Friday, July 24, 2015

The BAHAY Buffet Experience: a day with BAGA and fellow bloggers in MoCa Family Farm (Padre Garcia, Batangas)

Last July 18, 2015, BAGA (Barbecuers' And Grillers' Association) Manila launched its pet project known as BAHAY Buffet. The word bahay is capitalized to mean: Buffet At Home is Always Yummy. This new venture aims to introduce consumers to up-and-coming hole in the wall eateries, small farms, micro-entrepreneurs and other businesses in the food industry. The idea is to bring a group of private individuals to the homes or farms of food establishment owners and connoisseurs to have an intimate food buffet experience. The owners will be able to closely interact with the consumers and be able to promote their products to them. The customers, on the other hand, will be able to treasure a unique dining experience with their hosts and fellow consumers. The concept has already been in the drawing board last year, but it was only on this year that the project has been finally executed. 

To cap off the launch of this ambitious event, BAGA, under the leadership of Ms. Dawn Mawis, invited a select group of food and lifestyle bloggers from different age groups. The goal was simple. We were sent to document the first event held in MoCa farm. The property is owned by the Morris and Castor spouses who have long been into organic farming, small-scale agriculture, and micro-entrepreneurship. The farm made a mark in the exotic food scene by showcasing its rabbit meat made from the New Zealand variety of rabbits. 

Our contingent travelled to Padre Garcia, Batangas a rustic town near the city of Lipa. We met at the Intercon hotel in Makati, then we rode our respective vans. The journey took us 2 hours. The area is known to be a favorable farming locale. Big names in the food industry such as Andok's have chicken breeding grounds there. Even popular politicians and movie actors also have their respective farms in the area.

Upon arrival, we were shown into the farm by Ka Gigi Morris, the wife of veteran horticulturist Bob Morris. She told us the history of MoCa farm. According to her, the farm was originally a mango orchard in barangay known for mass producing mangoes. Upon the arrival of Bob Morris in the Philippines, he saw the potential of the land for more productive uses such as agro-tourism and animal breeding. Hence, the MoCa farm was born.

According to Ka Gigi, the farm uses purely organic methods of crop cultivation. It means that no chemical pesticides such as DDT are used to grow the produce. Apart from that, the volume of their produce is usually for personal consumption and their small agribusiness. This is evident in the fact that there are no heavy farming equipment present in the place. Also, there is no showing that large-scale crop placement methods like crop rotation are practiced. This is not to say, though, that the farm isn't remarkable. What delighted me was the variety of orchids, fruit trees, shrubs, and other plants that were present in the place. Add to the fact that the farm boasts of its unique native pig and rabbit breeding grounds. The most amazing part is that all these productive activities are included in a small 1 hectare area.

The tour wasn't the only thing that surprised me. The other thing was the food. I'm not keen on Filipino food, but after tasting Ka Gigi's specialties, I am strongly reconsidering my position. At about lunch time, Ka Gigi invited us to sample the delectable recipes made from the organic ingredients from the farm. For starters, we had the Suman coupled with Santan Sauce. The rice used in the dish was colored green. It had a good taste which even became better when dipped into the sauce. Another appetizer was the Kalabasa Soup with Malunggay Flakes. The soup actually had olive oil to give it a buttery taste without the bad effects of saturated fat. The malunggay leaves accentuated the buttery taste and provided the soup with more flavor. The final appetizer was the Garden Salad with Alugbati (Spanish Spinach), Pineapple, and Tomatoes. This salad, didn't use the typical lettuce. Instead, a lesser known type of leaf, Alugbati, was used. The leaves were crisp and a bit bitter. The pineapples and tomatoes served to provide sweetness to the bitter taste.

The appetizers themselves were already overwhelming. However, it didn't end there. The meat and fish viands were more generous. Our menu was comprised of Santol with Pork in Coconut Milk, Native Pig Lechon, Pinaputukang Tilapia wrapped in Galangal Leaves, and Three-colored Rice. The santol was ground and cooked to perfection with pork and chili. The fruit, at this point, had the texutre and the taste of animal meat. The taste was accentuated with a generous helping of chili and coconut milk, true to the Bicolano style of cooking. The dish made me unable to distinguish the difference between the pork and the santol. It also reminded me of the occasional Bicol Express cooked by our maid. The difference is that the ingredients were fresh and well-cooked. The Pinaputukang Tilapia, on the other hand, melted in my mouth with every bite. It was juicy and tender. The dining event was not complete without the crowning glory of native lechon. Its succulent flesh made me forget the consequences of high cholesterol. It was organic anyway. It didn't have the debilitating effects of commercial breeding chemicals. (and hence, healthier than Andok's) Apart from the succulent flesh, the meat tasted different from the Manila lechon I was accustomed to. It wasn't too greasy. The fat was also trimmed and the meat wasn't rubbery. Without time to recover from our generous helping, we were immediately served another tempting dish: Dessert!

The Hubad na Turon had a unique twist. It was served like a fusion cuisine dish. The lumpia wrapper served as the placeholder for supremely sweet caramelized bananas. The wrapper was fried to a crisp, while bananas were chilled. Talk about a perfect mixture of hot and cold. The bananas were cut to small servings so as not to overwhelm our taste buds.

All of these dishes were served together with a variety of drinks. We had glass after glass of bignay cider, santol juice, and organically grown Batangas coffee from dried Liberica and Robusta fruits. The bignay cider, commonly used, in making fermented wine, had a slightly bitter taste, but was still satisfactory as a cooler nonetheless. The Santol had the flavor of mixture of fruit juices, and yet maintained a well-bodied taste. It didn't taste like typical powdered juice we had in Manila. The coffee took the show. It showcased the strength of a fresh and popular Batangueno delicacy. Add to that the fact that the beans were not showered with pesticide. The drink was pretty strong; and I'd say it can keep a person awake for an entire day. 

The delightful showcase of food combined with a homey atmosphere truly showed me the success of BAHAY Buffet's wonderful concept. During the entire period of the tour and meal, BAGA and the bloggers had a wonderful time to interact with each other and network. After witnessing the generosity and hospitality of Ka Gigi Morris and Miss Dawn Mawis, I can already say that  the trip also provided me with pleasurable memories and experiences. I'm sure that after this successful launch, BAHAY Buffet will be a powerful tool in promoting agro-entrepreneurship in the country.

The excursion didn't end there. Our group also had the opportunity to visit BAGA's Lakefront establishment in Sucat, Paranaque. I'll feature it in the next post.

Check out BAHAY Buffet events, through their FB page at:

MoCa Family farm has its website. Wisit:

The story in pictures:

The 8 am meet up at Intercon Manila

One group picture before departing

The marker of Lipa City, Batangas

a left turn to the secluded farm

The arch of San Sebastian Cathedral, one of the oldest churches in Batangas

The arch of Padre Garcia, Batangas, the home of MoCa Family Farm

The welcome sign of the MoCa Family Farm

Another welcome sign

Ka Gigi Morris and kids

The start of our tour

a short merienda before continuing the tour

the participants enjoying the greenery

some of MoCa Farm's horticultural projects

Bugnay - the fruit for one of our drinks

a small campsite

the wooden throne

Formosa pineapple

Some pictures of the lush vegetation

A native pig serves as the breeding stock

one of the few rabbits harvested for their meat

The hungry bloggers waiting for lunch 

The venue of our lunch - the dining hall and kitchen complete with fly nets

Liberica coffee beans

pumpkin soup with basil and olive oil

an artsy shot of what to expect for our meal

Axl roasting the lechon for our meal

Ka Gigi and her staff, together with the sumptuous buffet

our garden salad with fresh pineapples, tomato, and Alugbati (Spanish Spinach)

a wonderful presentation of suman with bignay cider

suman with santan sauce

white rice, yellow turmeric rice, and blue rice 

a sample menu posted on the dining room

Bugnay fruit

The bloggers grabbing pics of the meal

Some of MoCa Farm's preserved delicacies for sale

The native pig lechon - note the 

another shot of the lechon roasting

Ka Gigi telling us the dishes and their ingredients

Pinaputukang tilapia in galangal leaves

another shot of the ginataang santol

a short prayer before eating

Ginataang Santol and minced Pork with chili - reminiscent of Bicol Express

bagoong sauce

a close up of the ginataang santol and pork

Hubad na turon - unwrapped lumpia wrapper and caramelized bananas

bignay fruit - looked like blueberries hehe

Santol juice in orange and bignay cider in violet

a mango tree stump. A reminder of the devastation brought by Typhoon Glenda

The bloggers, BAGA, and Ka Gigi

A pleasant reminder of our visit

Photo Credits to:
Axl Guinto  (
Jacqueline Mercado (
Kay Almienda of BAGA Manila

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