“Life is short. Do stuff that matters” – Siqi Chen
A few weeks back, Natalie and I decided to take a trip to the Enchanted Farm during their 7th yr Anniversary celebration. Located at Angat, Bulacan, it was an easy 2-hour drive from the bustling city of Manila. The activities were jam-packed so we had to start our day bright and early. Along the way, we found out that “Enchanted Farm” was coined because the area was called Brgy. Encanto – which means mystical or magical in Tagalog.
When we arrived, we noticed a lot of diversity at the farm. Young people from France who happened to be volunteers joined in the celebration, as well as Filipino farmers and community members alike. We all gathered at the Hyundai Center For Green Innovation Conference Hall, which was impressively designed and made with bamboo, wood, and glass. Antonio Meloto, or most commonly known as “Tito Tony”, is the founder of Gawad Kalinga, a foundation that helps build community houses for the poor. Now, marking its 7th yr since the Enchanted Farm was born, he has now extended that mission of alleviating poverty in the country by incubating social enterprises in the farm and providing a sustainable living for the community.
“We turned Brgy. Encanto into ‘enchanted’ for us to discover the magic of our humanity.” -Tony Meloto, Gawad Kalinga founder
The stories at the Farm are quite awe inspiring. What used to be a slum in Barangay Encanto where criminals dwell is now a farm that brings livelihood and jobs to more than 200 families. GK’s vision and efforts to alleviate poverty in the country by incubating social enterprises in the farm provide a sustainable living for the communities around the area. It eventually became a place for learning, sharing, and developing business ideas into reality – a true hub for social entrepreneurship in the Philippines. If you think about it, it’s the first Farm Village University in the country that is open to both rich and poor alike. Some children living in the GK Village become scholars and eventually learn about becoming social entrepreneurs themselves.
There are two major components that make the Enchanted Farm a unique experience and a truly enchanting place to visit: Social Entrepreneurship and Social Tourism.
There were at least 20 enterprises present at the Farm. From selling organic produce, uniquely packaged items, to artisan foods and even plush toys, all of these businesses were incubated and launched through GK.
I’ve interviewed a couple of social entrepreneurs there, and one of them was named Erika Wong. I had a pleasure to attend her “ice cream making” demonstration while she talked about her business, Karabella. Erika used to be in Corporate for a long time until she decided that it wasn’t as fulfilling anymore. Jumping from Corporate to Social Entrepreneur was not an easy feat, but her passion for creating sustainable impact became more evident as she successfully set up her ice cream business through the help of GK. Since then, she has immensely enjoyed working with the local farmers in the community, helping deliver fresh, high-quality products for Karabella.
Another inspiring story is Fabien Courteille from France, the social entrepreneur behind Plush and Play toys. He started out as an intern in the GK farm and eventually decided to start his own social enterprise with the moms in the community, making safe, quality stuffed toys for kids. Nat and I personally enjoyed creating our own plush toy as another fun activity at the Farm — we even made our own Fox version!
Other interesting businesses there were: Make Peace, a bakery shop that empowers youth by teaching them how to bake bread. Calaboo, that sells high-quality Carabao milk butter and delicious yoghurt. First Harvest, that does homegrown peanut butter, and Ambension Silk that weaves silk and makes beautiful scarves. There were a lot more interesting social enterprises that have been incubated at the Farm. And seeing them all so passionate about what they do makes you really believe in their mission of developing a better Philippines. What makes it more special is that it attracts not only local social entrepreneurs, but also foreign volunteers who want to make an impact. Keyword here: sustainable!
Having a bigger vision of making the Enchanted Farm a hub for Social Entrepreneurship in Asia, I think we’re not that far behind from that goal. For 7 years, the village has slowly emerged to become a profitable, sustainable community that can hopefully inspire and replicate the model to other communities as well. With a bit more time, effort, and continuous support, I can see the Farm branching out to other areas, helping scale the same impact that they’ve done to the community of Angat.
Another component that the GK Enchanted Farm wants to establish is to be the Disneyland of Social Tourism. And no, we’re not thinking of roller coaster rides or theme parks! More than just an “enchanting” place to be, the Farm inspires real life experiences, stories for tourists or visitors to see how dreams can turn into reality. Social Tourism is all about people and highlighting our strenghts for developing communities.
What’s great about the Enchanted Farm is that it’s open to everyone. There’s no doubt you will have a meaningful, learning experience while enjoying the clean, fresh air of nature. You will not be short of activities, especially now that they have recently put up new infrastructure such as the Bamboo palace and Center for Innovation Hub. With a sprawling 14-hectre land, the Farm is complete with overnight facilities, a spa, organic restaurants, and classrooms or lecture halls. Since it’s also a school, students wanting to learn social entrepreneurship can enrol and gain first hand experience at the Farm.
If you are curious about the packages they offer, here’s a table below:
Overall, our visit to the Enchanted Farm was an eye-opening and enriching experience. It was great opportunity to meet Tito Tony Meloto himself, and also the inspiring social entrepreneurs who have made the Enchanted Farm successful as it is today. It’s truly remarkable to witness such passionate individuals taking action to make our world a better place.
Inspired to visit the GK Enchanted Farm too? You can contact [email protected] to inquire about their packages 🙂