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Celebrity Farmers in Bloom

Farming has a certain lure to artists. It offers them a chance to go back to nature, to keep in touch with their natural, uninhibited self, to reduce the clutter of celebrity and life itself band lead a path to simplicity. To go, grow and glow, like the seeds that they plant and nurture to fruition.

Superstars like Christopher de Leon. Aga Muhlach, and Cesar Montano have answered the call of nature in the literal sense by launching, and tending their own farms. And so have many others whose farms are now spread across plains, hills, and valleys that dot Luzon mostly.

Years ago, De Leon invested on a big beachfront property in pristine, mountainous Lobo, Batangas. He has planted fruit trees there, and raises hogs on the side.

Montano has two farms. One is a mango orchard in Zambales. Another is in Pandi, Bulacan. Both farms have resthouses, where the actor and his family often spend weekends. The actor who played Jose Rizal in a landmark film has yet another resthouse and farm in his hometown, Baclayon, Bohol.

The cool uphill community of Mataas na Kahoy, Batangas (right next to Lipa City; the small town used to be a Lipa barangay) is the weekend home of celebrity couple, Aga Muhlach and Charlene Gonzales. The actor has a 5-hectare property there which he has planted to fruit trees and other vegetation. Aga has started building a holiday resort in the property, which already boasts a chapel and a pavilion ideal for events like weddings and other celebrations.

Asked why he has taken to farming, Aga said, “I want to raise my two children in a natural environment. They can walk barefoot here, touch the ground, and watch the plants and animals grow.”

The lure of farming hasn’t escaped other celebrities in the entertainment industry. Other actors, directors, writers, TV personalities have bought into farm lots in nearby provinces, many of them in Batangas, Laguna, Quezon. These provinces corner the celebrity farming market because of their proximity to Metro Manila.

“The notion here is clear,” says TV host Boy Abunda. “People go into farming to de-stress themselves from a hectic life in the city. You then choose a property that’s accessible, a place that you can visit every weekend, or at any time of night and day that you wish,” he explains.

Abunda finds joy and comfort in his farm in the outskirts of Lipa, approaching the city’s lbaan boundary. He adores Lipa’s cool climate and the lush greenery that surrounds his farm house in the middle of a sizeable lot. Going to Lipa on Mondays to spend an evening is the closest Abunda can get to reliving his youth in the fields of Borongan, Samar, his hometown.

The movie queen Susan Roces is another famous celebrity farmer. Susan’s farm cum poultry, which she visits regularly, is in Banay-Banay, San Jose, Batangas. After a weekend trip, Susan would gift her friends with eggs, fruits and vegetables that she has harvested herself from the farm.

Rosanna Roces and Marvin Agustin have their farms in Antipolo and Baguio, respectively. Osang had a bahaykubo built on the property, where she used to spend weekends planting vegetables.

By the way, whatever happened to Marvin’s plan to transform his farm into a strawberry field? Not forever?

Other celebrity farmers include: TV director Louie Ignacio, who spends days off at his estate with a life-size image of the Blessed Mother fronting the river in Pagsanjan, Laguna; Eagle Riggs, who tends his own farm in the neighboring Laguna town of Magdalena; Isabel Rivas, who runs an efficient farm estate planted to mangoes in her home province, Zambales; entertainment writer Aster Amoyo, a transplant from Samar to Tanauan, Batangas; and comedian Pokwang in her hometown, Antipolo. Sunshine Dizon has also just recently built a bahay-kubo on a farm in Antipolo where she retreats, amidst greenery, for a bit of cleansing. The young actress has been sickly lately; her doctor has prescribed rest and recreation activities for her in a place away from the city. So, the farm comes to mind.

Among these weekend farmers, Isabel Rivas has probably the most productive farm, which she calls Paradise Farm. With a lot area of 10 hectares, Isabel’s farm has more or less 500 mango trees, a flock of St. Croix sheep from Australia, a herd of cows, and a beautiful country house sitting on top of a hill.

Next to Isabel’s farm, separated only by an all-bamboo fence is the 20-hectare mango farm of Cesar Montano. Isabel’s brother, actor and former congressman Dennis Roldan, has his own share of 10 hectares nearby. Christopher de Leon is another neighbor in this out-of-way but star-studded barrio.

Why do they farm? Isabel Rivas says it best as she recalls those eight years she spent trying to clear up her farm with weeds, grasses, and tall talahib. Farming, she says, is never easy. It takes time, but it also allows you time for yourself.

When she was done with the clearing, and the plants started growing, yielding fruits, flowers, vegetables, she found peace, contentment. “I didn’t know it, but I found the answer to what I had been looking for in years. I have found my retirement home. This is what I love,” she exclaims.