He was one of the seven farm volunteers from several countries that I was privileged to meet during the three days I was at the farm for some business. We have this tendency to form an impression of people we are meeting for the first time simply by relying on the message our eyes tell us. My years of working with people in the grassroots have taught me how often wrong such impression based on visual image usually is especially when the subject is people. If you want a grounded impression, you have to talk to people. Listen to what they say and how they are saying it if you want to have a good idea of who they are as persons. Kasper is a case in point.
The first time I saw him he struck me as not one who has this “hey! pay attention to me” personality. I remember this book on my friend’s study table that seemed to be there for some time like it was never touched nor moved. Then one time, my curiosity got the better of me. I got the book, not with the intention of reading. I simply wanted to find out what it is all about. I ended up borrowing the book. I have reread it again and again. The book is still with me and I do not intend to return it.
That book resembles Kasper. He might give the impression he is boring but far from it. Talking animates him. He is one intelligent guy and he has a wide range of interest. Our conversations covered a wide range of subjects and I was just amazed at how much he knows of the subjects being discussed. Then that bubbling personality not noticed by my first impression emerged as we talk. I was telling myself, “I wish I could get this guy to come work with me”.
Ladies and gentlemen! Learn more about Kasper, our Danish volunteer. Read about his farm experience and how this experience has influenced his life in the article below. I heard Casper has decided to get himself busy with permaculture. This could mean we would be hearing more of him in the future.
The Extraordinary Stay
I arrived at the Layog Farm three weeks after I left my family in Denmark. I spent those three weeks vacationing in Cebu, Mactan and Bohol, places in the Philippines that tourists usually visit.
That tourist in me seemed lost on my first step in the farm. I felt like I was coming from a bit more of an impersonal realm. As I stepped up towards Lina’s cottage I noticed something extraordinary, a subtlety of calmness I rarely stumble upon, and then I knew, of the sacred area I had just entered.
I was greeted in a fantastic manner, with a lovely slow pace and grace, a cup of fresh lemongrass tea, and a growing number of smiling, inviting people. Alongside me sat Dumpling, John, Eva and Summer. A Chinese family I stumbled upon along the way to Kayan, and it didn’t take us long to realise we were actually going to the same place – an interesting play of coincidences if you’re into that kind of interpretation.
This warmth of social communion was one of the great marks of my stay at Layog Country Farm, a proper welcoming and quick internalization of newcomers was the norm, and quite frankly it happened so intuitively that no-one even had to talk about it.
Over the weeks, I stayed people came and went. Every single person was leaving his mark on the farm. Some did it in a very concrete, conscious and practical manner while others left more of a subtle incomprehensible change. I quickly realised that one thing I would be confronted with continuously was the idea of letting go. You have to learn to accept the dynamics of the imminent surroundings and yet engage and become close with whoever is around you. Every single person has a wide array of truly astonishing things to teach. But teaching can only happen if you dare yourself to get close enough to receive and exchange, mindful of the limited time you could make this possible. I found that actually just being around and not delving too far into abstraction and self-talks made letting go fairly easy despite the truth that some of my relations developed in the farm was undoubtedly intimate.
As mentioned, everyone left their mark, especially the locals and my dear co-workers. A patient and caring spirit enveloped all of them, a spirit I came to love and admire. I know the workers in the farm will always be treasured in my stories. They gave me a glance into their ways in ways so sincere. They invited me into their lives,an invitation I gladly accepted. This made me understand more and more of their innate calmness. One thing I could hardly describe in words, as it will always come short of the richness it inhabits.
To understand that experience, I recommend a stay at Layog Country Farm. My stay for around two months(time is elusive at the farm, I’m short of specifics) has been incredible. It was an experience of joy, adventure, depth, communion and patient learning. I could describe the actual work we do as volunteers on the farm, which can be very teaching on its own through the actual experience. But I find that delving into such a specific categorization of my experiences at the farm seems to rip apart the whole gift the farm is able to provide. You help move rocks, weed out plantations, plant banana palms, assist building housing, digging swales, etc. but the farm does much more than that. Confining it to the area of work would be to miss the whole point.
I find the stay at the farm as a true gift bestowed upon me. It was an experience that I would never have had the ability to think out or imagine in any way. It has opened my heart and therefore I am in deep gratitude.
Go to the farm with just a tad of curiosity. Spend some weeks, preferably months in my opinion if you like that approach, and you will forever be changed. This is truly a sacred site, go and witness the extraordinary nature of the ordinary.
I grant my best wishes to all of the people who came to share at the farm, and especially every local affiliated with the farm, names are not necessary, as you already know who you are – thank you.
You can also read a related article where Kasper was with the video documenting sustainable farming at Layog Country Farm:
thank you for sharing your wonderful personal experiences at the farm . I am so glad to know that there is a positive personal effect to all volunteers. Growing up at the farm I always experience peace at the farm and I am glad volunteers also feel that peace.
Thank you Jenny for letting others know about the good memories you have of the farm. I will ask Kasper to give his personal comment about your feedback.
I bet it has influenced you greatly, which kind of induces a thought in me:” But where does it come from?”, when something as indefinable as what seeps out at the farm, leaves a mark on the people who stay there.
Maybe it’s a serene sense of belonging, in terms of a widened sense of self that not only envelop your own flesh, but also the trees, the people, the mountain and everything in between. I especially noted the ways both locals interacted with me, and seemingly with each other, being very laid-back, in a way of if I was walking with a Filipino, and we would catch up to some other waking Filipino along the way, they’d start chatting. That kind of belonging, where you include the world around you, interact with it directly, rather that exclude and act from a place of a separate self, minding his or her own business.
The experience of interacting with the soil, with the wonderful locals and everyone I came across there, seemed to grant that kind of tightness, a belonging that I truly admire.
I remember the feeling when I flew from Denmark to the Philippines in the first place, my stomach ached and I was feeling agony for leaving my home, my intimate land – yet curiously enough, that sensation came back as I left Manila, heading back home.
The farm has a few tricks up its sleeve, that’s for sure!
It is very inspiring to read about your experience at the farm as a volunteer. I wonder how you come across the farm? What motivated you to choose an isolated place to volunteer. It looks like you have adjusted with your new environment at once but what about the food did you get used to eat a food totally different from what you were used too. It would be interesting if you share your experience here too.
Well I suppose it’s over two years ago now, maybe three, when I suddenly became really interested in plants, and not just plants in particular, but rather how they interacted with each other in order to create a healthy whole. That led me to permaculture, and combined with an urge to travel I decided to find a farm somewhere, and spent some time delving in the matters at hand. I was invited to go to the Philippines by my father, and gladly accepted the three-week proposal – yet… I figured, when I’m there, I might as well spend some time until spring re-emerges and I can take care of my own garden.
Therefore I found WWOOF, and through that channel, Layog Country Farm appeared.
When it came to the adaptation, I found it being quite an easy task, the main thanks should be given to curiosity. By that I mean that I actually really wanted to be there, and even though I was more focused on permacultural-systems, I was nontheless interested in how they went about their affairs, even though I might have taken a different approach in some regards. But the atmosphere of the place is mind-bogling to say the least, and I was shown things that I would have never noticed if I was just looking for what I expected.
In terms of food, it was incredible! The fresh greens, and the master chef Sigundo(not sure if spelled correctly) made extraordinary dishes in what I suppose was a local way, not really any spices except for black pepper when Adobo made its mark, and throughout the whole stay, we surely ate like kings, perhaps sometimes even more than we should. The tastiness of what was offered gave us incentive to truly feast!
It was very different from what I was used to, I’ve never eaten as much rice in my life, and I’ve developed a love for rice never before experienced. In the second-half of my stay, we mainly ate vegeterian as well, a thing I haven’t really done before. And it’s delightful under the tender care of a good chef!
Thank you Kasper, for sharing your story as a volunteer in our farm. I hope this will serve as an inspiration for other volunteers to share also their experiences to travel with a purpose. This is one way of you to help us promote sustainable tourism. The farm being certified as an agrotourism farm and as a member of the International Ecotourism Society who is for promoting responsible travel to natural areas.
We opened a category at our blog site “what our volunteers say” to invite other volunteers to contribute their stories.
Leave a comment