Anyone who knows me well understands that I sometimes struggle with situational anxiety. The trip to the Philippines was no exception; it provided several situations to test my nerves. From turbulence to strong tides to something as silly as fear of missing a bus, I was – to say the least – edgy a few times during the trip. Each time my pulse went up, I (or the ladies, who had to deal first-hand with my anxiety) found a way to bring me down.
I’ve discovered ways to introduce immediate calm into my system. Cooking while listening to NPR, playing with my friends’ children and surrounding myself in agricultural settings are three of them. And so, as a birthday treat, we went to the strawberry fields in La Trinidad, a city just north of Baguio City. Though we only spent an hour or so there, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire trip.
I have to admit that compared to something as exotic as ube, strawberries seemed unexciting. But after seeing fields of produce from afar on the bus ride to Baguio, I longed to experience them up close.
The strawberry fields are a common tourist destination for people who visit Baguio. And while it cost us about twice as much to pick as it did to just buy them from vendors (we were later asked several times how much we paid, followed by looks of disapproval from our Filipino friends), for me, it was worth the price. Being easy targets, we were called into a field that was almost completely picked through. Nonetheless (thanks to Maya’s experience at fruit-finding) we managed to fill a basket with medium-sized berries.
The fields, located right next to the area’s school of agriculture, seemed to be part of a cooperative, with several growers owning or operating different parts of the land. And although strawberries were prevalent, the giant farm was like a quilt, boasting patches of lettuce, onions and garlic, as well.
I love food, and not just because it stimulates my taste buds, gives me something to talk about or even because it sometimes brings me calm. I love it because it creates common ground between people. We, in the States, are a little more separated from our food production than I’d prefer, but when it comes down to it, food is a common denominator. Everyone needs sustenance and at the root of it all, food requires the same things: good soil, hard work, sun, rain and, of course, patience.
I stood in that field on my thirty-first birthday, thinking these sweeping thoughts about food and people and dirt and growth and labor and weather and waiting. And I was thankful. For the gift of the field, for the sunset and for two awesome friends. And for the rest of the evening, I forgot to be anxious.