The Wonder of Planting

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

There have been so many meaningful subject matters which have been demanding of me to find verbal and literary expression.

Thanks to social media apps, including Zoom and how it is forcing others to upgrade their video messaging options, the verbal discourses are being accommodated. Quarantine has left few alternatives, especially to senior citizens like me, and online meetings are the major communication outlet.

Writing, though, is another thing. I like to write sometimes and wish I can write more – and better. The physical act is challenging for someone who does not know how to type beyond using two or three fingers.

It is tedious and prone to error, especially the editing part that requires an adequate amount of familiarity with mobile devices, computers, and keyboards. If I were proficient with this process of writing, I would be multiplying my output.

Still, I plod on, often unable to contain in peace my thoughts and sentiments on concerns important.

Planting is one of them. Of course, planting itself is just one activity in a major spectrum of life involving our land and seas, agriculture, and related technologies, and most important of all, human survival, and development.

By planting, I do not mean just an act but more a crucial activity in the continuing drama of human existence. I am not really an active farmer though I think I ought to be one as well. It is never too late to help one’s survival and ease the burden that our community and government carry because of others like me.

Looking back, I wish I had spent more time in the field, to have had more interaction with farmers and imbibe life in the rural area.

Decades ago, and for 15 of my best years, I was deeply involved in agriculture as part of a company that dominated the country in the production, sale, and marketing of fertilizers – with chemicals on the side. My education about farmers and farming, in general, came from there.

Looking back, I wish I had spent more time in the field, to have had more interaction with farmers and imbibe life in the rural area. Still, 15 years were enough to have an operational overview about agriculture, from production and marketing of farm inputs to logistical and financial requirements, to post-harvest scenarios and prices of commodities in the open market.

It was later, though, when I had additional years of living several days a week in an upland barangay when I learned the deeper lessons. And it was not about farming, it was about life in a rural area far from the modernity of highly urbanized cities.

It was where I learned about the value of land and how the relationship between man and land was not something we can just break without painful consequences. It made me understand the pain of man without land or access to it, and the need for him to use that land to secure life itself.

The separation of man and the free use and control of land was a political and military decree, the wholesale confiscation of our country’s lands by a foreign power. That separation kept man at the animal level, working and eating from his toil, nothing more.

From farmer, the Filipino became a beast of burden, or, at best, a slave, allowed only to take and follow instructions. That separation of centuries ago wrought havoc to the lives of Filipinos. Sadly, government under all administrations since independence never tried to resolve that historical anomaly of land confiscation.

Either we believe that creation is divinely designed or we do not. Whatever our answer determines how we understand life to be, and human behavior will flow from there.

“I believe that creation is divinely designed, and that the nature of existence has a higher order from where natural laws are derived and empowered.”

I believe that creation is divinely designed, and that the nature of existence has a higher order from where natural laws are derived and empowered. I will speak as one who believes this, and to others who also believe similarly. I have no other way to understand and share what I know.

I entitled this article as “the wonder of planting.” I did so because planting represents the development of human habits. It is our doing things repeatedly, like breathing, drinking, and eating because it is natural to us. One key difference between man and animal is that an animal eats what nature provides but a human plant so he can eat more or better.

Planting is a human development activity and much more. Planting secures man’s survival and builds his habits, his productive habits. Why else do we call the fruits of man’s planting habits as produce? Animals eat but humans produce.

Planting teaches man that a habit has rewards if it is done consistently, carefully, and intelligently. On the other hand, habits that are not productive are discouraged, even punished, because they cause discord and damage to others. The very values of survival and human cooperation are nurtured in planting because planting is habit-forming – forming habits with a productive value.

Of course, other activities can also develop good and productive habits, but few as effective. In planting, the earth, the land, the water, are natural partners. Moreover, when a farmer plants, his learning is shared by osmosis to his family, to the community.

“The more we produce food, the closer we are to food, the more our survival is guaranteed even under the worst of circumstances. Nothing makes us feel more secure than food.”

If we cannot plant for physical food, let us nevertheless plant for the other foods of value to our lives. Planting is investing in something that is productive.

It requires planning and guidance by those more mature and learned who can teach us about consistency, patience, and adaptability. Is this not what school tries to teach as well, especially the principle of learning more than the transitory subject? That which is learned permanently is the process by which man grows his abilities and uses them for productive purposes.

Of course, in case I have not said it enough here or in previous articles, planting food has never become so crucial as today under Covid-19 conditions. The more we produce food, the closer we are to food, the more our survival is guaranteed even under the worst of circumstances. Nothing makes us feel more secure than food.

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