The fertile lands surrounding Mt. Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines, owe their richness to the volcanic activity that has shaped the region over the years. Farmers and entrepreneurs in the vicinity of the volcano have harnessed the benefits of this nutrient-rich environment, cultivating a diverse range of crops such as fruits, vegetables, and grains. The emergence of farms catering to tourists like Humbled by Nature, Balutakay Coffee Farms, Lao Integrated Farms, and The Berries Farm Cabin signals Davao del Sur’s rise as a promising destination for farm tourism in the country.
The port city of Ormoc is the largest city in Leyte and the second largest in Eastern Visayas. It’s landscape of gentle plains and low rolling terrains is home to probably one of the world’s sweetest pineapples – Ormoc’s queens pineapple. There are more than 500 hectares of agricultural land and at least 210 hectares are devoted to pineapple plantations. In our stay in Ormoc, we drove one early morning to visit one of these plantations to get a glimpse of how the city’s prime crop are harvested.
It was a night of the “super blue blood moon”. A rare celestial phenomenon that last happened in 1982. We were in the midst of our Lakbay Norte 7 tour in Tarlac that time that I firmly requested we hurry to our accommodation that evening to catch the “super blue blood moon”. The Farmhouse by EDL was our host that evening and I was ecstatic when we arrived on time. We hurried to capture the moon spectacle and after that I couldn’t help but look down at the attractive setting we have that evening. Inviting pool, lovely warmly lit garden and my companions starting their full moon party at the bar.
There’s a pleasant scent lingering in the air when you pass by Anao in Tarlac. The line of ylang-ylang trees (cananga odorata) along the national highway are a giveaway. Their blossom emits a natural aroma that’s both delicate and calming. Lakbay Norte 7 begins the day at the small town of Anao, Tarlac considered as the ylang-ylang capital of the country. Anao started extracting oil from fresh ylang-ylang flowers since 1994. They are dreaming big this year and hope to export more Ylang-ylang essential oil around the globe.
Our second day in Nueva Ecija began in Cabanatuan City, with a filling buffet breakfast courtesy of Harvest Hotel. One by one, we lined up for eggs, daing na bangus, batutay, and other breakfast staples. The taho station also got us excited.
The two variants of batutay they served – garlic, and sweet – were just too good to pass up on. And as it were, I had way too many, which was just as well since our schedule that day was jam-packed.
The Lumineers blared through my earphones as our bus cruised along the North Luzon Express Way. After a fun breakfast at Jollibee, we were now bound for our next stop.
“O, Ophelia, you’ve been on my mind, girl, since the flood,” crooned Wesley Schultz as we sped by fields of grass.
I was lacking sleep and Nueva Ecija, whose treasures we’ll be exploring for two days, inched on the corners of my listless mind much like Ophelia does to the folk singer’s. This year’s installment of Lakbay Norte will take us across two provinces. And the underrated province of Nueva Ecija will be our gateway – the municipality of General Tinio, to be exact.
Leviticus 20:24 in the Bible refers to a promise land called Canaan where milk and honey flows. In Biliran province, Eastern Visayas, a six-hectare uphill organic farm named Canaan Hill Farms and Honey Garden hopes to recreate this promise land on Earth. Found at the southeast side of Biliran Island, we paid a visit to this promising attraction that promotes wellness by going back to natural way of farming and simplicity of life.