Planting is never fun

By: Victor T. Reyes - @inquirerdotnet - Inquirer.net | October 21,2020 - 08:00 AM

Ask any lawyer what he wants to do after retirement and, most likely, he will tell you—farming. And that’s exactly what most of my lawyer friends and I did after semi-retiring from the very busy and tension-filled practice of law or stint in the judiciary.

But as most plantitos and plantitas—most of whom emerged in great number during this pandemic and mostly also in their retirement years—will tell you, and as the old Tagalog folk song already reminded us a long time ago, “magtanim ay ’di biro” (planting is not a joke, or planting is never fun).

The whole idea of farming, especially for one who does not have the experience and physical stamina for it, can be a disaster, if not altogether a tragic, funny, or pathetic experience. In my case, I built a modest farmhouse, a caretaker’s house, and planted my farm in Batangas with more than a hundred fruit trees one can think of, and was looking forward to the times when my children and grandchildren would enjoy the fruits of my dream farm. But all my children decided to live in the United States, and considering that I am not a marketing person, I ended up giving out my harvests to relatives and friends. Worse, in my desire to enjoy and savor the sweetness of the fruits I regularly harvest from my farm, my diabetes was aggravated.

A close friend and former commissioner of a government agency had his farm in Cavite planted with pineapple. He later had to put up a stall in front of their house in an exclusive subdivision to sell truckloads of pineapple on weekends, which eventually caused him trouble with the homeowners’ association. As the farm gave him additional tasks and problems instead of allowing him to relax during his retirement years, my friend ended up burning his pineapple plantation and converting the area into an events place. He realized it would be wiser and cheaper to just buy a few pineapples of his choice for household consumption rather than maintain a plantation.

The experience of another friend is more pathetic than funny. Even before his retirement as labor arbiter, he already purchased seedlings of various fruit trees, which filled up his garage and even the roof of his house. With his retirement funds, he bought a brand new pick-up—almost a necessity in farming—and a big lot in Zambales, which turned out to be barren and not suitable for farming. He was forced to buy the adjoining lots, and these turned out to be owned by some rebels. As he had already run out of cash to pay the balance for the additional lots he purchased, he couldn’t even visit his dream farm, where he had put his entire retirement funds, for fear of his own life.

Another lawyer swore that she would not want to see boiled bananas (nilagang saging) again on their table. She had seen it every day as it was the regular produce from the farm of her husband, a retired high court justice who also went into farming.

The cost of maintaining a farm is also not a joke, the biggest expense going to the salaries and allowances of caretakers who will maintain the farm. Otherwise, your farm may turn into a forest if weeds and other unwanted plants and trees are not removed, or lose all your fruits to pests, wild animals like bats and wild cats, and thieves. One can also experience other problems or inconveniences such as allergies to plants or itchy leaves, overexposure to sunlight, and plants not growing fully or not bearing fruits because they are not compatible with either the weather or the soil.

In truth, planting or farming in general can be really fun, relaxing, and a good source of income. Objectively, one can love farming, but hate the little inconveniences that come with it. It is like loving humanity, but not liking or loving specific individuals.

These stories are, of course, less depressing compared to the experiences of some acquaintances who retired but lost all their retirement money to vices and swindlers. A former head of a government economic think-tank and a prominent celebrity lawyer both lost their savings and retirement funds to investment scams.

Today, I will go back to the city, take a long walk to the nearest mall for a little exercise to buy my maintenance medicine and a slice of pizza with my favorite topping, and spend P100 for a lotto ticket for a little excitement. These will make my day.

Victor T. Reyes, 68, practices family and estate law, and was a professor of law and a legal consultant for some government agencies. ([email protected])

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