San Isidro Labrador Parish in Bagong Silangan, Quezon City recently piloted a community-based urban farming facility aimed at alleviating the worsening incidence of hunger among residents of urban poor communities in the area.

Fr. Gilbert Billena, O.Carm.,the parish priest, said that the initial facility, a tunnel portable greenhouse, has been built built in Sulyap ng Pag-Asa community.  “The seedlings that we produce from the greenhouse will be distributed to our other partner communities, particularly in Tumana and Greenland,” said Fr. Billena.

Currently, the facility is growing eggplants, pechay, kangkong, tomatoes, lettuce, okra, and mustard.

“We are grateful to our lay partners, the lay missionaries and Third Order Carmelites of St. Anastasia Catholic Church in Teaneck, New Jersey, for helping us with the initial funding of the project,” said Fr. Billena adding that he has been planning for this project for a long time and that it was through their donation that the project was finally made into a reality.

“With this project we hope to provide an alternative and sustainable source of food especially during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic crisis that it is causing,” he said.

In order to maximize the little space that they have, they also introduced hydroponics technology using recycled materials like PET bottles.  Fr. Jess Briccio Alesna, O.Carm., who started hydroponics gardening in Bagac, Bataan when he was the parish priest of San Vicente Ferrer Parish, trained volunteers from Sulyap ng Pag-Asa on the basics of the technology. Most of those who attended the training were those who lost their jobs because of the pandemic and the subsequent community quarantine that was imposed.

“We hope that with what they’ve learned here, they would also share with other members of the community so that we would be able to engage more people into urban farming,” Fr. Billena said.  “Initially we are looking at 100 families who will benefit from this phase of the project,” he said. “And we are hoping to expand this to reach more families.”

Fr. Billena hopes in order to expand the project but more funds have to be sourced.  He is confident that more individuals and groups are willing to help when they see the positive impact of the project in the community.

(Photos by Fr. Gilbert Billena, O.Carm.)