MUSEO SA ILOG: THE LATEST BUZZ
CAVITE, SEPTEMBER 18, 2007 (STAR) RENDEZVOUs by Christine s. Dayrit - The yellow and orange cosmos gardens surrounding this farm provide a beautiful promenade area for the bees. With the cerulean sky as their lofty witness, the bees court every cosmos in bloom, seemingly professing their adulation for the nectar the flowers give them. In return, the little winged creatures fly and flee with the promise of pollination.
Welcome to Ilog Maria’s Bee Museum in Silang, Cavite, a haven where natural living through the world of honeybees is the order of the day — every day. It is in this museum, also called Museo sa Ilog, that I came to realize that bees are perhaps the world’s best, most-frequent travelers. Imagine, the bees must collect nectar from about two million flowers to make a pound of honey. This extensive distance is equivalent to two trips around the world.
Bees pollinate 80 percent of our plants and crops and over 90 different kinds of vegetables and fruits like mangoes, papayas, coconuts, bananas and more. Some pollen can be blown by the wind from flower to flower but honeybees remain the top pollinators.
The honeybee museum, the first of its kind in the country, recently opened in Ilog Maria, which is Joel and Violaine Magsaysay’s bee farm in Silang, Cavite. It’s a nature preserve for the purpose of educating the public on the importance of our great pollinators — the honeybees.
“We have been hosting educational trips for schoolchildren for years. We used to do these in the open, because we had no venue. When it rained, we had to run for cover. With the Museo, we can show schoolchildren and educators that it is possible to earn a living through stewardship of nature, how to enhance and preserve it,” Joel enthused.
Their maiden offering is a short video about what honeybees do that few normally get to see and tells how this family harvests bee products. In the video, the Museo shows the visitors Joel’s “convenient truth” or the many ways the Magsaysay couple, their children and employees are promoting “global cooling.” With a philosopher’s perception and a scientist’s knowledge, Joel and Violaine interweave the facts of honeybee biology with reflections on desire, intimacy, work, evolution, memory and home.
“To show our video, we black out the Museo with tarps, on which we printed our family album; how we started and built our bee farm — our main display,” said Joel who was cured by apitherapy after he suffered from a stroke. Apitherapy is an alternative form of healing using bee venom (which, according to researches, can also cure arthritis, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol among others).
Students, tour groups and visitors will have a truly enriching visit here, learning all about beekeeping. “We chose this place because of the natural springs. Our farm has seven springs of cool water that never dry out. Why? Because our farm also is one of the rainiest places in Luzon. These springs feed the Malaking Ilog — the largest drainage basin in Silang. Our honeybees always need fresh water to cool their hives and to feed their young. We chose Silang also because it has very rich volcanic soil — almost the best there is. This means that you can grow anything here,” Violaine added.
Joel continued that they chose Silang because a whole lot of coffee is grown here. Coffee flowers bloom many times each year and it is a good source of nectar for the bees, who turn it into coffee honey. Silang also has a lot of coconuts that flower the year round, providing an excellent source of pollen for the bees. Lastly, the couple said, Silang has a perfect climate year round that is good for honeybees and even better for beekeepers and their families.
Some of the earliest bees also had an important role in ancient Egypt. Not only did the ancient Egyptians use the honeybee as their symbol, honey was also an ingredient in over 500 Egyptian medicines. The Greeks and Romans were keeping bees 3,000 years ago. They called honey “the nectar of the Gods” and Greek athletes used honey as an energy boost.
But let’s face it: to many people, bees are annoying, buzzing stingers. However, to certain folks, they’re almost like pets. To an even more select circle, honey bees are their life’s passion and work like the beekeepers at Ilog Maria. Joel and Violaine speak of bees with a possessive familiarity, waxing affectionately on the personality, elegance and significance of the bee to the environment and its contribution to our lives.
Liaa, the video’s youthful narrator and eldest daughter of Joel and Violaine, offers enlightening facts about bees, from how their senses work, how pollination takes place, how each bee serves the hive through various stage of life, to how honey and other important bee products are made and how the hive, itself an organism of sorts, functions. She shares the thrill of intimately observing thousands of busy bees cozily ensconced in their brilliantly designed, perfectly weatherproofed hive. She muses on the female workers unceasing activity, and on the male drones’ idleness as each awaits his acrobatic midair mating with the queen, followed by his instant death. She marvels at the cosseted queen, upon whom the future of the hive depends. Worthy of emulation, the Magsaysay family’s lifestyle, as co-stewards of the environment, is also impressively revealed.
“The bee benefits man more than any other insect does. It is the only insect that can be made to work for him. People think first of honey and bees wax when they think of what they get from bees. More important is the work these insects do in nurturing fruits and flowers,” Joel informed us while we were having pancake breakfast in a cosmos garden lined with beehives. (In fact, the honey we used for the corn and banana pancakes was squeezed straight from the honeycomb.)
Ilog Maria is a beehive of activity. There is a workshop where various products are made by hand, a shop where visitors can place orders and now, and the first bee museum in the country to educate visitors on the various aspects of beekeeping.
The Magsaysay family’s devotion to honeybees and their amazing discoveries started 20 years ago. It wasn’t a walk in the park for them in the beginning, but somehow, things fell in the right place after all their hard work, loving sacrifice and passion for beekeeping. Their family motto that has never failed is simply this: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Take a trip to Museo sa Ilog and learn more about the significance of honey and its various delectable as well as medicinal uses. Call it adrenaline surge, call it honeybee venom in their veins — whatever the explanation, these industrious little critters are here to stay. Givers of sweet, thick honey, multipliers of the fruits from trees and bushes, they also give more food for thought than a body would know what to do with.
Truly, how sweet it is to be loved by bees! For more information, please visit www.ilogmaria.com.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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