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Panelists took time out from enjoying nature and celebrating Earth Day on April 22 to answer this question: How are you and/or members of your community promoting the beauty of creation and the care of our common home?

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Rosa Ocampo is a Sister for Christian Community from Manila. The five years she spent as a missionary in Peru and El Salvador as well as her apostolate in the Philippine urban slums have provided invaluable insights and experiences that helped shape her views on social justice and the preferential option for the poor. As a journalist, she currently writes for a travel trade publication in Singapore and has written for newspapers and magazines in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Singapore and Saudi Arabia

Sisters for Christian Community Alma Mangao and Ejasmin Lucasan have turned a 1.5-hectare land in San Carlos City, Negros Occidental, Philippines, into a sustainable and productive social enterprise in just over a year.

Alma started Caritas Bliss Eco Farm in January 2020 after years of developing organic farms and livelihoods for grassroots communities throughout the Philippines. Ejasmin joined her in November after months of lockdown in Manila.

Today, the eco farm teems with organic trees, fruits, vegetables and herbal plants known for their medicinal and healing qualities, nourishing the sisters with daily meals while providing a source of livelihood to poor families. Farm produce is sold by rural community mothers, and all profits go to them.

Another wonderful development is the purchase of lagundi leaves by a manufacturer of herbal teas and food supplements. Other products include yellow corn coffee, fermented passionfruit wine, virgin coconut oil, vinegar and fruit juices, thanks to Alma, whose concoctions have won awards for best products and most innovative products in trade fairs.

She and Ejasmin do free tutorials and give away seeds. They also help in the food and school allowances of 50 university scholars of Caritas Manila.

They hope to raise enough funds for a processing facility to augment their product range to encompass organic wellness and body care products, skin care products, food seasonings, and a lot more.

Caritas Bliss Eco Farm also has quiet spots for those who want to pray, meditate, reflect or just relax and unwind in addition to spaces for big gatherings. The sisters see to it that aesthetics are not overlooked in making the gardens conducive to prayer and spiritual retreat, in retaining the view of the stream below, and in using local materials like bamboo and nipa to make the buildings blend with the surroundings.

Lacking a water supply, the eco farm uses solar panels in sourcing the ground water while a tank collects rainwater. Electricity reached the area last December, but the eco farm still uses solar panels to save on cost.

"Recycling" is the operative word, and the use of plastic is prohibited. Trees felled by typhoons become benches. Lumber yard rejects are fashioned into chairs and planters. Old tricycle tires are turned into fences and trellises for climbing plants. Stones from the stream are used for landscaping.

Awed by the fertile land that blesses them with clean food, good health and verdantly beautiful and relaxing surroundings, Alma says: "When we care for our common home, it will also take care of us. When we love the good Earth, it will love us back."

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