Tondo parish turns soccer field into vegetable farm | Inquirer News

Tondo parish turns soccer field into vegetable farm

By: - Reporter / @kocampoINQ
/ 03:25 PM February 17, 2021

Image from St. John Bosco Parish, Tondo

MANILA, Philippines — Before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted daily life, the soccer field at St. John Bosco Parish in Tondo, Manila, provided students in the youth center a tender respite from the urban jungle.

The field was hardly pedicured — just a stretch of rough land that got muddy when it rained and cracked during the summer — but a number of students flocked there to play after school or to chill in the shade of  nearby trees for a bite or a chat.

ADVERTISEMENT

The goalposts and worn soccer balls are gone now, with the pandemic forcing students out of classrooms and into distance learning. The soccer field, however, has been transformed into a vegetable garden — and an important lifeline for the parish’s 17,000 households.

FEATURED STORIES

“It all started with suffering,” Fr. Gaudencio Carandang, the parish head of St. John Bosco, said as he walked around the garden. “We were giving consistent relief to members of our community during the lockdown. They would knock on the parish’s doors and ask for food, and we could not turn them away. But as the pandemic stretched on, donations became fewer, and so did the relief [goods] that we could give. We had to think of something to feed them.”

When the government imposed the lockdown, the poor who were mostly engaged in blue-collar jobs were left strapped for cash and food. Carandang said such was the lot of most of the parish residents — the drivers and street peddlers who eventually lost their livelihood.

ADVERTISEMENT

When the government imposed the lockdown, the poor who were mostly engaged in blue-collar jobs were left strapped for cash and food. Carandang said such was the lot of most of the parish residents — the drivers and street peddlers who eventually lost their livelihood.

That was when the parish priests decided to make use of the idle field. In October, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) distributed free vegetables to the community. Through Fr. Anton Pascual, executive director of Caritas Manila and president of Radio Veritas, a partnership was formed between the DAR and the parish.

The DAR provided the vegetable seeds, fertilizers, and basic gardening equipment; the parish brought together the Tondo residents who wanted to take part in farming the land.

Farmer-scientists from Cavite visited the site a few times a week to teach the residents how to properly till the soil and what implements to use on each crop.

Volunteerism

What makes the vegetable farm in Tondo work is the spirit of volunteerism among the residents of the 17 barangays it covers.

Each morning, the farm is dotted with masked and gloved men and women, young and old — all dedicated gardeners.

Image from St. John Bosco Parish, Tondo

On the morning of the Inquirer’s visit, housewife Sally Funtanares was tending to the portion where bottle gourds (upo) are planted. Barangay kagawad Jun Valdez was watering the rows of chayote, stopping now and then to refill his watering can.

Shortly, parish cook Len Molina arrived to gather cabbage from the nursery for the priests’ meal.

At intervals the gardeners repaired to the nearby tents to partake of food and drink they had brought from home.

“Before the pandemic you’ll find some of the [residents] just playing mah jong. Now they spend their time here. They enjoy it,” said Norlito Astronomo, the parish’s head of security.

Except for the vegetables, the parish does not collect anything from the gardening project. The land is being used by the community for free. The harvest is sold to residents for at low prices, and the profit is equally distributed to the volunteers.

“It gives me something to look forward to, and it takes away my stress,” said Josefina Tandog, a resident of Barangay 109. “Plus, these vegetables are so affordable that when we sold our first harvest, even retailers in the nearby public market came to buy.”

“It gives me something to look forward to, and it takes away my stress,” said Josefina Tandog.

Harvest festival

Last January, the community tasted the first fruits of its labor through the “Pick, Harvest and Pay” festival organized by the DAR and St. John Bosco parish. As much as P17,000 worth of produce was sold.

Image from St. John Bosco Parish, Tondo

Booths lined one side of the field and residents presented recipes showcasing their crop.

“The turnout was overwhelming. It was a success,” Carandang said.

Agrarian Reform Secretary John Castriciones, who attended the festival, said Tondo residents had inspired other local government units in Metro Manila to replicate garden project in their respective areas.

Over a week since the harvest festival, Quezon City launched its own gardening program. The city governments of Caloocan and Pasig followed suit.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Department of Agriculture (DA) has encouraged households to find their place in the sun and grow their own food. And urban localities are beginning to see the value of agriculture as the food supply continues to shrink.

One less community crowding grocery stores and public markets may mean fewer people contracting the coronavirus — and planting vegetables is cheaper than buying them.

And, of course, It also helps families escape the high costs of vegetables, some of which have risen by as much as 66 percent from last month.

Food security

“We need to promote urban agriculture in the metropolis so that when there is tightening of the food supply in the provinces, there will be enough in urban areas as well,” Agriculture Secretary William Dar said. “This is one of the ways to ensure food security, and also a great source of livelihood.”

Six months into the pandemic, the DA said it had met the request of over 800,000 individuals across 13 provincial government units, 409 city governments, and 23 barangays and schools for free seeds and planting materials.

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

Subscribe to our daily newsletter

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

“I’ve grown more vegetables in my house since I helped out here in the parish,” said Funtanares, who, at 62, continues to visit the community garden in Tondo daily. “We’re happy to learn that other cities are inspired by our work. Gardening has a lot of benefits.”

EDV

For more news about the novel coronavirus click here.
What you need to know about Coronavirus.
For more information on COVID-19, call the DOH Hotline: (02) 86517800 local 1149/1150.

The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link.

TAGS: COVID-19, soccer field, Tondo Manila

Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again.
Your subscription has been successful.

News that matters

By providing an email address. I agree to the Terms of Use and acknowledge that I have read the Privacy Policy.

© Copyright 1997-2023 INQUIRER.net | All Rights Reserved

We use cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. By continuing, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. To find out more, please click this link.