If I told you I know about all the plants growing in my own backyard, I’d be lying to you. I can only tell you what I’ve been able to see with my own eyes. There are probably some plants I haven’t seen because they’re hidden behind other plants.
Most houses in the city have tiny backyards, if they even have backyards at all. When I had my house built in 2006, I made sure there was plenty of space for the backyard. I didn’t care much about the space on either side of the house. There’s a long story I won’t repeat, but it took years to level out the backyard. Until we finished that, the backyard could only be used for birthday parties and other special occasions.
At one time we had a mango tree and a santol tree. Both of them had to be removed. Their roots were interfering with our other structures, including a rock wall that separates our lot from a creek. There isn’t a shortage of the fruit they bore nearby, so it wasn’t a real loss.
We have several papaya trees growing as well as lemongrass (“tanglad”), yardlong beans (“sitaw”), and sweet potatoes (“kamote”), which are raised for their leaves instead of their tubers. I’ve seen other fruit and vegetables in the past, including vine spinach (“alukbati”), bitter melons (“ampalaya”) and Japanese eggplants (“talong”).
I keep trying to get some of my relatives to plant some other vegetables I’m familiar with, which they aren’t, but I doubt it will ever happen. Why won’t I do it? Because I’m not planning to be in the country long enough every year to finish anything I can start.
There Is Always Something to Eat
Most Filipinos will say they’re starving if they don’t have rice to eat, but it’s far from the truth. You can literally walk from the end of one street to the other end and find something that can be eaten. Across the street from my house, for example, there are trees and plants that every Filipino can eat from whenever they want, since the lot is mostly abandoned by the owner. There are banana trees (“saging”) and drumstick trees (“malunggay”), among others. One of our neighbors has a cucumber tree (“kamias”).
Everything grows in the Philippines, even when people tell you it doesn’t. I’ve had apples and iceberg lettuce from Baguio City, where it’s cool enough because of the higher elevation. Because it’s always humid, many plants thrive even without rainfall or irrigation. Coffee, peanuts and cashews are grown in the country.
There are animals that no one will eat, like dogs and cats. There are plenty that they will. A lot of the meat in the stores comes from around here. You can find beef, pork, goat meat and the meat of many other animals.
People raise chickens everywhere. There are more roosters than necessary because they’re used for cockfights (“sabong”), but there are plenty of hens that I don’t have to listen to at all hours of the day and night. If you talk to someone on the phone here, you’ll most likely hear one or more roosters crowing in the background.
Vegetarians, especially vegans, will find themselves at home here. There are plenty of protein substitutes in various plants that I haven’t even mentioned.