Paypon: Brotherhood of urban farmers

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By Prim Paypon


Friday, May 2, 2014

FUELED with an insatiable passion for farming, rooted in deep concern for community, and guided by personal vision to make Philippines a food-sustainable nation, Bahay Kubo Organics (BKO) has been creating urban farms in Metro Manila, living out its manifesto: The world you want to live begins with your imagination.

In November 2011, three childhood friends Ryan Aguas, Enzo Pinga and Illian Pascual met in New York. The three gentlemen had a reflective conversation about why Filipinos in the Philippines go hungry. After acknowledging the social pains from access to scarcity to price, they took upon themselves to do something concrete that would grow more food in the most cost-effective method possible using Filipino bayanihan.

The decision literally took their families and social circles by surprise, since they all come from reputable schools, and each with a remarkable feat.


Ryan Aguas finished his public accounting with a concentration in finance, magna cum laude, at Fordham University in Bronx, New York. Enzo Pinga took his globalization studies at Gettysburg College in Pennsylvania. Illian Pascual finished his mechanical engineering course at De La Salle University, Manila.

But their decisions, more than being bold and inspiringly rare, are very valid. Anybody who will peak into their collegiate years will conclude that their decisions were after all fitting rising actions to their young but altruistic lives.

In May 2012, the three founded the Bahay Kubo Organics, committed to making fresh, healthy and nutritious food more accessible to least communities through urban farming.

Of all researched technologies, they found out, and agreed, that aquaponics farming is the most feasible technology to use to create vertical farms aside from being the most sustainable, too.

Aquaponics is a combination of aquaculture, a fish farming, and hydroponics, a soil-less growing of plants.

For their first prototype, they used PVC, recycled drums, plastic containers, submersible water pump and a bathtub, all gathered from their respective homes, nearby junk shops and local hardwares.

“In the first month, we experimented with growing mainly leafy vegetables – pechay, kangkong and sweet basil. For fish, we chose to grow tilapia. As we grew more confident in our faming skills, we experimented with more plants. We also started to build other types of setups because we wanted to see the efficiencies each design to offer,” Ryan shared.

Eager to build their first pilot farm, but determined to only tap and unleash their sense of creativity and resourcefulness, they held a benefit dinner in December 2012, where they first publicly presented their prototype. Attended by more than 50 guests, including the Mayor of Mamburao, the dinner allowed them to raise Php 20,000 in ticket sales, and another Php 15,000 in pledges for the farm.

To date, BKO already created three sustainable urban farms.

Their pilot farm is located in TS Cruz, Las Pinas, which was primarily built by their benefit dinner. This is where the 40 drums, which were donated by Procter and Gamble, were used as growbeds.

Commissioned by Fairplay for All Foundation, they built an urban farm on the rooftop of the drop-in center, occupying a 50 square-meter space. The farm was built to improve the nutrition among kids through good eating of organic vegetables and fishes. In a surprising unlikelihood, this is located in Payatas, Quezon City - one of the biggest dumping sites in the country. But now, the little farm has been growing and harvesting broccoli, and children have been eating healthy vegetarian burgers from the produce, and are even engaged in healthy food enterprising.

“Although the project is small, it strongly and clearly represents the Filipino values we espouse. Four different organizations with one common goal. Bayanihan at its finest,” said Ryan.

To these childhood friends and now 24 year-old urban farmers, a passionate dream has to be realized and lived for.

“A year ago, we could not fathom building the vertical farm. Today, we dare to dream, to hope, and to change the way Filipinos interact with their food, their neighbors and their cities. We look forward to vertical farms, sustainable communities, and renewable energy. And await the day when the Filipino is no longer hungry because he can choose not to be.”

Indeed, this brotherhood of urban farmers is called to serve, not despite of their inadequacies, but because of them. After all, there is nothing that a genuine friendship cannot journey together.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 02, 2014.


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