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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Day at Tuwâ

One early Sunday morning, a group of friends headed 2 hours north of Manila to Cabiao, Nueva Ecija. We were out to visit Tuwâ the Laughing Fish - a green bed & breakfast inn.  I first heard of this inn from Judy and Sherrie who stayed overnight with their families.

Diwa: our home during our stay
Tuwâ the Laughing Fish is created by John Vermeulen and Penelope Reyes.  They met during a seminar in Thailand for building ecovillages.  The land was originally a rice field [Nueva Ecija is the rice bowl of the Philippines] and they built everything from scratch.

Tuwâ the Laughing Fish is part of the Gaia network and considered a Living and Learning center which "offers a unique sustainable lifestyle educational experience featuring aspects such as natural buildings, off-grid energy mix of solar, wind and wood gasification, and organic/biodynamic farming."  They are also part of a Transition Initiative at Cabiao, Nueva Ecija and was featured in Forward of DENR's Climate Change Adaptation: Best Practices in the Philippines.

We were there for a day tour and arrived at about 930am.  Penelope taught us how to use the dry toilet - the world's cleanest toilet.  No water was involved.  Instead, there were 2 holes - 1 for urine and 1 for poop.  You bury your poop in ash and surprisingly, there was no smell.  After this brief lesson, Penelope led us to Diwa, our home for the duration of our stay, to freshen up as she had to prepare for lunch.  Since E was with us, we spent the morning entertaining him.  I was hoping that he would take a nap but no luck!

Shortly thereafter, John visited us and shared tidbits about Tuwâ.  The land was purchased in 2008.  Construction of the houses was completed in May 2010.  Before studying to be an ecovillage designer, Penelope was already part of an environmental NGO known as Happy Earth. She also authored a book entitled "Are You a Forest King?" which you can download here. John also explained to us the concept of permaculture - the organization of design elements according to zones and its 12 design principles.  Admittedly, I "zoned" out during some parts of his explanation.  Nevertheless, I admired John for his perseverance and genuine desire to share his ideas and vision.  Read this blog for an early look at Tuwâ and to learn about the evolution of its name.

For lunch, we enjoyed a "locavore" cuisine prepared by Penelope.  It was a vegetarian feast - blue rice, red-braised tofu steak with chili paste, banana flower salad, fresh lumpia - chinese style and mixed vegetables with black moss.  I was initially worried that E won't be able to eat anything but he feasted on the blue rice and the veggies with black moss!  He turned up his nose though on the forbidden rice champorado which we had for snacks.

Locavore cuisine means that the ingredients used to prepare the food is locally produced e.g. food is grown within 160 kilometers from its point of origin or consumption.  During our tour after lunch, we discovered the vast variety of herbs, fruits, vegetables literally growing in Penelope's backyard.  Being in the rice bowl of the Philippines, Tuwâ grows their own organic brown rice.  I brought home about 10 kilos of rice (a steal at P40 per kilo) and it was really easy to cook - no prep or soaking needed, no extra water or time.

Tuwâ utilizes an aquaponics system to grow their greens.  Meanwhile, in their "backyard," they have cacao beans, coffee beans, eggplants, kalamansi, bell peppers, mangosteen, papaya, mangoes, etc. etc. I regretted not bringing N because she would have really enjoyed seeing where her food came from.  E enjoyed puttering about picking up rocks, touching flowers and eating leaves.  [And he did not take a nap!]
that's a cinnamon leaf that he's chewing on
John shared that they were putting up Tuwâ for sale.  The couple feels that work on Tuwâ has been completed and it is a wonderful showcase of their capabilities as ecovillage designers.  They will be moving to a smaller place near Lipa, Batangas and this time build on a smaller scale - eco-houses or eco-solutions for hotels/resorts.

Meanwhile, Tuwâ is still accepting bookings for up to 3 weeks in advance.  I do recommend that you book and try the place, as nobody knows if the new owners will continue running a Green B&B.

Tuwâ the Laughing Fish accepts only 1 group at a time, maximum of 8 people.  Here are the rates:

Standard Accommodation/ adult / night: P 1,750 (13 years old and up)
Children 10 – 12 years old: 50% of rate
Children 1-9 years old: 25% of rate
Babies: FREE

Day-Trip Rates: Maximum 8 people/trip - (from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm)
*Day trip includes lunch, snack and eco-tour.
Price: P 850 / Adult (13 years old and above)
Children 10 – 12 years old: 50% of rate
Children 1-9 years old: 25% of rate
Babies: FREE
Drivers Meal: P 300

I'm still figuring out our schedule but I definitely will book a trip back with S and N!

You can also check out the posts of Benz and Jen.
day-trippers with John and Penelope
Don Erik relaxing in his hammock

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