BOHOL TOUR: Bee Farm and Tarsier Sanctuary

“I’m glad we went to Bohol.” This was what Zee and I told each other when we were on our way back to Cebu. By God’s grace, He protected us from harm and He provided what we needed during our day trip in the beautiful province of Bohol. Whew!

We stayed in Cebu last weekend, but since Bohol was just a 2-hour ferry ride away, we decided to drop by for a day. We were only able to visit the tourist spots in the countryside. Next time, we’ll be back for the beaches!

Our total cost per person for a day trip in Bohol’s countryside is Php 2,960. (Of course, this cost will go down if you’ll be traveling in bigger groups.)

BREAKDOWN IN PESO:

1,125 – Rental fee for a car and driver (personalized tour)
900 – Roundtrip for a ferry ride (1 non-airconditioned and 1 airconditioned)
45 – Terminal fees for the port (roundtrip)
60- Fee for the 30-minute tour at the Bee Farm
450- Lunch with shake or dessert at the Bohol Bee Farm’s restaurant
60 – Entrance Fee for the tour at the Philippine Tarsier Sanctuary
50 – Entrance Fee for the Chocolate Hills

Our driver for the trip, kuya Joseph, was awesome! He prepare a printed sign for us and he welcomed us at the port. He also made us feel relaxed and comfortable during the whole trip. Moreover, he exerted effort in taking our pictures and even stopping the car every now and then so we could take photos of the signs and sceneries. He also did his best to carefully drive fast, so we could squeeze in as much activities as possible.

Next time, we’ll try to book an earlier flight so we can make it to the first ferry trip (6 am) to Bohol. Or, we could just fly straight to Bohol! Haha!

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our day tour in Bohol!

Here are some of the sights that we visited:

BOHOL BEE FARM

One word to describe my experience at Bohol’s Bee Farm? SURREAL. After our ferry ride from Cebu port to Tagbilaran port (Bohol), it was refreshing to stop over at the Bee Farm and Restaurant first. We got there at around 12 noon, just in time for lunch. The 30-minute tour around the farm was scheduled at 1 pm, so Zee and I decided to walk around, take photos, rest, and eat lunch at their restaurant while waiting.

I felt very much at home because of the environment! There was an area where organic plants were being grown and the place had a calm atmosphere. You could only hear the silent conversations, soft summer music, hustling of leaves, and the sound of the waves softly splashing on the shore. The dining area of the restaurant had the perfect view of the beach. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting to see the beach on our trip to Bohol because I knew that we only had time for the countryside tourist spots. So, seeing the lovely view of the clear blue sky and sea really made my heart melt.

For lunch, Zee ordered spareribs while I ordered honey roasted chicken. Both dishes came with red rice and organic garden salad. We also had mango-based fruit shakes.

After our delicious lunch, we went back to the lobby to meet our tour guide. Our 30-minute tour started at the garden patch where our guide explained the different herbs and edible plants they were growing. We then proceeded to walk around the production areas for some of their palm tree products, homemade ice cream (with honey as its only sweetener), green tea made from Ashitaba leaves, cabcab honey chips, and cassava ice cream cones.

The last stop of our tour was the home of the bees. Our tour guide gave some facts about bees and casually joked about how he wanted us (his participants) to also get stung by a bee. I guess he was trying to make the experience fun and light? But, to our surprise, it did happen! I got stung by a bee!! I’ll share more about the experience in another post. But, that moment was definitely the highlight of my surreal experience in the farm.

Before leaving the place, Zee and I tried their homemade creamy avocado ice cream on their homemade cone. It certainly helped me calm down a bit after the incident. Haha!

Overall, the experience was great! I would love to try more dishes at their restaurant and more ice cream flavors next time.

PHILIPPINE TARSIER SANCTUARY

Our next stop was at the official sanctuary of tarsiers in Bohol. We met the “Tarsier Man” of Bohol, Carlito Pizarras. He was very instrumental in developing a conservation program for the tarsiers. Throughout the tour, we learned that the female tarsiers only produce one offspring every six months. Unfortunately, not all of those offsprings reach their maturity or survive. This is why the sanctuary helps create awareness about the dwindling number of tarsiers in the country.

We saw seven tarsiers clinging on to different trees and branches as we walked along the trails inside the sanctuary. Their curved bodies were only 4-5 inches long. One of the instructions that they gave us before the tour was to avoid making loud noises, touching the tarsiers, moving the branches, or taking photos using flashes.

Since tarsiers are noctural animals, they don’t want to be disturbed during day time. The tour guide even explained that when the tarsiers become stressed, they eventually commit suicide by not eating for days or jumping off of a tree. It is a sad reality. So, we did our best not to make them feel stressed while we were there.

They look so adorable! I hope they can still produce more offsprings!

This ends the first part of our day trip in Bohol. In my next blog post, I’ll be sharing about a childhood dream fulfilled! After decades of knowing about it, I finally saw one of the famous landmarks in our country!

Make Room for Growth

This morning, I harvested my second batch of pechay leaves, which are also known as Bok choy or Chinese cabbage in other countries. The leaves I got from this batch were much bigger than the first ones I had last August. The ironic thing about it? I didn’t even know that I had one pechay seed growing in the pot until I saw a seedling in it three months ago. Today, by God’s grace, I snipped off a lovely bundle of big pechay leaves here at home.

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I happily showed my family members the stalks of pechay in my hand while they were having brunch earlier today. I then shared the background of the story and emphasized how interesting the experience was. Even though I exerted so much effort in the first batch by regularly watering, adding organic fertilizer, and taking care of the plants, they weren’t able to reach their maximum size. Why? Because there wasn’t any room for growth.

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One major mistake that I made while I was growing the first batch was planting too many seeds in a small area. Because the seedlings were overcrowded, their roots could not expand and fully develop under the soil. This resulted to smaller leaves and thinner stalks.

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For the second batch of pechay leaves, however, since it was only one seedling growing in the pot, it had adequate space for its roots to expand.  Even though I wasn’t able to add fertilizer to it as often as I did to the first batch, it still grew and reached its maximum potential. There weren’t other pechay plants absorbing the nutrients in the soil.

I learned two things today as I took photos of the larger pechay leaves at home.

 

FIRST: Hindrances to growth may also be the good things in life.

It is very easy to put the blame on the weeds and difficult moments in life whenever we experience delays in our growth. However, I am learning that even the good and seemingly harmless things may also hinder us from experiencing the best and becoming the best version that we can be. Of course, this still depends on how we respond. In gardening, I realized that fruit-bearing or leafy greens shouldn’t be overcrowded in a pot if we want them to grow and reach their full potential.

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In the same way, personally, I am reminded to be more wise and intentional in the way I manage my time, resources, and activities. For example, I’ve noticed how casually surfing the internet or social media applications take up a lot of hours in a day. Even though these aren’t bad tools, if I am not careful with how I use them, I may end up “overcrowding my soil” and not leaving enough space for more important things that can help me grow.

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Another example is being idle or enjoying too much rest or sleep. Yes, I do believe that rest is important. But, I also know that if I just sleep all day and not plan ahead on the activities that I can productively do in a day, then it would be a waste of time and resources.

What are the activities (both good and bad) that hinder me from reaching my full potential? In what areas do I need to improve on? (e.g. Physical fitness, communication skills, homemaking skills, preparation for exams or work, etc.)

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SECOND: God makes things grow.

This is my favorite part in this blog entry – the part where we talk about God’s grace. There’s something about the grace of God that strikes our hearts, humbles us, and inspires us to press on. In my case of growing pechay leaves, clearly, it was God who caused the growth of the second batch. Originally, I did not want to grow pechay during the months of September to December because I knew that we would be having rainy days in this tropical country. But, God allowed one pechay seed to be left behind and He helped it grow even without me attending to it daily. AMAZING.

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This experience encouraged me to depend on the Lord and not on my own strength and wisdom. He makes things grow. He can allow us to experience growth and reach our full potential in the different areas of our lives. We just have to trust in Him, do our part, and see Him work wonders in and through us. When I saw the lone pechay sprout in the pot, I had the choice to pluck it out. But somehow, even if it was just one seedling growing in the pot, I saw its potential and started to take care of it. I didn’t know that after three months, it would become a beautiful harvest, by God’s grace.

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Maybe there are areas in our lives right now that seem hopeless or seem to have no progress at all, just like the lone seedling in the pot. Maybe it’s a financial struggle or a heartbreak that we can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s seeing little development from all of the hard work we’ve been doing or a blurry vision of our dreams and goals in life. Whatever it is, I hope that you will also be encouraged to surrender it to God, do your part, and trust that in His perfect timing, He will allow it and you to improve and grow.

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

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How to Grow Melons in Containers

As mentioned in my previous post about melons , here are some things that we can take note of when we’re growing melons in containers. :)

1. Grow Seedlings

Start by planting seeds in small plastic cups filled with soil. It’s best to plant one seed in each cup for easier transplanting. Then, sprinkle fertilizer on the soil to help the seedling grow. After two weeks, it will most likely grow 4-5 inches long. By this time, you’ll see heart-shaped leaves (well, sort of) which have a furry texture.

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2. Transfer to a Bigger Pot

When the seedling is about 4 inches long, you may transplant it so its roots can grow deeper in a bigger bed or pot of soil. You may use a large pot that is 15” wide and 15” tall. Any pot or container with a similar or larger dimension is enough. Before carefully transferring the seedling, make sure to sprinkle fertilizer on the soil and mix thoroughly. I usually add 2-3 tablespoons of powdered organic fertilizer to loose soil.

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One important factor to consider when transferring the seedling is being gentle with the roots. Transplanting can be very stressful for any plant, so try to do your best not to damage or cut the roots in the process. Also, once the seedling is placed in its new container, its roots must be covered with soil and mulch (e.g. dried leaves, hay, etc.). This will protect the roots from being exposed too much to the heat of the sun.

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3. Watch Out for Flowers (Male and Female)

This is one unique trait of fruit-bearing vines. They grow male AND female flowers. The latter ones eventually become the fruit, when they are properly pollinated with the male flowers. It’s important to look out for the flowers when the plant is growing because the female flower only opens up for a few hours in its lifetime.

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If you don’t get to transfer pollens from the male flower to the female flower, the fruit won’t grow. The male flowers will first appear and then, after a few days, female flowers will bloom too. The difference between the two is the flower’s stalk. The male flowers have a thin stalk; while the female flowers will have a rounded one, similar to having a small ball below the yellow petals.

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4. Pollinate by Hand

When the fruit-bearing vines are grown in larger areas like farms and fields, pollination is usually done by the bees. But, if we want to grow fruits from vines in smaller containers at home, it would require pollination by hand. How exactly do we pollinate by hand? It’s a simple process, but it can only be done when the female flower opens up. Once you see the petals of the female flower spread out, you can get one to three male flowers and remove its petals.

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Our goal is to transfer the yellow dots (pollens) from the middle of the male flowers to the bud of the female flowers by carefully rubbing it against the latter. After a few hours, you’ll notice that the petals of the female flowers will start to close up and cover the bud. Then, in a few days, it will begin to form the fruit.

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5. Fertilize and Water when needed

You can add fertilizer to the plant every time it goes through the different stages of growth (e.g. when the plant grows it leaves, longer stems, flowers, and fruits). Another option is to add fertilizer every two weeks. On the other hand, when it comes to watering the plant, you can water the plant once a day, depending on the weather in your area. Since it’s hot and humid in the Philippines (where I live), I usually water the plant once or twice a day. However, by the time the fruit matures, it’s best to lessen the water added to the plant’s soil. Overwatering may hinder the fruit from reaching its maximum sweetness.

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6. Harvest

Melons that are ready for harvest will show the ff. signs:

a. The color of the melon will turn from green to orange or yellow orange.

b. The fruit will have a sweet smell especially when you go closer to the stem of the fruit.

c. The stem will easily detach from the fruit when you slightly move the melon.

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If you are into gardening, growing fruits from vines is a fun and challenging experience that I would recommend. There’s nothing like slicing a sweet, homegrown melon in half and seeing the seeds and juices flow on the chopping board. It was such a refreshing and delightful moment! If you would like to give it a try, I would encourage you to plant the seeds in January or February, so you can harvest it by March or April. Fruit-bearing vines don’t grow well during the rainy season. Hopefully, I can try to grow more early next year.

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How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes at Home

A few weeks ago, I started to grow a new batch of cherry tomato plants and I ended up planting a lot of seeds. I didn’t expect all of them to grow, but by God’s grace, they did! So, for quite some time now, I’ve had more than 15+ seedlings happily growing in their own cups at home. However, because we didn’t have space for these 15 cherry tomato plants anymore, I decided to give the seedlings away. I posted a photo of them on my Facebook page with a caption: “Giving away 10-15 cherry tomato seedlings. Let me know if you want one!” Surprisingly, a lot of friends left comments on the photo and accepted the challenge of growing their own cherry tomatoes at home. YOU ARE AMAZING. Thank you!!!

cherry tomato seedlings
cherry tomato seedlings

To my new gardener friends, I hope and pray that you will enjoy your gardening adventure with your new seedlings as you see them grow and bear fruit in the coming months. To show my support, I listed down some of the helpful tips I’ve learned over the past years in growing cherry tomatoes at home. Enjoy! :)

HOW TO GROW CHERRY TOMATOES AT HOME

Materials you’ll need:

  • Tomato seeds
  • A Hard Plastic Pot with holes at the bottom — at least 12”x12” in height and diameter.
  • 1 bag of loose potting soil — enough to fill the pot.
  • Fertilizer for tomatoes/vegetables
  • Long bamboo sticks or similar ones (about at least a meter tall) that can help hold the plant upright.
  • Plastic straw – for tying/securing the plant on the sticks
  • Mulch or dried leaves/straw/twigs
cherry tomatoes
cherry tomatoes

 

GROWING SEEDLINGS

Add loose potting soil to a cup (4/5 full) and lightly bury a seed or two in the soil. You can plant two seeds in one cup just in case one of them doesn’t germinate or grow. However, if both seeds successfully grow in one cup, make sure to carefully separate the two seedlings (without damaging the stem or roots) while they’re still small or about an inch tall. When the seedlings grow a few more inches (2-3”), you may now move them to a bigger container with holes at the bottom and with a good drainage system. By doing so, they will develop more roots and help the plant become more sturdy. I usually fill half of the pot/container with soil and then sprinkle some of the fertilizer before filling it up with potting soil again. Once its ready, I dig a hole in the middle of the container, remove the seedling growing in the cup of soil, and gently place it inside the hole. I also top the soil with mulch or dried twigs and leaves to help retain the moisture in the soil.

cherry tomato seedling
cherry tomato seedling
cherry tomato seedling
cherry tomato seedling
cherry tomato seedling
cherry tomato seedling

 

WATERING THE TOMATO PLANTS

As the seedlings grow in their new pot, it’s very important to regularly water them. When I was younger, I thought that watering just the leaves of the plants was the best way to provide for their H2O needs. However, after experimenting with different fruit-bearing plants over the past years, I learned that in order to keep the plant happy and healthy, we must focus on watering the soil — where the roots are. Even if we don’t water the leaves, the plant will still grow as long as we regularly water the soil and roots.

cherry tomato seedling
cherry tomato seedling

How often should we water the plants?

Once a day is enough. However, if you live in a tropical country (like me!), the plant will most likely want to be watered twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening.

How do you know when the water is enough or too much for the plant?

When we water plants in containers, a good way to know if we’ve added enough water is if we start to see the water come out of the drainage holes of the pot. When this happens, you may already stop watering since we know that most, if not all, parts of the soil in the pot already received water.

 

PROTECTING THE ROOTS

In the first two parts of this post, I’ve mentioned how important it is to take care of the plant’s roots. Even though we don’t usually see the roots, they play a very important part in helping the plant grow and bear fruit. Not only do they serve as a support for the whole plant, but they also absorb all the water and nutrients found in the soil! So, how can we protect the roots? It’s pretty simple. Keep them covered with soil! We don’t want the roots to be exposed under the scorching hot sun or the extremely cold weather at night. We want them to be wrapped with a blanket of soil ALWAYS. If ever you see the plant’s roots peeking or coming out every now and then, you can lightly throw more potting soil on it, until you can’t see the roots anymore.

cherry tomato plant
cherry tomato plant

 

SUPPORTING THE PLANT

When I first planted tomato seeds at home, I didn’t know anything about growing them. It was only until the plant had reached its “teenage years” that I realized the importance of providing a sturdy support system for it. Supporting the plant may be done by letting it grow inside a store-bought tomato cage or by tying the plant on strong and long sticks secured on the soil.

Since I planted my tomatoes in containers (large pots and beds), I didn’t have enough space to use tomato cages. So, I made use of thick, ordinary sticks and thin bamboo sticks to secure and support the plants. I tied them on the sticks with a plastic straw (the one used in tying huge cardboard boxes). And as the plants grew, I just adjusted and added the plastic straws attached to them. Be extra careful in tying the plants. Make sure not to damage the stems or use straws/strings with sharp edges that may harm and scrape the stems.

cherry tomato plant
cherry tomato plant

Although it might require a bit more effort, staking and supporting the plants early on will be very helpful, especially when the plant develops flowers and fruits.  The cherry tomatoes will eventually weigh the plant down, so it’s important to keep the main stem and branches upright and secure. We wouldn’t want them to snap off and break.

cherry tomato plant
cherry tomato plant

 

FERTILIZING THE PLANTS

Tomato plants love to be fed with nutrients. So, as the plants grow, they need to be surrounded with fertilizer every now and then. I add fertilizer to the potting soil in four different stages:

  1. On the day of planting the tomato seedling
  2. When the plant is about two feet tall
  3. When the plant starts to produce flowers
  4. After it starts growing cherry tomatoes

The best thing about growing your own vegetables and fruits at home is you can control the materials added to the soil. For the past years, I’ve used organic and natural fertilizers in my soil. But, if you prefer to use chemicals, then it can still help the plant grow and bear fruit. For the natural fertilizers, you may use the ff. in your soil: compost, washed and crushed egg shells, banana peels, coffee grounds, washed shrimp shells, raw fish heads, Epsom salt, etc. You may also try organic tomato fertilizer spikes sold in the hardware or gardening stores.

cherry tomato flowers
cherry tomato flowers

Note: When fertilizing tomato plants, it’s important to provide a healthy amount of nitrogen to the plant during its early stages. After the plant grows more vines and branches, you may lessen the nitrogen in-take and add more phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer-soil mixture.

Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes

 

HARVESTING CHERRY TOMATOES

After around 2-3 months of growing your tomato plants, cherry tomato flowers will start to appear. Yay! When this happens, the plant will then concentrate all of its energy to produce the fruits. While waiting for the flowers to turn into cherry tomatoes, you’ll need to prune the plant every now and then to make sure that the energy of the plant is directed to the fruits and not to unnecessary stems and branches. Let me introduce to you, the “suckers” of the tomato plants. These suckers or small branches grow at a 45 degree angle in between two main branches. You’ll need to carefully pluck these off especially when your plant already has flowers because if you don’t, they will suck the energy produced by the plant and less energy will go to the flowers and fruits.

"Sucker" in tomato plants.
“Sucker” in tomato plants.

It usually takes 3-4 months before a cherry tomato plant bears fruit, depending on your location and weather. As soon as you see the yellow flowers, you’ll know that it’ll only take a few more weeks before you can harvest your homegrown, juicy, and sweet tomatoes. The tomatoes can still ripen after you’ve harvested them from the plant, but I like to keep mine in the vine just until they become red (not overripe) so that they can reach its maximum sweetness. To harvest the tomatoes, you can gently twist and turn each fruit until they come off or you may cut the individual stems of the tomatoes.

Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes

So, there you have it! :) I really hope that you can explore growing cherry tomatoes at home! It is definitely a fulfilling and fun thing to do. Gardening at home has helped me so much in learning more about nature, befriending earthworms, appreciating food, developing my character, learning from my mistakes, and being reminded of how amazing God is. It really is a privilege to witness seeds grow and produce fresh fruits and vegetables at home.

Happy gardening, everyone! Feel free to share your tomato gardening experiences with me too.

Encourage yourself one treat at a time. :)

Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes

 “It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” –1 Corinthians 3:7