San Roque’s women, growing their own food while strengthening their organization

Nanay Wena’s home in San Roque. (Photo by Geela Garcia)

Women of San Roque are usually at the frontlines of protests against demolitions. Some of them who are unable to join protests because of responsibilities at home instead express their resistance through participating in their community garden.

By GEELA GARCIA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Nanay Wena is one of the millions who lost their jobs when President Rodrigo Duterte imposed a lockdown in the capital. She used to work as a caregiver in Manila, but mobility restrictions led to her loss of income.

Nanay Wena found it even more challenging to make ends meet. Confined inside her tiny home made of plywood, she nurtured different types of plants: pots blossoming with colorful flowers and cacti, walls with crawling edible leaves, plots of growing portions of taro, cabbage, pepper, sweet potato, and ginger.

As a self-proclaimed tita, Nanay Wena has been later tasked to lead their group’s gardening project dubbed as Tanimang Bayan.

Women of San Roque established the Tanimang Bayan because of the increasing prices of basic commodities and the lack of government support during the pandemic.

For mothers, cultivating the land meant additional workload in their already overloaded day of managing the household and their livelihood. However, it’s a task they do to nurture not just their homes, but also their community.

According to Nanay Wena, having a community garden has helped them with their expenses. Her husband is a construction worker who bikes to work. They can’t afford to buy a proper biking helmet, so he uses his construction helmet for now since they don’t earn enough money.

“Since we’re able to get free vegetables from the garden, we can save the money to buy rice or allocate it to other expenses,” she said.

Nanay Wena cooks nilagang tilapia (braised fish) with the mustard she harvested from the Tanimang Bayan. On her phone is a video of her kids residing in Cavite. (Photo by Geela Garcia)

During Bulatlat’s visit, Nanay Wena prepared freshly harvested mustard from their Taniman Bayan with some tilapia sent by her children all the way from Cavite.

“Vegetables are scarce in my hometown and I’m able to bring my kids in the province some of the harvested vegetables from our tanimang bayan. In return, my family gives me fresh catch and dried fish which I cook for my husband,” Nanay Wena said.

Women in San Roque appreciate their harvest since they use vegetables as their main ingredient for their dishes.

“I tried eating pork for a week and my neck started to hurt,” said Nanay Marlyn, another mother who is active in the tanimang bayan. “It’s good that we have vegetables now. Last time we harvested, we stir-fried vegetables with some fish,” she added.

Ka Inday beams with pride as she talks about their Taniman Bayan. (Photo by Geela Garcia)

For Ka Inday, steamed cabbage with boiled chicken is her favorite dish.

“I can’t eat oily food because of my health condition, so I just steam the cabbage from our garden and dip it with soy sauce and calamansi, okay na,” Ka Inday said with glee.

Ka Inday is known as one of the faces leading San Roque, but aside from being a community leader, Ka Inday is also a mother and a vendor.

After selling biko (rice cooked in coconut milk and sugar), Ka Inday helps tend the community garden. (Photo by Geela Garcia)

“Since I roam around the community to sell suman, seeing the garden is unavoidable. When I make rounds in the morning, yung dibdib ko talaga parang sinasabi, ayan ang bunga ng inyong kasipagan (My heart says, that’s the fruit of our diligence,”), Nanay Inday said.

“The women from the market even complimented our cabbage, ang cute daw (they said they’re cute),” Ka Inday added.

How 6 in the morning in San Roque looks like: construction workers walk to their construction site; mothers assemble to cultivate their gardens as their form of resistance against demolitions. (Photo by Geela Garcia)

Women of San Roque are usually at the frontlines of protests against demolitions. Some of them who are unable to join protests because of responsibilities at home instead express their resistance through participating in their community garden.

As early as 6 a.m., women are already up watering their food security gardens.

“I’m a housewife and I can’t leave the house to join protests because I have to take care of my kids. I support our advocacy by participating in our gardening daily,” Nanay Marlyn said.

“It makes me happy just seeing the garden grow, especially since it’s right outside our home. When I get up in the morning, I feel happy seeing the plants and knowing that my family can eat for free,” the 42-year-old mother added.

Nanay Sherly, a mother from a different area, shared a similar situation with Nanay Marlyn.

“It’s difficult juggling being a wife and committing in our garden. Sometimes my husband and I even argue because of my responsibilities, but I constantly remind him of the importance of organization work, because after all, we all benefit from our community garden,” she explained.

In this time of crisis, Nanay Marlyn said she is happy with her community work. “It feels good that I’m able to serve my community, especially now that a lot of people are experiencing hunger,” she said. (https://www.bulatlat.com)

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