Bees are abuzz in Batangas! If you’re curious to see bees at work and try the fruits of their labor, the Honey House Honeybee Farm is the place to be. You can have a taste of sweet honey, honey cider vinegar, and honeycomb made by the bees at this farm in Lipa, Batangas.
In 2016, the Honey House Bee Farm was established by Mark Anthony Moncayo and his father after being inspired by a relative. “We were influenced by my cousin because our area is like the ‘Honey Capital of Batangas,’ Barangay Bulacnin,” Moncayo said in Tagalog. “So someone introduced honeybees to us and we tried it. As time went on and as we cared for [the bees]— which was only supposed to be a hobby of my father— we had a lot of harvests and thought to sell the honey.”
Moncayo and his father started with 20 colonies of native bees and stingless bees and found that they couldn’t consume all the honey they harvested, so they set up their honey by the street and sold it there for six months. Afterward, they built a physical store at the front of their home for people to visit.
From that small 20-bee-colony farm, their farm has now grown to a hundred.
“The business didn’t boom at first,” Moncayo said. Honey wasn’t easily sold when the Honey House Honeybee Farm first started, so they decided to offer free tastes of their products as well as free farm tours. “Our farm is just in our backyard, so it’s easy to access for customers who want to visit the farm.
Their bee farm is a 400 sqm farm in their backyard. Although relatively small in size, many still visit the farm for a tour. Their farm is close to locations that attract tourists from different provinces, as well as visitors passing by on their way to other tourist areas such as beaches, resorts, and orchards in Batangas. The Moncayos found an opportunity to market themselves as another destination to visit, and it worked out for them.
“[People] want to actually see the bees,” Moncayo said. Because of this, they set up a demo box for visitors to be able to get close to the bees safely. “That’s why we have a free farm tour where they can take pictures and get a selfie with the bees.”
The majority of their guests are from Manila, but there are a lot of international visitors, too. “There are a lot of foreigners who visit the farm, too,” he said. “I think all of the races have visited the farm.”
One of their recent guests was the celebrity family of Drew Arellano, Iya Villania, and their children. “The kids were really happy,” Moncayo said. “The kids wanted to see the bees so they came to the farm before they had to shoot [ for his show, Byahe ni Drew]. They tasted our honeycombs because they were really curious about how it tasted.”
Honey House to houses all over the country
The Honey House Bee Farm sells honey, honey cider vinegar, honeycombs, and beeswax to clients all over the country.
Their bestseller is their honeycombs. “We don’t extract the [honeycombs], and just put them in a jar,” Moncayo said.
Nothing goes to waste. Honeycombs are extracted and then placed in water for two months to make honey cider vinegar. After that, the vinegar is then filtered to separate it from the honeycomb and that makes their beeswax. “Nothing is thrown. The final product made is beeswax,” he said. Prices of these products range from P120 to P250.
Aside from the physical store on the farm, their products are also present at supermarkets and pasalubong centers all over Batangas. They also market their products online and even have resellers.
They also sell bee colonies to interested buyers. The colonies are easily replaced as they source bees from hunters who find bees in the wild or in other people’s houses.
Keeping the world sweet
Moncayo said that their daily routine is simply cleaning the hives. They check the beehives every one to two days to monitor the state of the bees. “If they are weak, we make a way to strengthen them so the harvest will be better,” he said.
When this happens, they take a brood frame from a stronger colony and insert it into the colony that needs it.
The journey of beekeeping wasn’t always easy. The Honey House Honeybee Farm was put through a difficult challenge when the Taal Volcano erupted in 2020. “All the bee farms here, if you had 100 bee colonies, it would have been reduced to 50,” he said. “After the volcano [erupted], it was all ashfall and the [bees] had no trees to go to. So they became weak and some of our colonies died.”
2020 was also the year that the Covid-19 virus struck the world and forced everyone into isolation. However, instead of it being a challenge, it became a blessing for their honey business. “During the pandemic, people were becoming conscious of strengthening their immune system and honey boomed,” Moncayo said. “It came to a point where it ran out.”
Despite the ups and downs, Moncayo is proud to have been a beekeeper for the past seven years. “What’s enjoyable about beekeeping is seeing your customers happy when they see the bees, “ he said. “At the same time, they could taste our products. Then they would say that they would be back with their family to taste the honey.”
He also mentions how bees are powerful pollinators, so the plants and trees in their surroundings turn out beautifully and become bountiful.
“Also, through our beekeeping, we’re able to promote our local bees to other people,” he adds. “There are a lot of foreigners who come here, like the Japanese or Chinese, and they are amazed that bees can be farmed in this way, in a box.”
“To those who want to be bee farmers, of course it’s going to be hard at first,” Moncayo advises. “You just need proper training, a mentor so you don’t have to make mistakes or a teacher who could guide you correctly.”
“But it’s only going to be hard at first. Once you get the hang of it, it will become easy,” said Moncayo.
Photos courtesy of Honey House Honeybee Farm