Traces of Farmer’s Blood
My grandparents on my Mom’s side were born in 1918 and 1919 in Bulacan, a province of the Philippines. My grandfather, Aurelio was adopted and raised by his maternal grandma. He never knew the whereabouts of his father until his late 40’s when he was informed that his father worked as a dentist. He also had no connection with his mother since she remarried when he was very young. The elder siblings of my grandmother, Salud, brought and raised her as their parents passed away when she was too young to remember.
My grandfather was born in the town of Malolos, Bulacan. At the time, Malolos was an area that was largely dependent on the land that also included thousands of hectares of fishponds. It was very rich in agriculture, producing rice as the main crop for its means of making a living. Wealthy families were landholders and thrived off the land and its fishing.
Around 1940, after my grandparents married and built a house for the family in the town of Caloocan, my grandfather eventually bought several hectares of farm land about an hours drive away from the capital of Manila in a place called Paradise Farms. He wanted some farm life after growing up and living in the province. The land he purchased was quiet and tucked away, far from the main road. It was made up of a hilly terrain with a few streams flowing around the base of the hills. This farm would eventually become a place of escape for my grandparents and a place they could call their own. My mom and her siblings would dread coming here as children since it was associated with a lot of dirty work, but they all now appreciate the time they spent there as a family.
As my grandparents continued their visit to the farm with the eight children, the farm began to flourish. For the home, my grandfather placed a foundation of concrete on top of a hill and used straw and bamboo to build a house that happened to find its way to a feature article in a magazine for its ingenuity and uniqueness.
After home plate was established, my grandpa also brought the rest of the land to life. Amongst the hills, my grandpa planted Macapuno (type of coconut) trees along the winding driveway that led up to the straw and bamboo house. On the slopes of the hills, sat terraces that contained hundreds of pineapples and rows of a variety of vegetables. All kinds of fruit trees were planted and stretched across the land. Among them were mango, langka, star apple, and bananas. My mom told me that she and her siblings would disappear into the land, run amongst the rows of plants, climb and eat in the fruit trees, and sit there until the parents had to come search for them.
My grandpa turned a stream that ran along the crevice of the hills into a small pool. Once the pool was formed, my Mom and her siblings said the farm was now their favorite place to go in the summer. No longer did the farm only associate with chores, but also a place to swim and have friends come over. Although as the winter came, so did the typhoons and mud, and the pool eventually became a past time favorite for all the farm animals.
There were also many animals being brought up on the farm that added their own character to the land. There were the soil tilting caribous, visitor chasing geese, graceful buck biting horses, and lazy eyed grass munching goats. At this time, the industry and demand grew for poultry and pigs. My grandparents started raising the crazy eyed crying pigs and built a chicken coop that contained hundreds of chickens. A majority of both were sold for commercial consumption. My Mom remembers when her siblings and she would have to go inside the chicken cage to feed them. She told me that there would be hundreds of them strutting around and bumping into each other. They’d casually walk over your boots and relieve themselves on the rubber, and a lot of the poop would be used for fertilizers. The dead chickens would be cooked for dinner or be fed to the pigs. My grandparents were very resourceful and limited their waste.
By the time I was born, my grandparents moved here to the states. My mother made sure to foster that deep bond between her parents and us. We frequently visited them when we were younger and we were all very close in that grand loving way. As a child, I always knew my grandparents had a passion for animals and nature. Much of their love for nature was shown through the screen door of the patio in their little apartment. There were fishes in the fish tanks, parakeets, dogs, little toys, and everything else a child can imagine. But their life before coming here to the states was always a blur to me.
After hearing stories from my Mom and Aunt, I was surprised that my grandparents never knew their parents. I should’ve known this before, but I find it surprising because of the abundance of love that is shared throughout the family, including generations that go past mine. To be able to produce a strong knitted family throughout the generations without having any parents to call their own is amazing. It shows how the love my family and cousins share for each other today are greatly influenced by my grandparents devoted love. They have passed their love indirectly to future generations. And I think their passion for nature and animals maybe have had a huge influence on how I now perceive the land.
Growing up, there wasn’t a large direct influence of their fondness for nature upon me. Most of the time when I was with them, we spent it inside their little apartment. They didn’t teach me about nature, but inside their little apartment was a much strong love that radiated throughout the room. My siblings and I were always happy to be at my grandparents place and they were more than happier to see us. I believe there was some kind of indirect influence of their love for nature. My grandfather didn’t grow up as a farmer, but since he was raised in the province, he wanted some farm life of his own. My Aunt told me that no one inherited his love for farming except for one of my Uncle’s, but after reading essays from “Bringing it to the Table” by Wendell Berry, I want to experience that way of life for a portion of my life. The essays in that book have greatly influenced the way I think about my food and where it comes from and it also makes me rethink my living situation. I want to try out the farm life because of the impact that book made on my life. However, after hearing stories of my grandparents, I feel like I do have small amounts of farmer’s blood running through my veins.
There is no direct influence of my grandfather’s love for farming on me, but I feel that in some way, I have been touched by the deep bonds that do exist between my grandparents and me. That deep bond that my Mom helped foster and develop for us is still strong and I believe it’s still growing. My grandparents love is still being spread and passed down through the generations indirectly and I feel that a new connection between my grandparents and I is developed and our historical roots are again germinating. A simple story from my Mom and Aunt has made me conscious of those deep bonds and roots that exist. Maybe I will too love the farm life when I buy my own piece of land in the Philippines. Like indirected love in generations of families, a love for the land is inherited.