Passing through

By Jimmy K. Laking

Gulayan sa Bakod

It began with a single plant of robust Chinese spinach (alugbati) sprouting at a corner by the concrete fence at that house in Agdao, Davao City.

For a time since I spotted the plant this January, I merely watched it take more space. That it was poised to climb the fence, that too was obvious.

I visited the spot several times every day during the ECQ partly to rest the eyes and partly to compose my thoughts. Once I trimmed its runners and deposited them at the opposite side along with other biodegradables.

I decided to call the spot my gulayan sa bakod, adopting a concept advocated by National Anti-Poverty Commission chair Noel K. Felongco as a means to produce veggies for the table. This was in the middle of April when ECQ was several weeks old.

In no time, I was able to coax six of the plants to climb the fence and to settle on four pieces of 2 X 2 coconut lumber that spanned the fence and a roofed section of the house. The plants included kalabasa, ampalaya, string beans (sitao), patola and alugbati and sweet potato (kamote). As I wrote these lines, I had been able to gather tops and flowering buds twice a week to spice up the table fare.  My lone chili pepper which I extracted from earthen pot beside a palm plant is also bearing fruits.

In some provinces in Northern Luzon, the chili pepper holds dominance in the hierarchy of farm plants. It is said in jest that during typhoons, the chili pepper is among the first to be secured by the man of the household along with the posts of his house.

Following a mental layout, I reserved some space for eggplant and tomatoes. I was convinced I had gone beyond the embryonic stage of a gulayan and it is just a matter of weeks before that corner by the wall becomes truly a green patch.

I discovered I also made other creatures happy. Several times I spotted a pair of house birds frequenting the area for worms. One bird one can also be spotted scrounging for food at the pile of biodegradables. I also observed that every time I turned the soil over to remove stones, plastics, and broken bottles, a pair of house birds would hang around on a nearby tree. When I turned my back, I observed on the sly that they were reviewing my work in a bid to spear out worms.

One afternoon, I chanced on a distinctive bird drinking from a plastic bowl filled with water that I left at the edge of the garden. I knew at once it was a Maria Capra (pied fantail) judging by its black and white colors and its fan-like tail.

True enough the other day, I saw it chasing a cat that strayed into the garden. Was it telling the cat to observe social distancing? I made a mental note to make sure the bowl does not go empty.

I should smile. And looking back, the lyrics of a song that Joey Ayala sang way back reminded me of a lesson in ecology: that everything is interrelated.

What more surprises that little gulayan sa bakod will churn out I do not know. One thing I know is that henceforth, the household is assured of fresh greens to go with what comes from the market.

This is not just about the plants and me. It is also about my feathered friends and the cats and the bees that seem to appreciate that there is more to this small green patch other than being pleasant to the eyes.

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