I had the rare chance of finally heeding an invitation to join a club activity of Figaro Foundation's Coffee Harvest/Farm Tour in February 21, 2009 (a Saturday) as member of the Figaro Coffee Club.
It was a day-full of activities I confirmed attendance to at the last minute via the Foundation's efficient staff through SMS. Luckily, the planned tour was able to accommodate my associate, Isabel, and I. I must mention that the Foundation staff were graceful enough to accede to a full vegetarian lunch for my friend when I was confirming attendance, and then to update us of the group's location when we couldn't make it to the scheduled morning departure due to glitches.
We caught up with the group at Gourmet's Refreshers in Silang, Cavite from where Joyce Montalban of the Figaro Coffee Club fetched us at the entrance of Refreshers' al fresco section by the highway for [Figaro Foundation Program Officer and Head Organizer] Joed Alcid's and Gourmet's Lennard P. Reyes' Coffee 101 talk amid sacks upon jute sacks of coffee beans.
The Figaro Foundation actively participates in the propagation and planting of Philippine coffee varieties to meet local demand and consumption of 65,000 metric tons. Currently, only 30,000 metric tons are being produced. The rest are being imported at an estimated Php 3.15Bn. Figaro Foundation joins the other local coffee companies of making the Philippines a self-sufficient coffee-growing nation by 2015.
From there, we moved on to the farm's coffee processing facilities. We couldn't be accommodated inside, however, so the introduction and talk was conducted outside the facilities.
An introduction to how Gourmet's processes coffee
Dennis and club members peep through the coffee processing facilities
A refreshing gourmet lunch
Refreshers was full of hungry Club members by lunch time
Sponsor and host Refreshers Gourmet served the group their signature drink on that hot and sunny Saturday noon: a glass each of delightful chilled lemonade with pesto, basil and herbs mix. It was during this relaxing lunch break that a pleasant chat with former Collegian staff and Tropa apprentice Dennis Sabangan, in a surprise reunion earlier at the Coffee 101 session, was resumed. We each caught up with goings-on and such at a shared table after more than 15 years since we last saw each other in UP. Dennis is now with the European Pressphoto Agency (EPA) as chief photographer.
Two generations of Ka-Tropas meet for the first time in Tagaytay
The tour resumed after lunch with a trek to Gourmet's organic farm facilities after we were divided in two groups. Orientation to the farm areas included a request by the facilitators to refrain from throwing small trash and smoking.
Gourmet's Refreshers maintains the organic farm facilities that grow all their salad and vegetable ingredients. Gourmet's employs locals from the area as farmers, farm hands and maintenance persons that make sure the 2-hectare property is clean and manageable. It also has a fresh section at the restaurant where all its organic produce as well as Philippine coffee products and coffee-making merchandise are sold.
A Club advocacy: Support for organic farming
Figaro Coffee supports like-minded corporations that advocate organic farming which, as mentioned, help employ locals in the area and promote good farming practices that are beneficial to both the public and to the environment.
We were introduced to Gourmet's collection of greens and fruit-bearing plants and trees, the produce of which are all available and for sale at the restaurant. The stocks are always replenished in the afternoon.
In between the farm tour was a side trip to convention and retreat facilities where there stands a modern geometric chapel, gardens around a pond and an enclosed meeting and convention area and some lodging.
Side trip to the convention facilities
After the farm tour, the group was herded back to Refreshers for afternoon snacks with more refreshing chilled dayap and herbs and three varieties of signature cookies with rosemary, basil and more herbs.
This gave the Club members and guests some time to appreciate the goods at the restaurant shop and pick a few finds to bring back with them to Manila.
After the snacks came the distribution of certificates of attendance and a bag of lettuce each from Gourmet's Refreshers.
Before the tour was over, I had the chance to view some photos taken during the morning activities that I missed: the coffee harvest and harvest game at Junsy Lim's coffee farm a few kilometers off in Tagaytay.
The Figaro Coffee Club successfully pooled together about 30 members and guests for the tour that day. Together with representatives from the Foundation and the tour sponsors, the coaster was as full as when we all gathered at Refreshers for breaks. Not only did we end the tour rested and satisfied, we were gratified to have been a part of positive action from companies that accomplish to be of service to others as well. Kudos.
More photos by me here.
Morning activity photos by Dennis Sabangan of EPA can be found here: , , , ,  >>Please note that the EPA photos are copyrighted<<
UPDATE: 09 March 2009
UPDATE: 09 March 2009
The official photos of the event is finally up. Check out the morning activities and the fun coffee harvest pictures at the Figaro Coffee Club's Multiply page here.
LIST OF ATTENDEES
Figaro Coffee Company - Marketing Dept.Johanna Clavecilla - Marketing Services Manager / Head Organizer / Master of CeremonyJoyce Montalban - FCC Coordinator / Assistant OrganizerMarvee Queg - Marketing Assistant / MarshalJeandell Tantiado - FCC Encoder / MarshalJoed G. Alcid - Program Officer / Head Organizer / SpeakerEmil Cuaresma - Program Assistant / Assistant OrganizerJulie Ann Gepielago - Foundation Consultant / MarshalParticipants & FCC MembersBeng Sikat • Annie Valdes • Peewee Guerrero • Diana Guerrero • Lea Lumbao • Myr Lim • Legaeda Zhel Lega • Mike Gozum • Justin Liu • Kelvin Gaisano • Kriskarla Yturzaeta • Claire Co and Rita Co • Joel, Amy and Isaiah Fernandez • Niko Arevalo • Ria Galit • Arno Vasquez Jr. • Philbert Cabalteja • Rachelle Orindain • Isabel Templo • Vanessa Villafuerte • Silvia Joh Sabio • Mae Caparas • Bezie Martinez • Anna Tan • Joanne OnioSpecial thanks to:Ollivence Gonzales - Event Photographer / MarshalNancy Troyo - Marshal (Purchasing Officer, Figaro Coffee)Lennard Reyes, Jojo Manzano - Gourmet's RefreshersSponsored byCorporate Gifts • Earle's Delicatessen • Edward Keller (Philippines), Inc. • Gourmet's Farm • Insular Life DirectEvent Sponsor RepresentativeJhezl Nas, Insular Life DirectMediaDennis Sabangan | Judith Balea | Neil Lim