The Joy in food security

My Lolo Peping and I always had lengthy conversations about his life during the war as a guerilla. Every story felt like Aesop’s fables where in the end, I would be asked what the lesson was. One of the things I learned from my grandfather was survival and how it revolved around food. Naturally, in those days, food was scarce in the jungle – at most, food he liked to eat. This therefore taught him how to be creative and resourceful, especially after the war where he had to fend for his family. In each of my travels, Lolo Peping asked me for seeds because agriculturally, he educated himself on different climates that could be a match to certain lands we owned in provinces.

In those days and admittedly so, I was perplexed until I discovered the urban farming programs in Quezon City. I thought to myself then that it was highly possible for us to do the same here in our own backyard and one would only need to place interest and commitment in developing skills. So, my grandfather and I tried and still, at this point, I didn’t fully understand why he and I were doing this, up until the time I joined the Philippine Army Reserve. It was here that I learned more about food security while matching it with my grandfather’s experiences. It was a real eureka moment for me and I grew thankful for the fact that our city leaders were forward thinkers.

In 2010, our Mayor (vice mayor then), Joy Belmonte, launched the “Joy of urban farming” and finally, when I went to the Quezon Memorial Circle, I discovered rows of leafy vegetables such as pechay, lettuce and kangkong. We know for a fact that no one in this world was ever prepared for COVID-19 but, and by the grace of God, when the Philippine Army and I spoke with our Mayor on food security, we found ourselves equipped. It was a huge undertaking being surrounded by so much uncertainty and fear; however, to us, and most importantly for the people of Quezon City, it was a real blessing. A genuine change in mindset is something we continue to work with. However, in the midst of a crisis, more and more people are convinced in participating as instruments of sustainability for food security in what our Mayor calls a Whole-of-City approach.

Primarily, the Joy of urban farming was launched in order to mitigate hunger but, on the other hand, it is also a source of livelihood. Currently, and together with this city program, our QC Batallions and Brigade, which include the Ready Reserves, invest their time and skills in helping our kyusitizens adopt this program, armed with farming tools to grow their own produce in their own communities.

They say that it is not enough to give a man a fish and that it is wiser to teach a man to fish. As an educator, it gives me much joy to see teams working together and learning from one another. A transfer of skills is so important in this day and age as we continue to not just survive but also thrive, even as we get through a pandemic.

“Be creative,” my grandfather always said. We need to constantly find opportunities even in the worst days and sometimes, the answer is found in your own backyard.

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