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Sugar, the main product of Negros (Photo Credit: CITEM)

My ultimate plan to conquer Negros: walk across the sugarcane fields, pose before a steam locomotive, and peek into the sugar mills. So, days before the tour, I bugged the sugar factories of Victorias and Silay, and asked them to allow me a visit. Unfortunately, they broke to me the bad news—sugarcane was off-season. Plan B.

Thanks Google, I learned there’s more to West Negros, the Sugarbowl of the Philippines–than sugarcane and sugar. Although more than 200,000 hectares of land is devoted to sugarcane in this province, the industry has considerably slowed down for the past years.

What’s quickly catching fire is organic agriculture. This year, the province already has more than 15,000 hectares dedicated to organic farming and with that number, it’s enough to say that the revolution has shifted. It’s now happening in the organic farms.

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Photo Credit: Fresh Start Organics

The more I Googled… organic…farming…Negros… the more I learned about organic agriculture, which is the production of crops and livestock without using pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and growth hormones. Negros Occidental, I found out, is now the leader in organic farming in the Philippines and it has big dreams of putting the country on the world map as the Organic Bowl of Asia. In fact, organic farms are now all over the province. May’s Organic Garden and Restaurant is the one right in the heart of the city.


The Trip to May’s Garden

Mays Organic Garden

Photo Credit: Ken Eliserio

Past 9 AM we were already on the road to May’s Garden. I was alive and fresh even after the long trip from Cebu. Thanks to Karmele for making me freshen up in their house, and to her mom for serving my favorite Napoleones and a special Four-Seasons shake.

At May’s, we were greeted by Joy, who takes care of touring guests around the 6.2 hectare garden. Their manager, Ria, was also present to introduce us to their staff.

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May’s Garden is not a large restaurant. It’s more of a posh turo-turo by the side of the road. The ambiance, the design, and the whole setup somehow bring you back home, right in the comfort of your own kitchen. I think it can seat about 25, but outside there are tables for guests who want to enjoy fresh air.


The Best Lutong-Bahay

At P350, one can enjoy a buffet of the best lutong-bahay, homemade dishes that showcase Negrense flavor. Of course, everything is fresh and healthy, picked from the farm’s gardens and the partner suppliers from all over the province.

Asked if we would take lunch first or the tour, the answer came with no delay. Take lunch!

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I got freshly grilled fish, crablets, and laswa, an Ilonggo dish of boiled vegetables seasoned with fish sauce. Karmele, careful not to hijack her diet, got some small piece of chicken and vegetable roll.

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Mickoi, another picky eater, got almost the same. 

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Plus bamboo shoots in coconut milk and crab and corn.

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Everything was served with organic brown rice, which we all loved for the chewy texture.

And, thinking we still got space in our stomachs, Ria showed up with tarragon and mint tea, the leaves of which she just picked from the pot by the window of her resto. And more…

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The grand finale to lunch was a fresh and crispy salad of mango, watermelon, pineapple, and cucumber.

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And fruit shake: avocado, mango, and malunggay.

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It was a sumptuous lunch that sent all of us speechless. Well, I was warned. You go to Bacolod to eat—so said my friend. I felt at that moment that she was totally right.


The Success Story

Owned by  May Uy, the restaurant is just one of the enterprises pushing the organic movement in Negros. Ramon Uy, the person behind the integrated businesses started his everything from a small foundry (a shop for casting metal), has worked closely with farmers to adopt sustainable farming methods, and bets confidently on the potential of the province to become Asia’s leader in organic agriculture.

The foundry has been in operation for 42 years and still continues to make breakthrough technology in farming. One of its known products, the RU Shredder, converts almost anything—plastic, glass, rocks—to small and more usable materials. It’s also used by farms to produce fertilizer. Among other things, the foundry also makes water pumps, windmills, and oil distillers, all of which are available in the demo farm.

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Farming technology is where it all started.

As we went on with the tour, Joy shared more information about the entire business. She walked us through the garden and showed us seedlings of different herbs and vegetables. We fed the rabbits. And, to our surprise, Joy picked some hibiscus (gumamela) and made us eat them.

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Joy then brought us to the other side of the property where vermiculture is done and explained the natural process of making fertilizer using earthworms. Near the vermiculture site, we found Bubbles and Blossom, their adorable pet pigs. I couldn’t believe they didn’t smell pigs at all, and that’s because of some best practices they adopted from Korea. They were the freshest pigs I’ve seen in my entire life.

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Photo Credit: Ken Eliserio


Fresh Start & PURO Organics

May’s Garden also collaborates with PURO Organic and Fresh Start Organic. PURO Organic focuses on the production of rice, coffee, piaya, and juices (calamansi, dalandan, passion fruit) among other things. Fresh Start, its sister company based in Silay City, is owned by Ramon Uy Jr. It’s a group of companies that supports the production of fertilizer, organic free-range chickens, and personal care items (soap, mouthwash, insect repellant, etc).

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The visit to May’s Garden took us about two hours, including lunch and the tour. We thought it was only for people who need their stomachs filled, but it was also an educational sneak peek in the organic farming industry of Negros. We learned that out there in the farms all over Negros, there’s a revolution catching fire–an uprising to promote eating natural and healthy. A visit to May’s Garden is a good start to understanding that.


May’s Organic Garden & Restaurant

Sitio Aning, Pahanocoy, Bacolod City
Negros Occidental, Philippines
Contact #: (034) 431 3800 / 09422608422
Email: maysorganicgarden@gmail.com

How to Get There
From downtown Bacolod, take a Sum-ag or Punta Taytay jeepney. May’s Garden is on the ride side of the highway, after South Bacolod General Hospital.

Rates
Buffet lunch—P350
Educational tour with snacks—P200
Entrance and swimming pool—P100 (children); P150 (adults)


TRAVEL  +  MOBILE  •  PHOTOGRAPHY

All  photos in this travel feature, unless otherwise captioned, were taken with a smartphone. Thanks to Huawei Mate S for making these quality photos possible. Also, many thanks to Fresh Start Organic and Stephen Kenneth Eliserio of VTEAM Multimedia for allowing the blog to use several of his photos. Drop some comments and spread the word! 

More photos of May’s Garden here.

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Photo Credit: Ria Akamatsu

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ArisMape

ArisMape is a travel insider at ABS-CBN's Choose Philippines. He loves orange, halo-halo, and PowerPoint, and hates beef, slow internet, and long taxi lines. His pastime is watching people watch other people. He swears on the power of smartphone. His half-life? Thirty.