23 Jul2009


A few months after we started the feeding program at the Banawa Elementary School in Cebu, I noticed that the school started growing vegetables in the school yard. It was actually amazing how healthy and prolific the vegetables seemed, particularly since they seemed to make a conscious choice of planting these “above ground” either in recycled plastic containers, plastic bags and most intriguingly, bamboo poles. I am sure this agricultural effort was part of their class lessons on nutrition or afterschool activities, but the offshoot of this program, I was told, was that some of the produce was included in the meals for the feeding program, so the kids grew part of their own meals!


The sign up top translates roughly to “School Vegetable Gardens” and these are just some of the things they had in the school yard. Up top were kang kong or water spinach in hanging halved recycled plastic containers. They explained that the ground was very rocky and had hardly any topsoil so they had taken to planting in containers. Above, a really cool use of large bamboo poles, halved and filled with compost and soil… they used this to sprout seeds and even grown other veggies to maturity.


Lots of onions, grown for the leaves that are a favorite flavoring agent in Cebu…


Pechay or chinese style leafy greens that seems to be utterly thriving in plastic bags!


Mild chili peppers on the ground and more kang kong in the background.


Another view of the pechay, with a glimpse of the classrooms in the background. Some 50+ kids often cram into a single classroom, though I have to say the size of the classrooms at this provincial school are far better than those in the Manila schools I have seen.




A hearty pot of soup at one of the feeding program sessions, which includes some leafy greens from the school garden. Compared with many western countries, where gardening is pursued to teach lessons of organic farming, sustainability, etc; unfortunately, in schools like this, it is more an issue of survival. The vast majority of families at this school are at the brink of poverty, and decent meals three times a day are already considered a luxury. While I realize even our feeding efforts are just a tiny drop in the bucket, it is very satisfying to see that the kids themselves grow some of the food they consume. Also, parents volunteer to do all the cooking and serving. So unlike large scale institutional feeding programs (where as much as 40% ends up in administrative costs), 100% of all funds collected do in fact go towards feeding the kids. Again, my sincerest gratitude goes out to all of you who have contributed to the feeding programs or any other similar endeavors in your own neighborhoods.



  1. natie says:

    lovely green and leafy veggies! and the eggplants!! good job, kids!! thanks for sharing, MM!!!

    Jul 23, 2009 | 9:29 am


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  3. bernadette says:

    refreshing post, MM! I still am reminded of the good side of man this way!

    Jul 23, 2009 | 9:48 am

  4. dee bee says:

    Marketman, a good point you make about gardening as a survival skill. A stark reminder that there is still a long way to go. Please know that we will continue to support your feeding programs.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 11:13 am

  5. mojito drinker says:

    this is really nice mm

    Jul 23, 2009 | 12:08 pm

  6. Marketfan says:

    Nice use for the split bamboo and photogenic at that. Another valuable lesson for the kids is that they should not go hungry if only they put in a little effort at planting and growing their own vegetables. We hear a lot of people in the provinces who say that food is scarce and expensive yet they do not even think of utilizing the land around them. Maybe next time we should send them some seed packets for the school garden.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 12:15 pm

  7. joyce says:

    great use of bamboo, everything seems to be eco-friendly and recycled. the veggies are just thriving! i wonder if they also manage a compost pit to make their own fertilizer.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 1:50 pm

  8. silly lolo says:

    One of my early school memories is of the school gaarden. It was wartime then (WW2- the Big War!) and schools had to have these gardens. I remember enjoying the work and then seeing the plants sprout out of the ground. I looked forward to “gardening” class everyday.
    And then I found out that girls were nice and soft to the touch and often smelled really nice. There went my education!!!

    Jul 23, 2009 | 2:00 pm

  9. betty q. says:

    Very resourceful plant coordinator! Now that summer or rather spring planting is over, a loooooot os the seed packets will go on sale. I will be more tha happy,MM, to make pakyaw all the seed packets that the kids can use and send them as Marketfan suggested!…like bok choy, shanghai bok choy, yu choy, sui choy and any other kind of CHOY, diffrent kinds of winter squashes or summer squashes (10 diffrent kinds of zucchini) at iba pa.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 4:24 pm

  10. solraya says:

    I hope the children see the value of what they learn here, and not just an exercise of getting a grade. We have been pushing “grow your own” food and aside from students working on plots, we sometimes suggest to Barangay officials or teachers to make it a “homework”. They can go around to check the containers nd plots of the students in the neighborhood. Surely, the veggies or animals grown at home may not be better than the ones in the school plots, but it will teach parents and neighbors the value of “growing own food” and that it is doable and healthier.

    Sometimes, the children have to teach the elders :)

    Jul 23, 2009 | 4:43 pm

  11. Mangaranon says:

    Is this school in Cebu? Why is the sign in Tagalog? That is disturbing since it means that the medium of instruction of the children is Tagalog. The Philippines is retrogressing instead of progressing. English is the universal language. If these children want good jobs later on, they should learn in English.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 5:21 pm

  12. Lava Bien says:

    Reminds me of my grade school memories in Lucban, Quezon. We used to plant chayotes, sitaw etc. for veggies along with flowering plants as a school project (don’t remember for what class though). I wonder if they still do that?

    Don’t ask that kind of question, it was decided a long time ago during President Quezon (the Ama ng Wikang Pambansa)time to have a common language (Filipino or Pilipino) as for all Filipinos etc., etc, etc.
    Please do not be one of those people who has a chip on their shoulder against the so called Tagalogs. I’m sure you wear the Philippine National Dress for Men, the “Barong Tagalog” or “Barong” for short. We all should changed it then to “Barong Pilipino”.

    Let them kids learn Pilipino or whatever but I would insist on keeping their dialect or language. I am an advocate or I believe we should teach (if you can) our kids different languages beside our own, specially European languages if one is from Asia or Asian languages if you’re in Europe (yeah something like that.

    Dont be disturb, the medium of teaching in the Philippines is ENGLISH. You want to know why? Common sense, it would be very hard to teach higher science or math (ie, Physics, Chemistry, Algebra, Calculus) in Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano etc. etc. etc.. Gets mo na po?

    So Miss or Mister Manga(EFIN)ranon, worry no more as they are learning the Filipino English. If you want better English for your kids send them to an International School (IS), I’m sure MM can relate.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 8:21 pm

  13. Lava Bien says:

    I’m just guessing MM’s Teen goes to an International School or some sort (if not in the US) as there’s no PUBLIC Middle School in the Philippines (remembered a post that the teen graduated or had her promotional rites for Middle School) not too long ago.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 8:25 pm

  14. Lava Bien says:


    Remember our National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal, spoke Tagalog, travelled and learned many other languages (exaggerated or not).

    I hope to open more minds, and MM is just doing that.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 8:30 pm

  15. Dennis S says:

    The topic is so heart warming and so encouraging. MM couldn’t have written this piece any better, and the photos are so overwhelming. Yet all MANGARANON could comment about is the “sign”? Wow, some people.

    Jul 23, 2009 | 10:44 pm

  16. Marketman says:

    Mangaranon et al. There is a national language and it is Filipino (not Tagalog, btw, I am often corrected). So I don’t particularly find it unusual that the sign is in Filipino. While there was a concerted shift to teach much of the curriculum in public schools in Filipino a decade or two ago, just recently, last year I think, there was also the reversal of that position and there is a shift back to teaching more and more in English. Personally, I think having two languages, Filipino and English is perfectly fine, AS LONG AS THEY LEARN THEM FLUENTLY RATHER THAN BASTARDIZE THEM. Even if I would probably hope that the second language was Visayan, as more folks probably speak a version of Visayan than Filipino, or at least when Filipino was introduced as the national language many decades ago, the die was cast and I wasn’t consulted nor could I have influenced it… For global competitiveness, I do agree that fluent English is a plus, and I do hope that more and more Filipinos become fluent in English, in addition to any dialect or national language that pleases them. IS does instruct in English, but perhaps unknown to many who haven’t attended it, it does require Filipino for Filipino students. Many local private schools, not international schools, also do teach in English… I wouldn’t read too much into the comment, everyone needs to be a little less touchy I guess. Hahaha, that coming from MM. I mean that in the lightest sense, of course. :)

    Jul 23, 2009 | 11:07 pm

  17. Christina says:

    What a beautiful post MM. Thank you.

    This is wonderful inspiration on so many levels. Those kids rock!

    Jul 24, 2009 | 1:09 am

  18. k. ramos says:

    Sayang, I was too late! I only checked your entries today, MM (nabusy, thesis man gud hehe). I hope I could make it the next time Mamou offers help… Btw, these school gardens are a great idea: they get to save money and eat healthy at the same time. I do hope that the kids will study hard in order to lead better lives :D

    Jul 24, 2009 | 4:09 am

  19. bebot says:

    Good job po para sa mga magaaral ng Banawa Elementary school.
    Not only have they learned the value of recycling, but also shows their resourcefullness, and becoming self sufficient.

    Jul 24, 2009 | 6:57 am

  20. fortuitous faery says:

    wow, the bamboo seed box is impressively ingenious! and eco-friendly!

    Jul 24, 2009 | 8:18 am

  21. sanojmd says:

    good job MM.. very well said. i thought another fire coming up.. haha.

    Jul 24, 2009 | 8:44 am

  22. corrine says:

    I hope more schools bring back gardening. We had gardening activities when we were in Grade School and we learned lot. Those are nice veggies that the kids planted. If only I can plant like that.

    Jul 24, 2009 | 11:55 pm

  23. Gener says:

    This is a very heart shaking scene! kids do gardening while in the school,,and they are just lads and learns how to plant! its all crude pots and materials they used but it works. plants are thriving! learning while still on early stage is much helpful rather than lately years, they will be emulated to learn the good way of planting even from scraps! This time that vegetable is more dearer than meat or fish will make them do some home grown veges themselves and surely that will help!!!

    Jul 25, 2009 | 9:27 pm

  24. chinky says:

    When i was in grade school in the ’70s, we had a subject called YCAP (don’t recall what that stood for). But we used to plant vegetables all year-round. Each class had a group of plots that we tilled, planted and when it was harvest-time, we brought home our vegetables. We visited our plots 3x a week, usually the last subject before dismissal. We brought our own watering cans and other tools. It was actually fun even if we had to do it in our uniforms/skirts!

    Jul 26, 2009 | 4:14 pm

  25. dodi says:

    I must say the school’s administrators should be commended for their efforts because they did not just stop with receiving but have even gone beyond, by being proactive with the gardening efforts! Congratulations and keep it up!

    Jul 27, 2009 | 11:16 am

  26. Gener says:

    Damn, Im a type of jealous! I cant grow anything on my backyard here! No plant will ever exists in my garden during summer but date palms?? 48 degrees boiling temperature is killing it! Providing aircondition for my chickens is even absurd…they are not pet..

    Jul 27, 2009 | 4:20 pm

  27. len says:

    sa cebu dili tagalog ang official language sa inyo lang sa luzon kay wala na gamita diri nga sinultihan ayaw mi pugsa pag sulti anang inyong lenguahe.

    Jul 29, 2009 | 11:35 am

  28. elian says:

    our language is cebuano not ur so called tagalog.

    Jul 29, 2009 | 11:37 am

  29. atbnorge says:

    Chinky, we’re in the same league. I remember taking home a bunch of pechay when I was in grade four. We also used to do tree planting once every school year. Some of the trees are still there where we planted them—I am proud…And yes, it doesn’t matter what your language or dialect is, just don’t bastardize it (ikke sant, Marketman?) like so many people do these days. It is inevitable, English is the language to reckon with these days—let’s face it, it is the lingua franca.

    Jul 31, 2009 | 6:07 am

  30. Lava Bien says:

    Len and Elian,

    I’m sure it is, but you can’t be discrminatory against the so called Tagalogs (I’ve noticed that about people from Cebu). Check your Philippine passport if you have one, does it say Cebuano and English? Right..

    Aug 3, 2009 | 8:33 pm

  31. James says:

    The last thing pinoy need to do is fight amongst themselves about languages. The Philippines struggles enough as is, don’t make it worse by being petty about particular languages.

    Make sure your kids all learn fluent English. Not Taglish, not Ceblish, not English with Waray Waray grammar … but English.

    This will seriously help you compete in the global marketplace.

    Now, if we could just get those stupid Americans (I am one, so I can say that) to switch to the Metric System … and all will be at peace in the world. :)

    Aug 27, 2009 | 5:27 pm

  32. James says:

    On the topic of this post, really great work by these kids. This gives me some serious ideas for things to do here in Tacloban with the local schools.

    Aug 27, 2009 | 5:28 pm

  33. Chris says:

    A very good lesson here is the use of recycled materials for pots! People still have to get that mentality. Every used container can be used as a pot. ;-)

    May 14, 2010 | 8:32 am


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