By Dr. Rafael D. Guerrero III

There are an estimated 1.8 million hectares of grasslands in our country, according to a 1987 report of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Such areas are usually dominated by “cogon” (Imperatacylindrica) and other grasses. The conversion of grasslands into pastures for cattle farming and fruit tree growing has been done for the purpose of improving land productivity. One other development is converting grasslands into agri-tourism and nature parks such as the Guerrero Farm and Nature Park (GFNP) in Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

Located at the foothills of Mt. Makawili in Barangay Cabatangan, about 23 kilometers east of Bacolod City, the GFNP is a sprawling 34-hectare former grassland area operated by Engineer Vicente “Boy” Guerrero and wife Hazelyn in partnership with Guerrero’s seven siblings, who inherited the land from their late father, lawyer-surveyor Rafael Guerrero, Sr. (my paternal grandfather).

“When I was a boy, your grandfather would send me up here by foot to collect our share of the fruits produced by a tenant,” my uncle told me.“It was only about 10 years ago when my brothers and sisters decided to put up this commonly-owned farm and leisure place for family use only before but [which is] now open to the public. My brother in-law, Casiano, the husband of your Auntie Ruby, who is an agriculturist, encouraged me to go into farming.”

My Uncle Boy beside the pond where one can fish for tilapia. Behind it are trees planted in the former grassland.

“We had to haul up truckloads of compost which we produced in Bacolod City for many years to rejuvenate thetop soil here with organic matter to make the land productive not only for fruit trees but also for vegetables and ornamental plants,” my uncle added. “We now have more 300 full-bearing lanzones, durian, rambutan, and mangosteen trees in addition to numerous pine and other evergreen trees.”

Today, the GFNP boasts of a spring-fed swimming pool, rest houses with private rooms, cafeteria, multi-purpose hall, and recreational facilities not only for daily or weekend visitors but also for corporate groups who wish to have workshops and team-building activities. At an elevation of 1,500 feet above sea level, one can overlook Bacolod City, the Guimaras Straight and even the Bacolod-Silay Airport while enjoying the 20-22 degrees Celsius mountain air.

What’s more, the GFNP also has a pond where anglers can fish for tilapia, an area for horseback riding, and picnic/camping grounds. Free-range turkeys, chickens, and ducks are also just waiting for visitors to feed them. And for those who love ornamentals, a walk through the many rows of exotic blooming plants with fluttering butterflies makes the experience not only invigorating but also spirit-uplifting. While at the place, one should not miss the “Garden of Succulents,” the pride and passion of my Aunt Hazelyn who has collected about 600 varieties (mostly cacti from different parts of the world) for more than 30 years.

My Uncle Boy is always willing to share with anyone what it takes to convert “barren land” into a productive farm. Whether for recreation, leisure or education, I believe the GFNP has it all for an entrance fee of only P80 per day, which includes free use of the swimming pool and picnic grounds.

Interested readers can visit Facebook and search for “Guerrero Farm and Nature Park” for more information. Organic cucumber grown in a greenhouse at GFNP. A guest of GFNP feeding free-range ducks and chickens.

This appeared on Agriculture Monthly’s November 2016 issue.