November 16, 2016
BACOLOD, Philippines – It all started during the Asia-Pacific Forestry Week (APFW) last February 2016 at Clark Pampanga, Philippines. Our host Ramon “Chinchin” Uy Jr. attended a few sessions in his capacity as one of the NTFP-EP Philippines Board of Trustees, and owner of Fresh Start Organics. Among others, he met Ms. Nuning Barwa, currently a freelance consultant from Indonesia who was previously President of the ASEAN Cosmetics Association, in addition to handling the CSR activities of Martha Tilaar Group. She had been invited as a speaker to talk about Lansium domesticum, otherwise known as langsat or lanzones, a fruit common in Southeast Asia and used in Martha Tilaar cosmetics. He invited her to visit Bacolod, a progressive city in the Visayas region of the Philippines to check on their organic initiatives.
The visit finally happened in October, with the writer tagging along as a companion. Upon arrival in Bacolod, we were met by Francine Uy, owner of Fresh Start Organics and wife of Ramon Uy Jr. We were immediately brought to May’s Organic Garden where we would stay for the duration of our trip. May’s Organic Garden is an experience in itself. Over 4 hectares in size, the property includes an organic farm that grows various plants and livestock, a man-made lake, a restaurant and events place, as well as the foundry and machine shop. We rode the golf cart to take a quick tour of the place and visited the manufacturing facility for Fresh Start, where the scent of distilled lemongrass permeated.
We visited the Fresh Start Organics store located at Robinson’s Place Bacolod where they sell organic food and products. We were too full to eat anything solid, but a cool smoothie to counteract the afternoon heat was just what we needed. Even then, we had difficulty choosing from the selections. I personally wanted to try everything!
The following day was a session with Cynthia the chemist, who was in the process of exploring new product lines for Fresh Start. In the afternoon, we went to Mamabel’s Home Garden located in Purok Inday Oya, Barangay Vista Alegre. It was a delight to visit the garden with a profusion of herbs and plants. It was also good surprise to see the tea tree plant being grown locally. In addition to growing fruit trees, plants and herbs, Mamabel’s also distills and sells tea tree oil, other essential oils, prepares gotu kola balm for wounds and bites, and others.
The 3rd day was a whole day session on marketing segmentation for the future that was conducted by Ibu Nuning for key people of Fresh Start Organics. We capped the day by visiting The Ruins, a mansion built in the middle of a sugar plantation early in the 20th century, which was torched by the American army to prevent the Japanese from using the place as their headquarters. This took 3 days to burn, and yet the structure remains intact.
The Bacolod trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Fresh Start Organic farm in Silay, just before going to the airport for our flight back to Manila. Notice the rows of organic lettuce, the herb garden, a peek into the greenhouse and plant processing area which is a single story structure made from mud.
 Fresh Start Organics is a privately owned company that is committed to providing organic food and improving the lives of small farmers, while developing a sustainable agricultural food system and preserving the environment.
 Nuning Barwa is a Board of Trustee of NTFP-EP Indonesia and of NTFP-EP Asia.