Bukidnon natural farm guarantees good food and a great learning experience


When looking forward to a relaxing weekend, a gastronomic adventure, and in getting insight about the country’s farm-to-table movement, a stopover (or a sleepover) at Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm in Impalambong, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon is always time well spent.       

Since reopening their doors to the public in February this year, Umanika is now available to its guests with business hours from Friday to Sunday from 10:00AM to 7:30PM. Their restaurant-café offers different menus of organic food fare and beverages, with most of the choice ingredients sourced directly from their on-site gardens.

Umanika means “You harvest”, “Come here,” “Uma ni Kalinaw” and “Uma ni Kalipay”, according to farm owner Reynaldo Gil G. Lomarda, also known as Datu Makadingding. If one needs to relax or unwind, a much needed commune with nature and accommodation is offered, along with a guided farm tour to help guests and customers decompress or kick-start a healthy lifestyle.

Rose Mary and Datu Makadingding during Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm’s reopening day. (ATI Region X)

Good food guaranteed

Among Umanika’s food offerings is their Pork Belly with Black Tea Barbeque Sauce, Salisbury Steak, and Honey Butter/Korean Fried Chicken. Ordering these house specialties is in itself a self-treat since the savory pork, ground beef, tasty chicken meat were seasoned with their savory salts blended with culinary herbs such as basil, thyme, or rosemary and served with their gravy or golden brown sauce. 

Another fan favorite is their Adlai pancakes which come in Mozzarella Pesto or Cinnamon Nuts. This Adlai-based snack item is getting popular because of its nutritional value, wholesome goodness, and low sugar content. Moreover, Adlai is also known as a low-carb alternative to rice.    

Manning Umanika’s kitchen is Chef Roy Christian Lomarda, an erstwhile resident chef of posh and swanky hotels like Makati Shangri-La and Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila. Before the pandemic, Chef Roy had a structured and well-established life in the city, having spent most of his formative years in Manila.    

A shift in opportunity and circumstance prompted Chef Roy to be on board as Umanika’s main man in coming up with their delectable organic delights.  

“The reason I lost my job was because of the pandemic. I then started my online food business through Cocina Familia. Last March, I got an invitation from Datu Makadingding to train their kitchen staff for the reopening of the Umanika cafe. After a week of training, Datu asked me if I would like to be the resident chef of the cafe. Without hesitation, I accepted the job though it was my first time doing a farm-to-table concept. Indeed, it was a challenge for me to create a menu of what's available on the farm. In addition, I fell in love with the place, the people, and the climate in Bukidnon,” Chef Roy professed. 

Ensuring the quality and taste of each serving is now a commitment for Chef Roy since what goes on in the plates are made from scratch, just like whipping up a tomato paste or churning a curry.   

Chef Roy Christian Lomarda (center) as flanked by his kitchen assistants. (ATI-Region X)

Showcasing natural farming 

When visiting Umanika, natural farming advocate and practitioners Datu Makadingding and wife Rose Mary, always make time for its farm visitors to impart their knowledge and wisdom about the advantages of consuming organic produce for one’s well-being.

Opening a weekend café during the height of the pandemic was pitched by Rose Mary, who have thought that going for a healthy living is what farm visitors need, and a healthy
lifestyle counters the effects of fast food culture.

“Umanika is an 8,200 square meter organic “learning while earning” farm that offers hands-on learning on organic agriculture. For walk-in visitors, we always tell them the purpose of our farm, which is to utilize relevant indigenous knowledge and systems, to provide a doable and replicable model of maximum land utilization, and to integrate climate change adaptation measures in agriculture”, Datu Makadingding said. 

Datu Makadingding, who happens to be a UP (University of the Philippines) graduate in Horticulture, believes that local products should be patronized first for the Filipino farmers to thrive, and that they must up their game, and be at par with the global standards to compete in the international market. He also hopes that the environment should be preserved and protected through eco-friendly agriculture technologies for the next generation’s legacy. 

Known as the farming component of GreenMinds Incorporated, Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm, which was established in June 2012, showcases both agripreneurship and tourism aspects of an agritourism farm. The said farm is a byword among farming enthusiasts, and foreign visitors alike for its various value-added products ranging from their organic-certified Pilipinut Organic Peanuts to dried organic herbs and savory salts.  

Umanika is an accredited Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) partner of the Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) and an accredited farm tourism destination by the Department of Tourism (DoT).

Culinary Herbs and Salt Blend. (ATI Region X)

Value-added products

A visit at Umanika Eco-Cultural Farm would not be complete without trying or bringing home as pasalubongs, some of their noteworthy value-added products: 

Culinary Herbs and Salt Blend – Make your ordinary meal taste extraordinary with these herbal-blended seasoning which comes in jars or resealable pouches. Umanika's salt blends are uniquely savory since they are blended with the herbal goodness of Tarragon, Mints, Greek Oregano, Chili, and Thyme. Their Rosemary and Cayenne salt blend is best suited for spicy chicken and beef dishes.

Umanika’s herb and salt product line currently supports fisherfolk and coastal communities in Misamis Oriental, Northern Mindanao, since that’s where they get the fresh sea salt that makes up the base ingredient. They also buy naturally farmed herbs from the elders and tribal groups of Malitbog, Bukidnon. These tribal groups were also once their training participants, and are now trained in producing certified organic herbs and produce. 

Dried Organic Herbs – Whether they are used as mealtime teas to invigorate or as food enhancers, the dried organic herbs of Umanika are among their bestselling value-added products. Produced in partnership with the tribal elders of Malitbog in the hinterlands of Bukidnon, each aesthetically-package and eco-friendly resealable pack comes with the plant powers of Roselle, Stevia, Java Mint, Lemon Balm, Rosemary, Sweet Basil and Thyme, Tarragon.

Pilipinut Organic Peanuts – As the farm’s value-added flagship product, Pilipinut Organic Peanuts are available in Roasted, Salted, and Chili variants. The organic peanuts are sourced from Umanika and their farmer partners in Malitbog, Sumilao, Kitaotao in Bukidnon, and El Salvador City in Misamis Oriental. Patrons buying the Pilipinut Organic Peanuts help send a farmer’s kid to school or help sustain the farming livelihood of Umanika’s farmer partners to produce more organic peanuts. 

Organic Banana Chips – Another bestseller and a go-to snack item whether in transit or at home, the Organic Banana Chips are homegrown classics for its high Potassium and fiber. It is available in five flavor variants namely Sweet and Spicy, Honey Butter, Banana cue, Salted Egg, and Bagoong. As the main ingredient, all of the bananas were sourced from the banana farmers of Malitbog, Bukidnon, specifically the Higaonon Tribe. As an equal opportunity giver, Umanika ensures that the tribe’s organic banana produce comes first in line when buying back from them.   

Photos by ATI Region X

This article was first published in https://ati.da.gov.ph/ati-main/

Read more about farming and gardening at agriculture.com.ph