What happens when a certified plantita finds the provincial nature spot of her dreams? A land next to a large lake and with a gorgeous view of the Sierra Madre Mountain Range? That’s something you don’t let go.
That’s exactly what Maricar Suarez did when she fell in love with a piece of land next to the Pantabangan Lake in Nueva Ecija.
In 2021, Suarez and her husband, Regin, were looking for a farm lot to have a place to escape the chaos of the city once they reached retirement. They live in Silang, Cavite, and initially looked for land in the same area.
However, an invitation from a friend led Suarez to visit a different province. “My friend said, ‘Come to Pantabangan, it’s beautiful here. You should look for a farm lot here.’ ” Suarez said in Tagalog. “So when we went, we instantly fell in love with the place and paid the down payment immediately,”
They acquired 2.5 hectares of land. It had some trees growing on one part of the land, but was overall undeveloped. Suarez was truly looking forward to her future farm. “This is the kind of life I want,” she said. She mentions how she was raised in the province and was exposed to farming early in life. “My grandmother used to plant a lot, so much. In our garden we had a lot of trees and vegetables. We do it regularly, farm-to-table. We harvest then we eat it. That was my inspiration.”
Suarez found a peaceful farm location perfect for her and her husband’s retirement, but as they are both still in their 40s that’s still a ways away. Well, the Suarez couple didn’t have to sit and let the land stay as it is. They had an idea to make the farmland into something productive.
Suarez isn’t just a plantita and nature lover, but also a successful businesswoman. She started doing business at 28 years old, and isn’t the type to stay idle. She and her husband have established different kinds of businesses over the past decade, and now the farmland they just acquired was going to be their latest venture.
In the same year, a farm resort next to the Pantabangan Lake was born, and it was named Lake Farm de la Marre.
Lake Farm de la Marre
The Lake Farm de la Marre is a farm resort that offers glamping, ATV rides, picnic sites, swimming, overnight stays, and regular relaxation.
Over half of the Suarez’ land is developed for these activities, and there are various spots that can offer moments of tranquility that are perfect for rest and reflection while surrounded by the beautiful view of nature.
“Personally, when I sit at our teepee [tent] area, the view is the lake and the mountain, I totally connect with nature,” Suarez said. “Just sitting there and taking in the view, you reflect. You’re able to think of a lot of things.”
As a lover of plants, Suarez made sure to enhance the greenery of the lake farm. Everywhere you look, there would be trees or flowers decorating the area. All the artistic and aesthetic installations are designed to complement the green surroundings it is placed in, while the buildings for accommodations are likewise designed to suit the provincial setting.
Lake Farm de la Marre also has a cafe, and that’s where the land’s farm shines.
One hectare is dedicated for farming. The farm has different fruit-bearing trees and vegetables such as tomatoes, cabbages, pechay, eggplants, and more. All of their produce is brought to their cafe and used as ingredients for the various dishes they offer, giving guests a true farm-to-table experience, just as Suarez experienced in her childhood.
They’ve also planted 70 mango trees. The plan is that when the trees bear fruit, guests would be able to pick the mangoes, although that’s still far into the future as the trees are still currently three-feet high.
However, what guests can currently harvest are papayas. The land is abundant in papayas, and when there is oversupply, visitors are able to experience picking them directly from the tree and purchasing it at a relatively low price.
Having a cafe provided a healthy cycle for their farm. Vegetables go directly to the cafe, and the cafe’s organic waste becomes fertilizer for their crops.
A new type of challenge
As a farm resort is a new venture for Suarez, there is still a lot to be studied in order to truly develop their farm for guest activities, and for the family’s own purposes.
“There were so many [challenges]. The first one was the type of soil. Adobe was the soil there,” Suarez said. Adobe soil is a heavy clay soil, more suited to making sun-dried bricks. “So we didn’t know what tree to plant, what could live. So there were a lot of trees that were wasted. Like, rambutan. It couldn’t grow there so it was wasted.”
Another challenge is despite being next to a body of water, a steady supply of water was hard to find. As a mountainous province, water supply truly posed a challenge for Pantabangan farms. They learned that neighboring farms had to have water delivered.
However, after literally digging around, Suarez and her staff struck figurative gold. “We were fortunate, and blessed actually, when we wanted to have a deep well built, our first digging site had water,” she said. With a deep well, they now had a steady supply of water for their accommodations and water activities.
As a businesswoman handling different types of businesses, Suarez was used to delegation and hiring staff. However, she was truly hands-on with the development of the farm. “I also dug [the ground],” Suarez said. At its early stages, Suarez and her staff worked together to develop the land. “It feels good to look back at the hardships we went through. Those were the times we got dark, we got wounds, we’ve probably met all the insects because insect repellant didn’t work anymore, and that was the time I regularly saw snakes,” she said with a laugh. “And to think that was just two years ago.”
Lake Farm de la Marre has a lot of plans for its tourism aspect, but Suarez has her own plans for the farm. Since they now have a deep well, they are planning to build a greenhouse and plant more fruit-bearing trees.
But aside from those, the plantita side of Suarez comes out. “I want to sell plants, flowering plants. All the plants that could be sold,” she said. “It’s because it feels good that you’re at a resort, and every plant is available. Whether it’s fruits, vegetables, plants. You can cater to everyone, like the plantitas and plantitos who collect plants for ornaments.”
Business and passion
Suarez truly enjoys her new provincial life.
“You know how it’s so quiet, so peaceful, there’s fresh air. And I really love planting. Regardless of what I plant, as long as I plant, I love that,” she said. “I talk to my plants. I sing to them. I’m that type of person. And that’s what I truly enjoy at the farm. I have so many plants there, I have so many to talk to.”
For Suarez, she truly connects with her plants, and the location of Lake Farm de la Marre allows her to connect with nature. “These are the things I couldn’t do when I was so busy with our businesses, but now I can do. [But] still while doing business,” she said. “So I monitor our projects, I can monitor our operations but I can also monitor my plants.”
“My passion and my business. I’m earning while enjoying my passion,” she said. She reiterates the relaxation and leisure the farm life provides, and how good a diversion it is from the more stressful businesses they have.
“It’s truly working with leisure. The farm gives us a good balance,” Suarez said with a smile.
Photos courtesy of Lake Farm de la Marre