Friday, December 29, 2017

GOOD BYE 2017....and farewell my dear friend, a kingfisher named RAMBO.....

Year 2017 Finally Ends

The date : December 31 is eagerly anticipated! I can’t begin to welcome but, perhaps I cannot celebrate the New Year, 2018 unless it is over. I am sure that 2017 was good in one aspect, my family made it through. There were serious health problems of family members, and one of my daughters who lives abroad survived through those horrific fires in southern California. She had to evacuate her home in Santa Barbara City, as fires were surrounding the area nearby. I am grateful to God for all HIS blessings, protection and mercy.

2017 is over in a few hours, and though I am feeling apprehensive about certain circumstances, being sad about these problems that will carry over into the new year is not a good thing. Crying over spilt milk is not something I do. I am just happy me and my family made it through alive, and everyone is doing good.

I do want to mention and honor an animal friend that passed on.... I want to pay my respects, by remembering a beautiful wild and intelligent, kingfisher, named Rambo, that lived on a mango tree in the area where my garden is located. I remember that Rambo always greeted me when I would stroll about at my garden. He recently passed on around October, and my farm hand showed me his lifeless body, with his bright red and incandescent blue coloured feathers still beaming. He was found lying beside the chair I normally sit in to watch him perch on the metal bars of the horse stables.

I will miss him very much like all those animal friends that have passed on, but he like them are part of the good memories I have.

The day I met Rambo, he was a curious little kingfisher, about 12 years ago, when I started a lotus pond at the south end of my garden. I placed the lotus plant in a rubber pot, and set it in the center of the pond. Then quite unknowingly, I added tiny fingerling guppies to keep the water clean of mosquito larvae and other falling insects. I noticed on one of the bamboo plants near the pond, a small, juvenile kingfisher. His parents went fishing in the nearby creek. He did not go with the others of his kind to the other side of the creek. Instead, he watched me. He was like most birds, he trying to understand what I was doing. He would come closer, flying from bush to the bamboo, then stop, cock his head towards me. He was curious as to why I carried a transparent plastic bag filled about 30 tiny guppies floating in air and water. He knew these tiny creatures were fish by their shape and movement. My workers filled the pond with water, and laid the lotus plants in the center. I then lowered the bag of guppies and set them free to swim about, sheltered from the heat by the lotus leaves, and all the fish hid under rocks I provided for them at the bottom of the pond.

Next day, I went to see how the lotus pond was coming along. I heard the piercing shriek coming from the top of my water tank, about 15 feet high, on the northwestern side of the property. I looked up to see the kingfisher poised with wings slightly open to take in the breeze, then it dived down directly towards the ground, picking up an earthworm that made it up from the shallow depths of the compost pile to get air. Well, Rambo swooped up his morning meal, and flew right back up to enjoy his breakfast on top of the water tank grid. He was eyeing the pond, but he knew that I was busy with installing the fixtures and arranging other plants within the perimeter of the pond. Rambo then disappeared into the forest, but he knew there were delicious treats hiding in the soft, damp bedding of the horse stables.

I saw Rambo flying up to the coconut tree beside the stables, and the sun was rising directly over the stables, and squinting, I saw the flash of his stunning, glossy blue wings as he landed on the metal fence of the horse stables. He had swallowed the earthworm earlier that was longer than his entire body, and now he was hungry again. Perhaps he flew away into the fruit trees of my neighbour Magno, and had a family to share his meal? I wasn't sure how much a kingfisher can eat, but a few minutes later, Rambo cocked his head, and was eyeing something on the grounds of the stables. The horses ignored him, like the chickens that were rummaging through the sawdust which was the bedding for the horses, searching for the moth larvae from the giant Atlas moth. The adult moth dies within a week of its life, right after laying eggs that will hatch into caterpillars and grow about 6 inches long. These caterpillars eat the sawdust soaked in the urine of the horses, and they will wiggle out, much to their peril to be seen by predators like Rambo. The caterpillars will live for about as long as they can eat enough to begin to form a chrysalis but won’t emerge at fully formed moths for up to a year. These Atlas moth larvae are easy prey for hungry chickens, and birds that know where to look! Rambo was peeking with his keen eyes on any movement on the sawdust, then seeing the white head of the larvae pop out, he would plunge into the horse bedding, yanking out a very fat caterpillar, clamp it with his beak, then fly off again to the mango tree to eat his meal.

Rambo was aloof to everyone, but he seemed to be an observer of my farm, fascinated that a human like myself actually gave him his very own pond. He would wait for me to arrive and my workers would point at him sitting by the rails of my stables, watching me, and I would sit on the terrace and enjoy seeing him hunt and fly about.

He laid claim to my lotus pond. I was very upset to know that Rambo finished off all the guppies by the end of the month. I did not expect what came next. Rambo had plans for my lotus pond. This intelligent bird amazingly had his own ideas how to use the pond, he would dive in the creek across my garden's south walls, and pluck out a fish from the water. I first observed him flying overhead, and noticed he dropped something into the lotus pond. I did not know why he was doing this about three times that day. I thought, the fish must have accidentally fallen from his beak. Then it became apparent that he deliberately dislodged the fish from his beak and drop it alive into the lotus pond. He was flying up to the water tank grid, and then to the bamboo near the pond to watch the stunned tiny fish fingerlings swim about. He would then disappear into the forest, then come back, only to watch my pond from the safety of the water tank. Eventually, I figured out, Rambo was intelligent enough to understand that his deposits into the lotus pond of fish, was like stocking his very own refrigerator of food, he intended to save for a future date!

Rambo was with me for 12 years, and he continued to stock the pond with his favorite fish. Some even grew about 8 inches long, and matured, to spawn and produced more fingerlings. Rambo would eat the fingerlings, and leave the adults to continue to breed, and lay eggs beneath the rocks. I enjoyed seeing him, swoop down, for grasshoppers, beetles, and a variety of insects, even small snakes. Years passed, and one day, I got the bad news. Rambo's passing was very noticeable. I stopped hearing that familiar shriek that I had come to relay on as a greeting from an animal friend, that I had come to know and love. I knew something bad had happened to him, but my workers said, it was early morning, and they found his remains by my chair. No sign of foul play from the cats, or my dogs. He was 12 years old or was his time.

So, this is one of the many stories of my experiences in my garden. I hope to write more, as I can , because time is cruel, when those animals we have befriended leave us. I can remember all my animals, and the people who made this garden a lovely place to come and enjoy the vanishing countryside. My farm has become my sanctuary, and my place of refuge from the fast enroaching, metropolitan sprawl of Manila.


The year has passed so I can be forgiving of whatever menace has been done to my farm. However, as I offered all the troubles to God, I have had to admit, I cannot do anything to fight a politician who thinks he can do anything, even hurt other people's property in this town and get away with it.

My daughter wanted to get married and have her reception at the farm. The wedding had to be held elsewhere at such an exhorbitant cost just because a politician, whose name I will not mention, rented out his land which is adjacent to mine to the Bureau of Highways to use as a dumping ground for soil dug up while expanding the highway next to our properties. The politician allowed this, and in so doing, raised the level of the land to the point, the soil dumped on his property, was higher than my wall. This posed a security risk, and eventually, two gas tanks were stolen, and vagrants could just hop on my wall and walk in.

My farm handss caught sight of someone, or maybe more than one person huddled in the dark, early morning last December, trying to break into the house. Our dog, a Belgian Shepherd barked furiously, but was wise enough to remain in her unlocked kennel, for fear there were more than 1 intruder.

I could not risk holding a wedding party that would last into the night, with this situation. During the day, the dust from the soil would fly in the air, causing a health hazard for my people.

Did I sue? I should because the weight of the soil dumped by the ton, was pushing against my wall, and causing it to bend. I was so distraught, and rather than spend for a lawyer considering I probably could not win against the politician, or the government in power at the time, I am just glad, the year passed, and now tall grasses and shrubs are growing over the soil, preventing the dust from flying into our faces, but the security problem is still there.

I am now afraid to spend a night on my farm. A neighbor is suing the congressman, and I am hoping I can reach a decision to do the same when I know the costs of litigation. Small farmers like myself, cannot afford to go up against these powerful, and very corrupt political lords that act like they can do no wrong. One day, I hope what he did to me will be remedied.

Anyway, the wedding of my daughter was beautiful, and she was so happy with the way things turned out. She married the most wonderful man, so her happiness was complete inspite of these obstacles.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

A New Life For Rex

Today I went to pick up a dog that was recommended for rescue by a friend, Penny who saved an 8 month old puppy dog from the local dog-meat market. She was moving house, and she already has 2 big dogs, and 2 small ones. She was looking for a good home for this dog. She told me that she met this man in her neighborhood. His name was Eloy, and he had several dogs in a small cage, offering them for sale to her or to anyone who would want to adopt these strays he picked up all over town. Only a few people would get these street dogs called "askals" or "Aso'ng Kalye", which when translated into English means "Street-Dog". These street dogs, are usually a hodge-podge of several breeds that after several generations, of mixed breeds makes their original breed features unrecognizable. If these dogs don't get sold as pets to the people in town, this man Eloy will take them to the local dog meat market. Penny then posted the photo of the dog on Face Book, and that is where I saw it for first time.

I responded right away. The dog looked like it was starving. Penny did recognize the dog's features to resemble a Belgian Malanois. She posted that this dog was a one particular dog to be a Belgian Malanois juvenile. The dog was saved, but kept in a cage, for he displayed his teeth, snarled and snapped at anything that was going to touch him. All he wanted was food, lots and lots of food. Penny fed the dog, but noticed during feeding, he would literally snap at the hand that feeds it!

Penny explained that after one week of feeding and talking to him, the dog finally allowed Penny to touch him. I arrived, and saw the dog, and I understood that he would not like me at first, but I wasn't prepared for his fierce nature. I was bringing with me treats, a collar, leash, some puppy toys, and some dog food, a new food bowl, a towel, but all these things did not matter to him. The dog was only interested in eating. He had become savage, wild, totally untrusting of humans.

This is what an 8 month ( more or less) Belgian Malamois looked like--skin and bones...

I saw the dog and immediately my heart was breaking. I knew this dog had been living on its wits, with very little food and clean water. I agreed to take the dog and bring it to my veterenarian to have it tested for parasites, diseases, and to have an overall check up before I would bring it home. I sat in front of the dog's cage, and spent almost two hours tossing it treats, and giving him some chicken heads that Penny already had cooked for him. Rexy was very distrustful of anyone but Penny. What love can do right?

I brought the dog to my vet for 3 days and 2 nights for observation, tests and vaccines. Here are more photos of this rescued dog who I named Rex. He has put on weight, learned to fetch, started eating a proper diet, and had shots, and treatment for heartworms. Generous people helped me pay for his vet fees, and after a month, Rex transformed into a friendly, lovely pet.

He was eventually adopted by the Veterinarian and his family.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

I have refrained from writing about my farm in the countryside of the Philippines because of the urban sprawl around me. My 180 feet deep well is dry! Why? golf course nearby draining all the ground water to keep the green, "green." I have seen the destruction of the rainforest on all four sides of my farm. The Metrogate subdivision is on one side of my farm. I witnessed the destruction of orchard and forests in the hundreds of hectares being cut. The buzzing of saws went on for 6 months. Then the noisy groans of bulldozers came, scrapping the top soil that took thousands of years to produce. This rich soil is something which cannot be replaced. The countryside is now dry as a bone, with the leaves of trees becomming crisp from the lack of moisture. The canopy is gone. The front of my farm is bordered by what was once a lanzones and mango orchard. The lady that owns it has cut down all the trees and left a two hectare dust bowl. The soil is baking in the sun, and when the wind blows, all the dry earth turns to dust. Why? progress, corrupt officials giving permits for conversion of agricultural land into commercial and residential to increase revenues from property taxes. My response was to plant more trees.

Monday, December 2, 2013


SUNDIALS This blog entry is going to be about TIME!


I keep hearing the phrases " Oh, time is up," or " there isn't enough time". Keeping time doesn't seem to be possible, but telling time in a natural way, using the sun is the best way to know where to plant the next crop. I want to add on my "wish list" , a sundial for my Christmas present. I also want $1Million dollars, so if Santa Claus is reading blogs this season, these are the two items I really want!


I've been tilling in my garden and this is the time to plant. We have such a difficult time getting things moving with the late rains, but we have to get the seeds in the ground soon.

My eggplants , tomatoes, beans, cucumbers have to be planted now. Lettuce seeds in the nursery, and herbs should be re potted.

My new Hawaiian orchids that came from the greenhouses in pampered farms in Waimanalo, Ohau, are now feeling the heat. These plants must have realized, they are not getting the pampering they are used to. I am always watching any sign of rot from the recent rains, or heat exhaustion... they are not having such a hard time, but I do see a bit of shrinking in their stems. This means that their stored water supplies are near empty. They will need a good soak.


Till then, the hectic time is Christmas season. I avoid stores as much as possible. Christmas for me is a religious festival, and having 2 grand children, I love seeing their smiles on Christmas when they open their presents. My older grandson of 12 says, he rather know what we are getting and enjoy the gift, than to open his presents on Christmas day and find out he is disappointed.

Oh well, as I said, Christmas is for kids...teenagers and pre-teens take the opportunity to hit us grandparents with items their own parents won't or cannot afford to buy them. Well, I am spending all my holidays in the rapture of being near my plants and animals ...

Till next time..


Friday, November 1, 2013

Fragrant Hawaiian Orchids

I have acquired a few new orchids for my farm. All the orchids originate from Hawaii, and I was delighted to see these were adult size, and already in bloom. I purchase these pampered plants from their growers, who raise them in greenhouses, and feed them chemicals. I do the reverse...I allow these plants to go and live in the tropics, in their natural environment on my farm. If they make it, I am very pleased, but if these plants cannot cope without the attention they are used to in the greenhouses, then they will collapse and die. However, even in death, these plants can suddenly come back to life, and produce new shoots, to start life over again in a more natural setting.




My garden is located in the highlands of Cavite, in the Philippines. The weather can go from extreme heat of 100F to a cool 63F. Our weather in the Philippines is very hot during summer months beginning in early March, to late May, then the climate can change to very damp, and soggy, as the monsoon rains start in June and end sometime October. The hurricanes that normally come in from June to late September, can bring strong winds, heavy rainfall, dark skies during the day. There may be periods of hot and humid days during breaks in the monsoon rain. In summer there will be radiant sunshine in the morning, to scorching heat in the afternoon.


Silang and Tagaytay, has salty air because it is near the China sea . The monsoon months, have heavy rainfall for weeks at times. Even during the rainy months, the evaporation of water from the China Sea and Laguna de Bay, and Taal Lake causes the high humidity. factor In these parts of the Philippines, there are many elevation changes – many within very close proximity to each other. So one variety of orchid will do better for you than others, in one area , so it just depends on how much vegetation you have in the garden. Large trees planted around my home, keep my gardens cool all year, and prevent strong rains from directly drenching my orchids that I place on the terrace.


I have noticed that I have different climate areas in my garden. Full sunlight will be the hottest area near the cement wall, where the heat is absorbed by the concrete. Orchids like the coolness of gravel stones on the ground, or red lava rock on the floor in greenhouses. Orchids also love to be preched on tree trunks, or on driftwood displays. These plants cannot stand very hot weather with full exposure to the sun. There has to be some shade, and they can tolerate the warm air in summer provided they are watered very early in the day. The other areas in your garden may have a cooler temperature in summer, or in the rainy season, areas to be avoided are those with full shade. Orchids like to be cool with sunlight hitting their leaves in the morning, and during the hot afternoons, they prefer semi shade. Some ground orchids can tolerate full sun, but most prefer to be hung on trees and like absorbing humidity from the air.

I find that I like quite a variety of different orchids in different areas of my garden. I observe them closely, and monitor the way their leaves look, and that in itself will give you clues how they are doing. Their stalks are their water reservoir. The leaves must be plump and green. The commercial growers will tell you to feed weekly or monthly with chemical fertilizers, but I am lucky if I remember to feed them a special mix of a “tea” made with bird manure gathered from leaves of my large hardwood trees!! I know that it may be difficult to locate bird dung, but leaves usually has residues of bird droppings, especially fruit trees. Orchids that used to thrive in the wild, are fertilized by bird droppings and they still flower in abundance when rain dissolves the high phosphorus content of the droppings off the leaves of trees where these orchids hang with roots firmly anchored on the bark.

One of the biggest things I have learned is to be sure to water at least once a week, and more than just spraying moisture in the air. They actually want some warm water – just do not let the roots sit in water, soaking. The water should not pool in the pot, and one has to make sure they are in an area where their roots will dry out. Watering during the week, should be at least 20 minutes of drenching the roots, because the leaves are very sensistive to too much water, and can cause fungi growth that will soften and rot the leaves. There must be a potting mix for the orchid, that allows the roots to drain out, because they tend to also soften. Roots must feel firm to the touch.


Orchids are not that hard to grow and these plants will bloom naturally 1 time during their preferred season.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Deluge Monsoon Season August 2013

I had a lovely weekend, despite the monsoon rains with my girlfriends who stayed over in my little farm in Silang. We had lunch in Marcia Adams, at a new little restaurant in Alfonso, Cavite. We stayed at the farm, just chilling and experiencing the peace and quiet of the upland Cavite countryside. I am glad we all came down late afternoon, Sunday, because that evening, the monsoon rains started to fall in sheets! How timely our return to Manila. We missed the closure of the Southern Luzon Express (SLEX) by a few hours. Southwoods exist towards SLEX, is always a shorter route back to Manila However, Sunday evening, the monsoon rains flooded the exit. Had we come down any later, we would have been stranded !
( Photo from ABS CBN News, August 19, 2013) Government isn’t concerned about saving the rainforests in the uplands of Cavite, or protecting small farms from being a target of elimination ever since the SLEX was extended towards Calamba and Batangas. The political leaders have even encouraged urban sprawl towards the South to increase the earnings of the province from tax revenues . The land in the agricultural areas have been converted to commercial/residential. Shopping malls, cemeteries, and subdivisions have replaced the idyllic mango groves, and miles of rice paddies that lined the highways leading to Tagaytay. The big 8 lane expressway, or “ SLEX” did not exist in my younger days. I have been posting for so long how the hills of the uplands of Silang have been deforested, and the large mango farms and orchards, coconut plantations are gone. Those huge trees hold water in their roots, and keep the soil from being eroded...these floods have happened before but very few people were affected . The government has more maintenance costs in these highways...not to mention the many who are living in those subdivisions who are now stranded not being able to go to work in the Metropolis! The government of the Philippines, should set their priorities straight. This is going to cripple the economy eventually. Unless the rainforests and agro lands are protected, the people in the main city of Metro Manila and the neighboring provinces will just have to get used to closure of all businesses due to the flooding of major highways during the monsoon season!