u-urban agriculture, nawawala ung stress mo, 'yong pag-alala mo na pag nagutom ka, at least meron kang paghuhugutan... We are self-reliant na pagdating ng pandemya o pag nagkaroon ng tinatawag na disaster, hindi tayo umaasa sa iba. Empowered tayo," Velasco said.
(Stress is released through urban agriculture. You don't have to worry about getting hungry because you have a source of food. We are self-reliant during the pandemic or when there's disaster, we don't need to depend on others. We are empowered.)
Armando Baring, urban farming consultant of the QC Public Employment Service Office, agreed.
"Mas marami ang mapapakain nito compared sa iba pang mga dole-out na suporta sa mga tao sa gitna ng ganitong taggutom. Kasi ang gutom naman, hindi iyan mahihintay. Pero itong ating mga farmers, urban farmers, nagtatanim na," he said.
(More people will be able to eat through this, compared to other forms of support for people during times of hunger. We cannot wait for hunger. But here are our urban farmers, planting already.)
Since March, the QC local government has already distributed over 20,000 seed starter kits to communities.
Those interested in urban farming may write to the city government to receive seed starter kits, training, and technical assistance.
For individuals who want to try urban farming they can check these:
Joy of Urban Farming
(firstname.lastname@example.org / Joy of Urban Farming Facebook Page)
For communities and sectors that want to try urban farming:
QC Food Security Task Force (email@example.com)