Interview with Ligaya Bugayong from Luzon, Philippines. Ligaya was a participant in a 10-Week Residential Course at An Tairseach* – the Dominican Sisters’ Farm and Ecology Centre, Wicklow, Wicklow, Ireland.
WebEd: Great that your have this space in your calendar, Ligaya, to share with us about your time at the Ecology Centre. Since An Tairseach is the Irish word for threshold and suggests a new beginning …you must have lots of plans as you return to the Philippines. But first, where did it all begin for you?
Ligaya: For some time I have been doing missionary work with your Sister Cris de Leon, in relation to ecology and farming in the Philippines. When Cris informed me about the Course at An Tairseach, I accepted the opportunity to participate in it. Cris had done it and when describing it to me I saw it as very important. Having taken it I see it as a very important course for us to be re-connected with Mother Earth, to awaken our consciousness and our awareness about the interconnectedness of everything.
WebEd: Yes, Cris took the course to update her own vision, perspective and skills in the promotion of Care of the Earth. So tell me, where did you work with her?
Ligaya: I was teaching in St Columban’s College, Lingayen, but during weekends when I was free, Cris invited me to join her in giving seminars in certain parishes in Lingayen-Dagupin and other communities, even as far south as Manila and Zambales. Wherever Sister Cris had been invited to conduct seminars on this particular topic I’d go with her. her.
WebEd: When you say communities you mean…say, local villages, and parishes…
Ligaya: Yes, to the parish workers, the farmers – different groupings who had been trying to effect care of the earth each in their own place and wanted to know more to advance their work, see other possibilities.
WebEd: What had Cris communicated to you about such a ministry for you say ‘Oh that’s what I’d like to do!”
Ligaya: Very much by example. She kept in touch with me and shared on the topic that she wanted me to cover. Usually I do more on the science part and about Cosmology. Cris dealt more with the Spirituality side since she had taken the An Tairseach Course. So we covered both the Cosmology side and the Spiritual side.
Ligaya: Well, I use the globe and speak about the stars, how the stars were formed, it is the story of creation. About the galaxy, that most of the elements in our body have originated from the stars… we are stars by nature…
WebEd:…and we have to shine…!
Ligaya: Yes…most of the elements have originated principally from hydrogen and aluminium and then later on more and more elements were formed. From there, the earth, the super nova, then the planets emerged and finally the emergence of Homo sapiens.
WebEd: In relation to the Ecology Course and the development of the program, what aspects of Spirituality are covered?
Ligaya: Everything. Everything is created by God so we must take good care of everything He has given to us.
WebEd: And so we speak of Care of the Earth…
Ligaya: Yes, and care for the earth…the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the land, and the air…everything. Yes, what we call God’s Creation. And so we should know the function and the preciousness of the earth in order not to encounter crisis made by humankind in the future.
WebEd: When you say crisis, say, crisis in food supply?
Ligaya: Yes, for food and everything for the next and subsequent generations. We have to protect and guard the inheritance of the earth…the diversity, the different species for, as of now, there are so many indigenous species of plants, insects etc. that are being lost. There is so much devastation of the earth we must be all healers or lovers of earth…because it is really wounded. We have a wounded earth, a wounded world. It is time now to be healers.
WebEd: Let me go back a bit to the work you were doing in the Philippines. Let’s say you go to a village, what would be the type of program you would do there ?
Ligaya: Conduct seminars for them to receive the latest information. It is so important to share, pass on the insights we have gathered. We need to help people understand the real situation.
WebEd: On a practical level how are they encouraged to use the information, to be lovers and healers of the earth?
Ligaya: Firstly, they must shift from inorganic farming to organic; everything that has been taken from the earth must be returned, returned to the earth. This is the first part of the process in helping the healing of the earth. Secondly, they must stop using pesticides, herbicides etc. which they use some to kill some insects…but the reality is they need the insects! For example, they need pollinators for without pollinators there can be no plants! And we will lose our food! Loss of the butterflies and bees means no insects to pollinate. So that highlights the importance of preserving the pollinators. And then there is the matter of the soil. If people continue using chemical fertilizers and pesticides they will kill the microscopic organ-isms that are friendly to nature and are very useful in the soil. So people need to be aware of what cannot be seen with the naked eye!
WebEd: So this is where the Science aspect comes in.
Ligaya: Yes, so if we kill these friendly organisms, we have lost the ability to convert other elements in the soil for the plants. For instance, the Nitrogen 16 bacteria: this is a useful bacteria that will convert Nitrogen into Nitrate and these Nitrates make the soil fertile. And then there are the benefiting bacteria that convert the nitrate back to nitrogen. This the natural oxygen cycle… Then there is also a group of organisms, the nitrifying bacteria that will enhance the conversion of certain elements into the simplest form of elements to be used by the plants. You see, nitrogen is a basic element for the plants to produce protein. And protein is a basic element for every living organism whether it is a plant, animal or human. No organisms can survive without protein. The value of this cycle must be understood by the people.
Ligaya: For me, the program in Wicklow has been a reinforcement of what I know and my knowledge has become more advanced through all the information I received from very competent presenters over the three months. And they were so very generous in giving their time, effort and expertise for they are all international speakers and authors.
WebEd: As a participant with a lot of experience behind you, what would have been able to enlighten the other participants about? For example, you would have said “In the Philippines we did such and such a thing…”… “or, this is what we had found…” found”
Ligaya: Yes, this happened during our Wisdom Sessions when each one shared, and I would do more on the science part than on the religious part. A particular topic was the logging which has brought with it bad tensions and the destruction of the environment. Everyone realized the importance of trees, all of us, because some of the members also had the experience of logging in their place. Pollution and the loss of indigenous species were other topics addressed; especially the participant from Nigeria, we shared common problems.
Ligaya: Yes, from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Zambia, Uganda, India… There were similar challenges across the African and Asian countries for us belonged to Third World countries. Those from Canada and Australia, as First World countries, had other challenges.
WebEd: Going back again – pre-course, what practical things did you do with the village communities?
Ligaya: Gardening was one specific thing. The people should learn also how to survive! For example, backyard gardening, it is very useful. They can get food from there. First you can have the plot and then also a fish pond about 2mt by 2mt. and release fish there; then you put algae. You can have your food right there! Fresh fish from your pond! And fresh vegetables right from your garden. That is good. And people can be made aware about these possibilities.
WebEd: What steps do you have the people take?
Ligaya: You need only three basics for plants to grow – soil, water and sunlight, the three. These are all available. Sunlight is free. You can do this in very practical ways. No need to have a big area to plant.
Ed: How do you renew the soil when you keep planting in the same patch?
Ligaya: You have to make organic soil, humus soil, direct from the combustion. You create the compost… For example, the Ecology Centre has five containers: the hardest material in one, different materials for different sections of compost, including materials that take a long time to decompose. The leaves and garden waste, tissue paper, fruit peelings can go together. Air has to circulate under the bottom of the container for the organisms to grow for these are the decomposers. They are the ones responsible for breaking down the leaves and other materials; they are the aerobic microorganisms that need oxygen also. Their work is to decompose. And from their work on humus soil is formed and it is black, it is rich soil
WebEd: In terms of the spirituality one can say ‘nothing is wasted’!
Ligaya: That is right, even the dung of animals, manure from the Ecology farm is used. Then at the back of the centre there is an organic garden. The workers prepare all this. Anything that will decompose, anything degradable is mixed into the soil so all the vegetables grown there are organic. Nothing artificial is used.
WebEd: Now that this very enriching course is over and your bags are packed for return to the Philippines, what are your plans?
Ligaya: I want to help the people, especially the poor; I will concentrate on the backyard, more on vegetables. They must use the backyard so that they can have food, even organic chicken and eggs…I would start from my own home in Pangasinan and the people will observe, I have to model it so that they will follow. So these are the things I learned in Ireland, in Wicklow. We have to understand our planet and listen to what the earth is telling us. The calamities, like Typhoon Haiyan, that we are experiencing are a part of it. So one simple message is ‘Stop burning the leaves…”
WebEd: Just simple things…
Ligaya: Yes, just simple things, the doable…
WebEd: Thank you again, Ligaya, and as you go forth to share the new knowledge and the insights, especially among the poor, may you be very blessed in this ministry of protecting, preserving and glorying in God’s creation. End.
Log on to * http://www.ecocentrewicklow.ie/ and explore further the riches of the Ecology Centre An Tairseach, is the Irish word for threshold and it suggests a new beginning, an alternative and more sustainable way of working with the land as well as a renewed relationship with the whole community of life, human and non-human.