Nestled along the ridge of Taal Lake lies Tagaytay, an hour and a half away south of Metro Manila, and considered as the second summer capital of the country.
Favored by local and foreign tourists, in part due to its scenery, cooler weather and lower humidity, the City plays host to numerous attractions that always bring travelers back for more.
Amidst this bustling component city is SVD Laudato Si’ Farm or SVD Farm, a six-hectare eco-tourism and agricultural farm off Aguinaldo Highway. It was started by the Societas Verbi Divini or Society of Divine Word (SVD) Tagaytay Community during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Its name drew inspiration from Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical “Laudato Si’ on Care for Our Common Home,” wherein he cites Mother Earth’s call, as she “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her,” and asked everyone to help out and take action.
Located behind the Divine Word Seminary Tagaytay (DWST) and adjacent to the Pink Sisters’ Convent and Chapel and Holy Spirit Mission Service Center, the community decided to clear their idle land, farm organic vegetables and fruit trees and grew livestock like chicken, ducks, pigs and goats, to become even just partially self-reliant and to provide a modest employment to the lay people.
Fr. Sam Agcaracar, head of the SVD Tagaytay Community and DWST rector, shared this story to us during our first visit in March last year.
A welcome haven for solitude and quiet prayer, it is also popular today because of the farm’s harvests of organic vegetables and fruits, whether for take-out, or for indoor dining within an outdoor setting.
Commune with God
Since the first quarter of 2022, we have been attracted by the farm’s soothing ambience, and have repeatedly returned to it every opportunity we have, to participate in its liturgical services or just to have a peaceful family time together.
The Farm envisions and aspires “to become a unique spiritual haven where one can commune with God, others, and nature, while relishing totally organic products.”
Within the lush green estate is a tranquil garden shrine and Grotto of the Virgin of the Poor, and a wall-less chapel where one can meditate and pray to God, and attend regular masses every Saturdays at 10 a.m., and Sundays at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Within the wider expanse, one can also pray at the Stations of the Cross at the nearby Garden of Gethsemane or have a relaxing time at the Gazebo/St. Peter’s Fishpond. Beyond it, one can follow the trail along The Seven Sorrows of Mary up the Hill of Transfiguration before reaching a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, to whom SVD founder St. Arnold Janssen had a special devotion.
On the mount, there is an Ecospirituality Center which is used for the pastoral ministry of the SVD Community and guests. On the right side are several cottages within the Holy Spirit Hermitage. Both areas can also be used for seminars, workshops and overnight stays. Attending the previous Advent and recent Lenten recollection there have allowed us to strengthen our spirituality.
Pillars of sustainability
Around a modest café, there is a place where visitors can buy organic produce, fresh greens and plants grown within the site. Ample seating is provided by numerous kubos that bear the names of Bible personalities.
The Farm had set out a six-pronged approach to sustainable development that includes farming; energy; water; livelihood; knowledge; and lifestyle; through the optimal and combined use of resources, technology, and capability building.
It utilizes 70 percent solar-powered and generated electricity, and practices the 5Rs of waste management– reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and residual management. Collected rain water is used for irrigation and for the fishpond. In return, the water from the fishpond is also used to water plants and vegetables.
To support the community’s livelihood program, the farm has been providing training to staff as well as surrounding farmers. Ecological awareness and familiarization tours have also been organized to promote environmental education and conservation, in order to entice patrons and guests to shift and adopt a sustainable lifestyle.
Let us be involved
The SVD Tagaytay Community envisages the Laudato Si’ Farm to not only be a showcase for organic farming, but also a spiritual oasis for contemplative communion with the Creator of Mother Nature.
Let us support their noble cause and undertaking. For in the end, “when we can see God reflected in all that exists, our hearts are moved to praise the Lord for all his creatures and to worship Him in union with them.”
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Henry L. Yap is an architect, environmental planner, fellow in real estate management, and one of the undersecretaries of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development.