Reconnect with food
It’s time for an eco-food revolution.TAKE ACTION
Everything can be learned from ground up.
These words are particularly true for Bogs Castro, a permaculture farmer who manages Bukid ni Bogs, an agroecological farming and training center that promotes sustainable organic farming and permaculture in Dumingag, Zamboanga del Sur.
His search and passion for knowledge has led him to a life of simplicity, and sustainable at that. Always restless, Bogs is always in search of something new and something to fill his quest and thirst for experience.
“Life after college has been a series of trials and errors for me. I pursued a lot of careers – from music and arts, to advertising and sales, a barista, a financial advisor, an operations manager, psychosocial care provider, starting up my own business and now I’m practicing organic farming here in Mindanao,” Bogs said.
“I’ve always been hungry for knowledge and experience so whenever there’s an opportunity to learn something new, I grab it. And when I’m not busy learning, I’m out there teaching – children mostly, and giving back to the people and communities that have inspired and molded the person that I am today. So far life’s good, simple and stress-free. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Bogs first visited the town of Dumingag in Zamboanga del Sur in December 2016, when his drum group was invited by Mayor Mark Pacalioga to conduct a series of music and arts workshop along with some friends. Throughout his stay, he was introduced to organic farming, which the town is famous for. It was an eye-opening experience, Bogs said with enthusiasm and warmth, seeing and experiencing first-hand how organic farming has transformed the lives of so many households in Dumingag.
But as a visiting artist, his days in Dumingag were few and had to come to an end. He left Dumingag with a promise and a resolve that he will be back to this beautiful town to learn more about organic living. And he fulfilled that promise.
“Initially, my reason for coming back was to provide aid in the preservation and promotion of the Lumad Subanen culture through community immersions and also to conduct leadership training and music and arts workshops under the Dumingag Organic Culture Office which was spearheaded by Sir Neil Estillore. During my stay, I realized that I can also make time to learn about organic farming, permaculture, mushroom farming and organic soap making under Mrs. Girlyn Pacalioga’s supervision and so I did just that.”
Bogs related how he was inspired by the Dumingagnons pride in embracing their rich culture. “Even children are taught about the importance of agriculture and permaculture in schools and in their homes,” he said.
Bukid ni Bogs and paying in effort
The plan for Bukid ni Bogs is to build a sustainable farm that promotes permaculture and organic farming and to provide free training for anyone who wishes to learn about these practices. It also serves as a haven for artists who want to share their craft. “One of my goals is to encourage people with artistic skills to come and visit the farm so we can do an energy exchange – they can conduct music and arts workshop here to teach me and some of the locals about their craft and we’ll teach them about farming and organic soap making.”
Bogs is trying to deconstruct the idea that knowledge is expensive and can only be acquired by people with money. Instead of financial remunerations, Bogs believes and practices ‘paying in effort’ – the process of exchanging ideas and knowledge with someone who’s good at doing another craft.
His belief in paying in effort comes from experiencing it. Coming to Dumingag to teach, he was in turn mentored by a local, Girlyn Pacalioga, one of the most successful organic farmers in Dumingag. Until now, Pacalioga still guides him in managing and running Bukid ni Bogs.
“The farm is still in its early stages and we are constantly developing and improving our products – organic soaps, organic balms, and oyster mushrooms under my mentor Girlyn Pacalioga’s business name Umaleng Farm. She’s been very supportive and generous in training me, she’s almost like a second mother to me,” Bogs said.
Actions, not opinions
In a world where everybody has something to say, Bogs opted to live simply and just do.
“I truly believe that if you want to change the world, you start with yourself. Your actions, not your opinions, will shape our future,” he said. “Regardless of where you’re standing, who you’re dealing with or what you’ve been working on, love and compassion enhances your actions towards it. Sure, being close with nature has a calming and regenerative effect on us, but what we do with nature and the motivation behind those actions can enhance or worsen the potency of these effects.”
For Bogs, practicing ethical entrepreneurship is his contribution in making this world better than how he found it. He believes that being and doing good, no matter how monumental or infinitesimal will create a ripple effect of goodness to those around you. And that’s the philosophy behind Bukid ni Bogs.
“You’re doing good, and that’s all that matters. Somewhere, someone will be inspired by your ways and they, too, will be affected by them, one way or another,” he said.
As someone who is closely attached to earth, Bogs tries to give back by taking as little resource as he could. It is a conscious effort by the farm not to use any plastic packaging nor use any chemical inputs to any of their products. The farm uses recycled paper to wrap organic soap bars, recycled containers for the balms and organic fertilizers and feeds for crops and animals.
“Organic farming and permaculture is a way of life. Some people may find it tedious and time-consuming, but look past that and you’ll realize that not only will you benefit more from this practice in the long run, but our health, families, communities, and most of all our environment will too,” Bogs said.
“I’d like to believe that the sustainable lifestyle we’re practicing back here is the product of that love and compassion that we have for our planet and that’s contributing to the healing of our land.”
Slow is the way to go
In this day and age when everything comes in an instant – from food to entertainment to knowledge – choosing to take things slowly is an unusual action.
“Don’t prioritize shortcuts or profit. Choosing to live organically may seem overwhelming and tedious at first but as you go along you’ll realize that it’s healthier for you and the environment. Remember, living a more organic lifestyle isn’t an “all or nothing” proposition. Even the smallest changes can make a huge difference in not only your life, but the quality of your life.
He encourages small gestures, small changes and small ventures that seek to make a difference. “Getting started on a more organic lifestyle is as easy as choosing that first organic product and using it. From there, you can build your lifestyle to include as much organic living you can afford and desire.”
Through it all, Bogs believes we deserve better. “We need to change our ways if we hope to build a bright future not just for ourselves but for all living things on this planet. This is our only home, and it’s dying because of our lack of compassion,” he said, posing a challenge not only to others but above all, to himself.
Photos courtesy of Bogs Castro, Bukid ni Bogs