Category Archives: mobility

hydroponic setup in Hotel Kimberly

this weekend, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics…

Long-time readers of this blog would know that we started our farming venture using a hydroponics system. Turo trained in the SNAP Hydroponics technology from the Institute of Plant Breeding in UP Los Banos. SNAP stands for Simple Nutrient Addition Program, and is a low-cost, low-maintenance, non-circulating hydroponics system. Our first commercial venture into growing lettuce and herbs used this system, was successful at first, but encountered so many problems once we tried to scale up.


Fast forward to the present, we are now implementing organic production practices for growing vegetables. We have fully replaced our hydroponic setup and converted into an organic farm. While more labor-intensive, organic farming requires less inputs, produces better quality vegetables, and is more adaptive to weather and seasonal changes.

Just this weekend, however, we had an unexpected rendezvous with hydroponics.

We were in Tagaytay for the weekend to celebrate my father’s 56th We stayed overnight in Hotel Kimberly, a nice hotel quite secluded from the busy Tagaytay restaurant scene. We, and the kids especially, enjoyed our short, sweet stay here. In the morning we were eating breakfast at the buffet, and noticed that part of the buffet spread was a tray of leafy greens, stems on, roots intact, held together by a tiny bottlecap-sized plug. This looked all too familiar to us, we knew these were hydroponically grown.

After breakfast, we asked around in the kitchen where they get the lettuce plants being served at the buffet. This was Tagaytay, and we knew many farms growing these types abound in the area. To our surprise, the source of the lettuce plugs was a mini-hydroponic facility housed in the hotel itself!


The hotel staff was kind enough to take us on a tour of their organic farm. Apparently, the organic farm is part of the hotel’s attractions. There were farm animals that guests can feed, ponies that kids could ride. We, of course, headed straight for the greenhouse once we saw it. It was tiny, about 50 sq.m. And it grew ALL the salad greens and herbs the hotel uses for its daily buffet! Now that is sustainable.


The farm staff told us they were using SNAP, the very same hydroponic system we used before, but failed. But here, in this tiny greenhouse, the SNAP system seemed to work really well. The difference, we soon found out, is aeration. With the addition of an aquarium-type pump circulating the SNAP nutrient solution through the system, nutrient absorption increased. Consequently, well-nourished plants are healthy, disease-free and had a very good eating quality.

To be honest, were very impressed (almost envious) with the hotel’s hydroponic facility. They grew lettuces, rocket arugula, microgreens, and various herbs like basil, parsley and even rosemary.


It felt serendipitous, actually, to be there, see a very efficient hydroponic system in place, providing fresh greens to a hotel kitchen, nonetheless. That tiny organic farm tour in a quaint hotel tucked away in Tagaytay roused our sleeping hydroponic bones in a totally unexpected way. It looks like Hydroponics 2.0 is going to be part of our present scheme of things.


hot air balloon fiesta

by far the most unplanned trip we’ve ever taken..


Travel is a huge part of how we live. We live a lifestyle that is conducive to always being on the go. We homeschool our children (which means we do school, everywhere, all the time). I work from my Macbook (which is basically everywhere, including traffic jams). We hired a farm helper (so Turo can supervise farm operations even remotely). We are lucky because we can just go to any place when we want to, without asking permission from the school or office, without being accountable to anybody but ourselves. Lucky, yes. But also because we made a great deal of sacrifices before we can be at this point and state in our lives.

So, early in April, when the summer weather started getting extreme, I thought we should go on a mini-vacation. Okay so I always think of going on a vacation, like every month, but this time I wanted to go on a trip with some level of urgency. I’m 6 months pregnant and heading into my third trimester, and if I don’t take the kids on a trip now, I won’t be able to until after I give birth and the newborn is at least a year old! Continue reading hot air balloon fiesta

a long summer break

home-hopping all summer long


Our family has not stayed home for over a month. We have spent the entire month of May at my in-laws, at my parents’ home, at my uncle’s resthouse in Aklan, and, the highlight of our trip, Boracay!

The first twelve days of May were what we considered a ‘mobile transition’. Turo and I had been traveling back and forth our house making sure everything was well and in order (and relieving our homesickness to some extent). All April, we had been getting ready to spend plenty days away from our Los Banos home come May. Our first stop was at the house of Turo’s parents in Cavite. Turo is just recovering from a near-heat stroke during this time and we needed him to always be rested and away from the sweltering summer heat. Despite doctor’s orders, he insisted on being productive and took on his first landscaping project in his parents’ backyard.


This project had both Turo and I, and the kids, all excited. We were together buying floor pavers, picking out tiles and choosing the right paint colour for the back patio. But the most exciting part of all was waiting for the plants to arrive and watching them bring new life to the otherwise abandoned section of the property.

A fern wall accentuated with lovely red bromeliads took centerstage at one end of the yard. The sides were planted with slender Thai bamboo against roughly finished white concrete and pebbles. The flooring on the other end was covered with locally made concrete paving blocks and the rest of the are was planted with frog grass.


By this time, we are still waiting for the grass to grow thick so the kids can run around the new lawn. By the time Turo, our project manager, declared the project complete, we packed up and moved on to our next destination — my parents’ house in Cainta.

Staying in Cainta did not take a lot of getting used to for the kids. We lived there when they were babies, before we moved to Los Banos a couple of years ago. This was their home too, as this was mine for most of my life.

Cainta was our take-off point for our much awaited trip to Aklan province. Aklan was my grandmother’s hometown and we were more than happy to accompany her back to her motherland, after how many decades. She was really excited. We can tell from the photographs we took of her, from the way she told stories of her life here in the 1940s, and how she managed not sleep during the two-hour land travel to her New Washington hometown.


The kids had some real provincial fun as well. They played with dogs who had houses up on stilts, walked on floating bamboo rafts and a hanging bridge. They even went fishing for the first time!


And then there was Boracay. It was our first trip to this famous white sand beach together as a family. We enjoyed ‘Bora’ despite the crowds and the noisy parties at night and overpriced accommodations. We came there for the legendary beach, and we swam our hearts out up to the minute that we were about to check out from our hotel room. We love swimming and we love the beach and Boracay proved to be another memorable beach experience for us.


IMG_2339At night in Boracay we watched a fire dancing performance, which we enjoyed, and the kids were obviously impressed. They even danced Gangnam onstage together with the fire dancers.

IMG_2480Turo and the boys each got henna tattoos on their arms, which they were really proud off until the day their tattoos faded out.

IMG-20130524-02323I guess these were the highlights of our long, mobile summer. It was the first and longest time we spent away from home, and we enjoyed every minute of it. Sure, we missed our home but we always knew it would welcome us back at the end of summer. And it sure did.


Our mobile summer experiment was an astounding success. Now Turo and I are starting to plan for next year’s summer break, which we swear will take long, and will be packed with more exciting adventures.




some traviesa trivia

My fascination for natural decor has just stepped up a notch.


Traviesa is a Spanish word for a piece of wood that functions as a cross beam or brace to support the rails on a railway track. The photo above ignited our interest for the traviesa. Here it was used to create a deck or platform as part of an outdoor landscape design.


You can assume traviesas to be about a century old. So don’t be surprised that it can function perfectly even outdoors in all-weather conditions. These are some long-aged wood we’re talking about. They’ve been treated with time, no additional chemical treatments needed.

IMG-20130321-01878There’s something about me and old, aged, sturdy wood. I feel like they have so much character, so many stories behind them. And more stories waiting to be written and told.


So, this fascination took us a several kilometres down south as we went on a search for sources of traviesas and other types of old wood. As it turned out, we have a trusty antique wood supplier a quick drive a way.


There was wood of all kinds, sizes and thickness. You could see how deep the wood grains are. Some have cracked and faded. Some used to be staircases, door jambs. Some were materials to make boats.


To me, visiting that store by the highway was a very intimate experience. There was so much history amid these huge planks of wood. As if every piece was speaking to us about where it’s been. And we were all ears.


ilog maria finds

And I continue to be a sucker for everything local, natural and hand made.


Ilog Maria is a honey bee farm in Silang, Cavite. Just a few minutes drive from our in-law’s home in Dasmarinas. We’ve been seeing signs of the place each time we head to Tagaytay via Aguinaldo Highway but never really took the effort of going there. That was until last January. And then suddenly, we were honeybee lovers.

beeswax bars
beeswax bars

We already have a local source of wild organic honey at the Bee Project here in UPLB’s Institute of Biological Sciences. But Ilog Maria opened our eyes to a whole range of useful, everyday products made from all things bees.


They have handmade soaps made from honey, beeswax and propolis, with variants like lavender or rosemary which are supposed to be great for energizing morning showers. Or charcoal which has a deodorizing effect.


This time I bought the calamansi, sandalwood and charcoal variants, all three are supposed to have some kind of antibacterial or deodorizing effect. If it was just me taking showers in my household I would have done with just about any organic soap you can find in the market. But with my 2 rowdy boys and a farmer-husband, I need an everyday soap that has a good dose of antibacterial powers to keep my boys clean. So far I’m still on an active search. Let’s see how Ilog Maria soaps fare with respect to the germs in my boys’ bodies.


They also sell beeswax candles. These are all handmade and when you hold them, the texture is just glorious. They are a bit expensive but the quality of the product easily speaks for its price. It was good thing I didn’t bring extra cash or we’d end up with going home with a manger-full of beeswax statue candles. But I swear, I’m going to buy candles on our next visit here. And if I can afford to, give them away as gifts for Christmas.


Because it was a weekend of getting something for myself, I bought this handmade, beaded curtain which I plan to drape around the smallish entrance to our new kitchen (did I mention we’ll be moving to a new apartment?). The curtain wasn’t made from bee products or anything, but I did validate that it was made by a local community also in Silang. Still local, which is a good thing.


I think I’m doing a good job of converting my household, and my extended family, into fans of all-natural products. Or maybe it’s just a matter of finding organic products that are of really good quality. Turo is now a huge fan of Ilog Maria’s Honey & Propolis Shampoo which he uses everyday together with 2 slices of calamansi as his conditioner.


Just in case you’re headed for Tagaytay, you may want to pass by Ilog Maria farm and take a look at the range of honey bee based products they offer. You just might find something you can use everyday, and take the first steps to a chemical-free lifestyle.


To all things natural and crafted by hand!

warming up in cool pine city

I wore a few layers of clothing. Wrapped a scarf over my neck. And drank a bottle of wine each night.


At first we were reluctant to go on a long planned trip to Baguio City with Turo’s family early this month. Known as the “summer capital of the Philippines” because of its high altitude and cool weather (well, cooler than most parts of this tropical country), Baguio City is a favorite destination by those who feel like cooling down.

Turo’s sister, who now lives in Singapore, came home for a short visit, and wanted to go way up to the City of Pines. Reluctant travellers we may be, because the kids had school and I had tons of work, we packed our family-sized duffel and were all set, just a few hours after we decided that we were coming along for the trip.

We travelled for about 10 hours from where we lived in Los Banos, nearly half of that spent on seemingly endless stopovers. Hey, stopovers are great family bonding and a perfect excuse for sipping a cup of good coffee. Then maybe we spent an hour stranded along Marcos Highway, just inches from the vacation house waiting for us in Legarda Road in Baguio. Our van broke down (and never got fixed until the time we went home) in the wee hours of the morning. Our vehicle had no early warning device, and were waving buses and cars off our tail while freezing in the cold at the same time.

Thankfully, we were in Baguio City, and nobody ever seems to get hot-tempered in here. And so even without our vehicle, we enjoyed our several days of ‘cooling down’. Riding taxis to any part of the city is ultra-convenient. Although, we didn’t do too much sightseeing because they’re the same places anyway. And we didn’t want a share of tourist-filled spaces. We were happy to be lying around in the cold, chatting away, and taking things really slow. The way vacations are supposed to be.


The kids went biking in Burnham Park. Turo and I shopped for vegetables, strawberries and Sagada oranges at the city market, and cooked lunches for the rest of the pack. Still, Camp John Hay remains our Baguio favorite. Uri was eager to hunt for pine cones, which we are supposed to put up in our Christmas tree by the end of the year, as per our children’s orders. Turo and I were eager to stretch out on the grass and watch our kids grow their pine cone collection.


But the best part of wandering about in Camp John Hay while looking for clean toilets close by, is stumbling upon a branch of Titania Wine Cellar, right beside Le Monet Hotel. Titania is our favorite wine shop. And being able to get a familiar bottle of good ol’ wine so far away from home is just lovely. And so we walked away with Piccini Rosso Toscana, just to be safe, so even the non-wine lovers who were with us on the trip can take a nice little sip.


Oh the power of good wine. Suddenly we were warm and cozy, and our Baguio misadventures just melted away.

pinacanauan river

the best half-baked decision i have ever made.

You can reach the Pinacanauan River just by going a few steps down the Callao Cave entrance. I wasn’t sure at first if I wanted to pay 600 pesos for a quick boat ride along this river. I’m not the type to get wowed by a river boat ride. I grew up in a valley, right beside one.




Thankfully, our Callao Cave tour guide was persistent enough. He got me sold in on the 600-peso boat ride. Pinacanauan River was still very pristine and beautiful. I wish we had gotten on a non-motorized banca so we could have enjoyed the ride and the surroundings even more.


It’s always nice to be surrounded by a body of water. Tranquil and peaceful. It was a restful way to cap a rather hectic day. No matter how busy the day was, it ended quite nicely as we stood by the side of the river until dusk.


the magnificent callao caves

my first trip to cagayan valley was nothing short of rediscovering the beauty of the sierra madre

Early this December, I went on a barely planned trip to Region 2. Luckily and despite the short period for the organization of the trip, I was able to visit the provinces of Cagayan, Isabela and Quirino.

The warmth of the Northern folk greeted me amidst the very cool Tuguegarao weather. Our hosts from Conservation International truly went out of their way to arrange our itinerary during our stay. While our trip was mostly for work, we were able to squeeze in a few hours of sightseeing. And the first thing that came to mind was… the famous Callao Caves. Continue reading the magnificent callao caves

T’nalak weaving

this shop had me drooling over hand-embroidered blouses..

Today we spent the day in Lake Sebu. I’ll save details of that trip in a later post. I’m more excited sharing about a women’s cooperative that we visited here whose products include hand-woven fabric by T’boli women.

The T’bolis are a dying tribe in Mindanao. But their culture is kept alive by tourist activity in Lake Sebu. T’boli weavers are famous for the T’nalak. This is a specially woven fabric made using hand-dyed fibers and polished using a seashell, which is why it retains a unique luster.

A variety of crafts are made out of the T’nalak fabric. From wall to table decor, file envelopes, wallets, purses and bags. I bought a couple meters of T’nalak to use as a table runnner at home.

I had also wanted to buy a hand-embroidered and hand-beaded blouse also by the T’boli women. I was aiming for that before I went on this trip. I love collecting things that have cultural value, especially those I could wear. Too bad they were too expensive for my budget. Well they were expensive but you can well see that the intricate designs are worth every penny. It’s just that right now I can’t yet afford it.

And so I promised myself I would drag myself and my husband back to Lake Sebu sometime in the future just so I could buy one of those precious handcrafted clothing.

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daytrip to nagcarlan underground cemetery

ending the spooky season with a quick peek at an underground cemetery

The end of our four-day holiday was marked by a short, well, preview of the underground cemetery in Nagcarlan, Laguna. That’s because we missed the open hours and had to be content with just a few snapshots from the outside of the cemetery.

Thankfully, the town is about an hour’s drive from where we live so we can go back again sometime with a mental note that it is open to the public from tuesdays to sundays from 8-4pm. It is a lovely place, and spooky at the same time. Do visit when you have the time.

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