FARMING FAMILY LIVES THEIR LIVES AROUND NATURE AND AGRICULTURE
Agriculture|November - December 2020
THE PHILIPPINES used to be largely agricultural, with most couples raising their family in the fields. Nowadays, it’s the opposite, with many families opting to live in towns and cities. The Hospitals are backing this trend, however, choosing to live as close to the land as possible, be it in a bahay kubo in Taguig, or in the field of whatever province their work takes them to.
YVETTE TAN

The Espitals are Gio Paolo Espital, Laila Pornel-Espital, and their son, Seed Nayon. Gio is a farmer and community engagement officer of Good Food Community, alternative food distribution in the form of community shared agriculture that connects smallholding farmers and consumers. He also runs a service and retail brand called Elements of Tomorrow (ELMTM) which makes and sells bokashi composting kits.

Laila is a co-founder and outdoor teacher of Weekend Wild Child, a nature immersion program for families with children in the early years. She also teaches and holds workshops about healthy food preparation for infants and toddlers through Baby Food Project, an online support group for infant and young child feeding.

Their son Nayon is four years old. The couple practices Waldorf education and unschooling at home and in nature. “We spend a lot of time climbing trees, free play, expressive arts, learning life skills, managing big emotions and a lot of nourishing activities so he could have memories of a happy childhood,” Laila says.

The Espitals currently live in a bahay kubo with an urban garden in Taguig, where they used to stay on and off after Nayon was born and whenever the couple had teaching engagements in the metro. They moved back for good three years ago after working and living with a community in Mt. Banahaw.

CHOOSING FARM LIFE

The Espitals decision to live on the farm was borne from their background in community development. “Before becoming parents, our background is in community development, I teach livelihood diversification and biodiversity conservation while Gio teaches sustainable farming and livelihood linked to eco-tourism,” Leila says. “Both of us have seen how small communities changed for the better by protecting their natural resources and starting an organic farm as their livelihood. We wanted to apply the learnings we had from those years of work and see if this lifestyle is doable for our family.”

The many positive experiences in their work led them to decide on an agricultural path for their family, even before their son Nayon was born.

“First, we have control over our health and healing. Growing our own fruit and vegetables gave us a variety of food each day. It tastes better because we always have them fresh and it is safer to eat because we do not treat them with chemical pesticides, which are linked to numerous diseases.

“Second, we find peace being surrounded by nature. It makes us happy to see the garden grow that soon attracts birds, butterflies, frogs, worms, and bugs. Working with the soil sparks the wonder of our child helps decompress our minds from whatever worries we have and lets us be present in the moment.

“Third, we got to save and earn. Instead of spending the biggest chunk of our budget to buy vegetables, we can allocate them for other utilities at home and add to our travel fund. It is also a joy for us to have a source of income that offers health to other people through farm produce and composting kits.

“But above all of this, we decided to lead this lifestyle because we believe that it is our moral imperative to take good care of our planet and our way of participation is make the soil healthy and grow food without harming nature. It is our duty as parents to model to our son the meaningful work that farmers do for their families and society. And lastly, to spread not just the awareness about food systems but to actually help in closing the loop of sustainable consumption through composting and regenerative practices,” Laila says.

EVERY DAY IS AN ADVENTURE

The family believes in “practicing a rhythm at home,” and have been doing so even before the pandemic. This means having a set schedule they rarely deviate from. It’s making sure that the proper activity is done at the corresponding time of day to allow everyone to get to do what they need and want to do, at the same time injecting a sense of fun and wonder into daily living.

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