It's 6 AM

The alarm beeps at 6 AM. “6 AM?”, I said. “I’m working from home! Why should I be waking up this early?” The voice behind my bedroom door replies. “Mangguna na ta!” (Let’s start weeding). The alarm beeped at 6 AM and that alarm was my mother forcing us out of our rooms to help her do the gardening.

Honestly speaking, I am not a morning person. If given time, I’d choose sleep. Now that almost everyone is working from home for the past weeks, I bet every bed person would be shouting, “Hallelujah”.

But this time it’s different. I sat on the side of my bed, staring blankly on the floor, telling myself, “Today, we’re doing something new.” After a few stretches I found myself in our backyard getting my hands dirty.

Stay at Home! That’s what everyone’s advocating right now. Of course, that would be the most effective way to keep the virus from spreading. Since then, the new norm started to take place. Everyone was distant, face-to-face interactions started to become bleak, schedules messed up, trips cancelled, lovelife postponed…charot. With most of life being put on hold in an instant, we are forced to maximize our stays at home and enjoy everything our hands can do within the four corners of our homes.

I work every day facing the computer, if not the tablet or phone. For years technology took me into a whole new world. In a snap, COVID-19 brought me to the backyard. With the government’s PLANT PLANT PLANT program, everyone is encouraged to do gardening at home. Why not? This would be the best time for me to personally experience the farm practices I learned from farms and farmers I have been documenting since I started working in ATI.

From the early morning weeding, to the afternoon soil mixing, potting, sowing, and transplanting, I couldn’t help but make a hidden grin whenever I feel the drip of a gardener’s sweat from my quarantine-lightened skin. Then there comes the maintenance, watering, pruning, and finally the harvesting. I may be a picky eater especially when it comes to vegetables but the food really tastes better when you’re the one growing it. Also, my mother, aka our home’s Gardener Supreme, constantly has new ideas for the garden and we, her workers got nothing but our full support. Besides, the food tastes bad when she’s mad.

One lesson I learned from this pandemic is not only cultivating land but also cultivating relationships – the most important ones…family. Since we can’t be anywhere else but our homes, there’s nothing else we can do but to communicate and have deep conversations with people whose presence we sometimes take for granted. Bonding over simple things, chores, and even gardening can really make a difference to the family.

As the Enhanced Community Quarantine is about to end in some parts of the country, I can say to myself that the past month has opened experiences I couldn’t find anywhere else. On top of the home “office work”, new dishes cooked, workout routines maintained, and having a backyard garden, all I can say is there’s really no other place like home when on quarantine.

It’s 6 AM, a new day has dawned, what are we doing today?

ATI Today

Extension services continue to evolve. With the challenges that extension workers and farmers face, the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) continues to explore various strategies to improve its efforts as the extension and training arm of the Department of Agriculture. In over 30 years, the ATI has celebrated various successes and learned from the lessons during hard times. Nonetheless, we are proud to be standing the test of time through the support of our partners and the clientele themselves. This is the ATI Today, more committed to bring you extension services beyond boundaries.