From Zero to PhD: Suzy Dae Guadaña

Sue draw attention during the lockdown when for 3 straight days, there was this woman who had been posting hand-made earrings in exchange for plastic containers, pots and anything she can get her hands on to put soil and grow food for her family.

For 3 days, Sue spent her time to meet up with countless Barteros (members of the Iloilo Barter Community) who during that time was also growing very rapidly. Her car was full of containers, pots and would eventually overspill in their garage. And from there, as what people said, from zero to PhD, well at least for her, a full PhD in Urban Gardening.

Suzy Dae B. Guadaña, a mother of four started her Journey last December 2019. She and her husband had been starting their interest in urban food growing. The whole household started to be involved except for Sue. Her only contribution was posting it on her social media.

Then came the lock down. It gave her the break shed needed from her busy schedule with business and mommy duties. She finally had the time for a pause. Although at first, it did not work out too well for her. Sue had been diagnosed of depression and severe anxiety last year. Her busy life has help keep these things under the rug but when the lockdown came, it was like the rug was pulled under her feet.

Sue like many others, had always believe that only special people have green thumbs. This belief had led her not try to grow one her entire life, but that is all history now!

During the lockdown, Sue discovered that this was not true. She wanted to keep herself busy to keep depression and the anxiety at bay, so finally she tried joining the rest of the family in food growing. Sue wanted to grow things but she wanted to approach this sustainably. She wanted to reduce, reuse and recycle. At the height of the Iloilo Barter Community, Sue started her project called “Basura Mo, Tamnan Ko!”. Sue would exchange her hand-made earrings for anything she can use for her urban gardening project and pretty soon, it would fill up their whole house.

A t first she was hesitant. People might think it’s a crazy and absurd. They’re living in one of the most expensive subdivision in the City and in truth they’re kind of well off. To Sue’s surprise that after posting her earrings in exchange for pots, it was well received by the community. The initiative was not only well received, the support was overwhelming! Some barteros would even give it for free just to get rid of these containers as it is practically trash for them, but for Sue it was perfect. On the other hand, her husband Karl even said that she might be at a disadvantage with the barter in terms of value. Sue noted that others can be demanding and wanted their money’s worth if it has any worth at all. But Sue didn’t care about the price and valued more the essence of giving.

Instinctive gardener. Sue has a stack of egg trays, plastic and karton as her kids love eggs and she was doing keto before. She used to grow her seedlings in pots but their roots would come together and can be difficult to separate them. She had the idea to use her egg trays instead and poof! Problem solved. Although in the end she realized she was not the first person to discover this, using egg trays for growing seedlings, but for her it was instinctive and one of the many opportunities for her to practice creativity.

Sue started with growing Okra. She’ very good at documenting this whole process and would take pictures from day 1 until her first harvest. For me personally, this was one of my favorite stories from Sue. She wrote a poem when she re-discovered her power to grow and nourish living beings like the Okra. Re-discovered because it is something innate in us. When Sue re-discovered here powers, this was what came to her.

Mahaba ‘to, pero sana ay mabigyan mo ako ng konting panahon.
Hindi ko na maalala kung kelan ito nagsimula. Ang tanging pinanghahawakan ko ay ang aking hangad na masalba ang Inang Kalikasan para sa mga susunod na henerasyon. Napakalaking hangad na inumpisahan ko sa aking sarili. Mula sa pagtapon ng maayos, pagrecycle, pagreuse at pagreduce ng mga basura. Pagpapaalala sa mga kasama sa bahay at kapitbahay na itigil ang pagsiga nga mga basura lalo na ng mga plastik. Pag iwas sa paggamit ng nga plastik at kung anu-anu pang makakatulong sa paghilom ng Inang Kalikasan.

Ngunit may kulang. Ito ang hangad kung magtanim sa aming bakuran. Dati ay inaasa ko lang sa aming kasama sa bahay.

Ilang taong pinaasa ko ang aking sarili na wala akong kakayahang magpatubo ng halaman. Masyado kung minaliit ang aking sarili. Hindi pala sa hindi ko kaya. Hindi ko lang talaga sinubukan ng maaga.

Pero hindi pa huli ang lahat. Subukang magtanim ngayon. Kung di man tutubo ay subukang muli.

Tingnan mo ang aking okra, isang linggo palang ay sumibol na.

Ngayon, ang pagtatanim ay isa ng libangan para sa aming pamilya.

Isipin mo na lang na kung bawat pamilyang Filipino ang matututong magtanim at magpatubo sa kanilang bakuran ng gulay at prutas, walang Filipino na magugutom. Lahat, may makakain, may trabaho man o wala.

Hangad ko ang magbigay ng inspirasyon sa inyong lahat at mapalaganap ang aking adbokasiya.

Patapos na ang ECQ, ugaliing gamitin ang nalalabing araw na magtanim para may maaani sa mga agdating ng tamang panahon.

#FarmernasiTuttieandfamily #savemotherearth #SpreadFaithHopeLove #reusereducerecycle #zerowastelifestyle #simplejoysoflife #makingourselvesuseful during #ECQdiaries #day133of366of366 of #mommyTuttie #taongbahay #stayathome #Manginresponsablengpumuluyo #responsablengcitizen #Covid19_PH #labanPilipinas #positivevibesonly #empoweringpeopletransforminglives #batoiloilo
#kayatani #sustainablefarming #backyardgardening #organicfarming #urbanfarming

The poem that Sue wrote, albeit surprising but not surprised as well can be likened to a kensho in Zen. The poem was patterned to this universal process called the lemniscate and for those who have read Joseph Campbell’s book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” which he calls “The Hero’s Journey”. A journey from self to others and the community. A journey of growing beyond oneself after a difficulty and receiving insights and new learnings and later to share this as an offering for the larger community.

Aside from the many insights her garden has provided, her sleeping patterns had returned to normal. Now, she’s able to sleep properly again when before, the earliest was 12 midnight. During the ECQ, Sue and her husband tried their best to homeschool the kids and give them opportunities for learning even during lockdown. Again, their urban garden provided that venue for not only growing healthy food for their family but as well to have her kids experience nature and real learning. Now her kids can identify the plants that grow the vegetables that they eat. They even get an introduction to the different insects that are part of the ecosystem of a healthy garden.

For Sue, growing and eating the food you grow yourself is a blessing. Not only can you ensure that it is safe for you and your family, it also taste better. It’s sweeter, its crunchy! You can always harvest it at exactly the right time that you need it. It’s just not the same with what you can find in the market.

Sue is also starting to see the importance of saving seeds to ensure the projects sustainability. She is also hoping to encourage her neighbors and the whole subdivision to grow their own food even though the community there is well off. It’s one of the mindsets that Sue wants to change. For her, it doesn’t mean that just because you can afford then there’s little reason for you to grow it. Urban Gardening or food growing is in reality beyond that and for those who are lucky enough like Sue, can become a spiritual experience.

Connecting with the rhythms of nature and the realization that everything is connected is one of the best gift food growing can offer. It goes beyond sustainability. It can even be regenerative. It means that by these small actions we can, in our own way, contribute to the healing of the earth.

The family now plans to potentially develop their properties in Guimaras and hopes one day it can become a full-blown farm. Currently, the experience, the love and energy and intention she has put into food growing became infectious (the only good infectious that was born out during COVID-19) inspiring others to grow their own. Sue is also working with the urban garden community of Iloilo that help and encourage each other in their journey with urban food growing. Sue is also an active member of ESSA Iloilo City cluster who is set for a proposal presentation for the kitchen garden and community garden for communities in the city.

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