Enchanted farm girl for days

Over the course of my three-year stint of being brought around (and even out of) the country while doing service work, it was a no-brainer that a couple of scenes would charm me here and there. As for the case of the Gawad Kalinga Enchanted Farm in Angat, Bulacan, it seems that on every visit and in every corner I turn, there lies something so mesmerizing to see and heartwarming to experience. It's a delight to have this haven that's full of life and promise just an hour or so away from the bustling city, the perfect respite despite almost-always being there for work. Today, I look back on the special memories spent there, which never fail to put a smile on my face and I know will be treasured for a long time.

It was an early Day 2 at the field and I woke up extra sick, running on only a couple hours of sleep. My body was weak, filled with antibiotics while my head with unnecessary thoughts from the night before. The sight of the sunrise over the countryside, however, eased my mind for a moment and somehow, suddenly served to be my much-needed remedy.

The Bamboo Palace stands tall at the heart of this vast farmland, catching all the attention with its homey yet elegant vibe. Countless interviews of mine have been done here, as well as a few of the talks I've covered. And there may have been a personal photoshoot or two. You just can't help it, it's too pretty a sight to behold and a backdrop to pose at and pass up.

Full-time community members, full-time farmers and workers. I have seen so many hardworking people onsite and it's inspiring how much effort they are doing to change their lives as well as others for the better. Definitely, here, no one gets left behind.

The Grassroots Kitchen, next to the Berjaya Culinary Arts Center, is one of my favorite spots. Not only is it dreamy and an ideal location to dine al fresco, you are served with farm-to-table goodness prepared with love by the nanays (moms) of the community. I easily fell in love with salads and vegetables again after devouring their meals here every so often. #fresh

The Farm is also home to some of the most amazing changemakers and innovators I have the honor to know and work with; social entrepreneurs that are contributing to the good of this world one step at a time. They create proudly-local products mostly grown and developed at this little paradise while empowering their employees (community members who are farmers, former factory workers, and their children) to dream, and after that, dream even bigger for themselves, their families, and the country.

The second floor of the Hyundai Center for Green Innovation has long served as our team's headquarters during the events at the Farm we help mount. Brainstorming, scriptwriting, meetings, rehearsals, run-throughs, meals and nap times—you name it, we mostly had them here. I can't even begin to count how many times I've walked up and down those stairs, as if running from one point to another in the entire property isn't exercise enough! Our little workstation does have its perks too, like having a great view of the brilliant sessions held inside the plenary hall, and the cute members of the audience! ;)

We help throw mad celebrations too. And when we do, it's for over a thousand people from all over the country during the yearly GK Expo. Everyone's in high spirits on this season: cheering at every quotable quote/soundbite (which is mostly every line) by the speakers, jamming along to the live band, practicing their crazy zumba skills, or howling over the ever so attractive models at the fashion show. And who would ever forget that unity dance? In fact, the whole field is the stage! And I'd be lying if I say I don't join the wild crowd every once in a while.

What has fascinated me too was that members of the international community have been taking notice of the huge potential in the countryside and on this side of the country that students and fresh graduates from across the globe have decided to spend their internship semester/year at the Farm! But clearly, I have no complaints whatsoever.

In 2014, we produced our first "live" television show entitled "Starting Them Young: Planting The Seeds Of Social Entrepreneurship And Innovation"and which ran for an hour and a half or two, featuring the students/scholars, teachers, and mentors of then newly-opened School for Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development. With the launching of the institution, the GK Enchanted Farm is now the first Farm Village University in the world. Although a lot of work has been done by our team to make that episode possible, the real stars were really their stories of hope. They were just so moving and encouraging, I think I made some major (+positive!) life-changing decisions because of them.

These simple yet rustic touches keep luring me in every time...even if this wall full of beautiful, framed photographs is in the restroom! They have designed the place to make guests feel right at home, a wonderful kind of welcoming.

Here we are again with the most hardworking (and not to mention friendly) farmers in all the land, caught harvesting an essential ingredient to one of my favorite drinks brewed and incubated in and by the community: tanglad (lemongrass) for Bayani Brew (the most refreshing and flavorful homemade iced teas ever!). I need them again, stat!

I discovered this semi-hidden spot during my first few visits and I make it a point to keep coming back every time I'm around. To hit pause, to get my dose of peace and quiet, to just get away from the chaos happening only a few steps away. It's magical that way. I remember being my usual quiet-on-the-outside-but-terribly-worried-on-the-inside self earlier this year because I was just too pressured to have been given the great task of being the head writer for this year's television show. A huge honor, but such huge shoes to fill in, a far cry from being the production assistant, stage manager, and/or junior writer. Sure enough, I excused myself and went to my magic place...which made me feel a bit upbeat, somehow. But all's well that ends well, the show went great. (Still, phew, glad that's over!)

I'm lucky to have a great friend who has embraced and pursued the social innovation and startups life for all the time I've known her. (We were both volunteers for the first Social Business Summit at the Farm and we only found out when we ran into each other there!) I get to learn a lot about its landscape in the Philippines and the rest of the globe, thanks to our conversations. I love her and where her heart is at. For her birthday last year, Prilla brought some of her friends over to the Farm for a little field trip, to be exposed to her world. It was a special day, really, and a breather for me because it was the only time that I came to the place without any work obligations...

The kids here too are the friendliest bunch, running around to greet visitors as if they never get tired of the number of new faces entering their gates everyday. But maybe it's their lovely smiles and laughter that these outsiders-turned-family-members are curious about then keep coming back to. Perhaps one of the many lovely reasons, I believe.

On my most recent visit, I admit to have been a wee bit sentimental than usual, especially when we were about to leave. We had finally gotten the final shots we needed to be able to finish the show, sure, so that weight on my shoulder felt a little lighter. But the tinge of mixed emotions was probably because I already knew it would be the last time I'd get to be there and will be gone for quite a while, what with a new chapter of my life about to unfold and all. Grateful for the memories, nonetheless, and they will always be with me, wherever I go. ♡

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