As I sat with the Babaylan on my last night in the Philippines, she asked if I had been ‘practising’. She meant in the occult. Although this seems like a presumptive and somewhat bizarre question, I had immediately known what she was implying. It is at times hard to see how all our fragmented experiences fit into our lives here as a ‘whole’. Why did that happen? Why am I doing this? You have to trust it… Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t, but trust that it fits in to some grander network.
Meeting the Babaylan was the final chapter to my four week story on the island of Palawan. The majority of this time had been been spent at a field school in the south of the island, studying with Green Warrior Permaculture. It was an intense time studying the theory and practical application of this school of thought, or movement, if you like. One has to be very careful when describing Permaculture, as it is so many things in one, and basically a way of existence above all else. A common misconception around permaculture is that it is mainly a sustainable form of gardening. This is a relevant assumption, as it is very much to do with the soil, planting, growing and reaping – everything you can think of that gardening is. However, it is also much more than this. GWP’s slogan is ‘Care for the Earth, Care for the People’, and in a simple line summarises the intention of permaculture beautifully. It is a practice that honours the land in which we live and thrive upon. Never taking more than we can give back, and ensuring that our yields are evenly shared and consumed. In this sense, it is no revolutionary idea, but a system that works in symbiosis with the ecosystems within which we live in order not to disrupt nature’s flow. A practice that would have been naturally observed by communities before the initiation of mass production and consumerism that characterise our capitalist culture. Taking the PDC alongside students both Filipino and foreign gave us all an insight into how this practice can and should be made relevant and accessible all over the world. It’s a question of tapping into ancestral knowledge and method that still exists but is often outmoded in favour of ‘ease’. In this sense we have become so disconnected from the land.
We were part of the ongoing, live-in project to create a community, which in eight months had already made incredible steps in completing houses, communal cooking and eating areas including pizza ovens and a smokehouse, gardens, composting toilets, showers, and all the amenities necessary for a human to thrive. The importance is community. A community basing itself on the ethics of permaculture will be sustained through a careful observation of nature’s cycles; recognition of your needs as an individual, family and community, and creating a farming system based on this, never using chemicals as a means to accelerate food production.
I guess through all my wondering, experiences and questioning, the thing that has been weighing more and more heavily on my mind is: “What is this all leading to?” Yes, you can dismiss these questions with the ever helpful ‘it’s not where you’re going, it’s the journey that matters’, which is very true, of course. However, when you are not static you have to be watchful that your movements don’t detach you from where you are at any given moment. The momentum and attachments from the last place, or the lure and excitement of the next can cast a shadow over the place and people in which you are currently surrounded. So I had to make a decision; stop moving, or start being more present. We can start to internalise and enjoy the bank of amazing things we always have surrounding us, if only we are open to them. But more than that, once you have become open to it, it’s about how you interact in order to give back. What was I giving within all this movement? Yes, I am a teacher. I am a cook. I am so many things that I have picked up along the path. But what do I give in order to make the place in which I AM better? I was shown so much kindness during my last travel in Aus. People offered me their rooms, tents and air beds, cars, as well as food, music, friendship and love, so that wherever I was I seriously didn’t want for anything. It was the catalyst that made my wondering soul now yearn to be still and create in order to give. And my time with Steve and GWP gave me a blueprint in order to understand how this can be framed and actioned.
I hear you say, “How is this all relevant to conscious catering?!” Well, my experience with the Babalyan on my final night in Palawan confirmed that my path was back to England, to tap in to my ancestral knowledge, to continue tying together the multi-coloured chords on the journey to rediscover and deepen consciousness around our land, herbs, plants and the way we consume. This blog, and Luna Limón, is integral to that journey, so I hope you’ll join me and share it, because we’ll be getting conscious and cooky from here on out, ya’hear.