But here’s a top secret. The most unforgettable adventures in La Union don’t end in the surfing hotspots. At the farms in Bauang, another must-try activity should have a place in your itinerary: picking grapes straight from the vines. Yes, grapes. Unknown to many, the grapes industry in the Philippines has been around since the 80s. When I found out last year that there are grape farms in La Union, I didn’t stop until I got the chance to see real ones face to face. What’s more, it wasn’t only for the eyes, because I was able to pick grapes first-hand.
Getting There The action happens in Bgy. Urayong, along the boundary of Caba and Bauang. I took a Partas Bus in Cubao at 6AM, and told the driver I had to get off at the Bauang arch. The fare set me back Php 401, but the guy gave me a discount of one peso. Cool. After five hours on the road, I reached the marker. It wasn't a bad travel, although I learned from a friend that it can sometimes take six or seven hours. I crossed the highway and walked toward a fruit stand to ask for directions. Right away, I noticed the bunch of grapes hanging in the store—fresh, perfectly rounded, dark purple globes closely knit to each other. As if it was my first time to see grapes, I let loose a wow in surprise. The fruit vendor asked me if I was conducting a research for my thesis. I said it was something of that sort. Right there and then, she shared stories about the grapes industry in Bauang, and then pointing to the road leading to the grape farm, she said I should really take a closer look since the farms are beautiful in summer.
Welcome to the Farm !
After a short walk, I started seeing fields of corn and tobacco. And after a few more steps, the sight of trellises filled with green and purple fruits surprised me. The excitement barometer hit maximum, so I texted my contact, Danica, that I was already around the place. I was told to wait for Kuya Romy who would pick me up in their tricycle. The three-minute ride stopped before low-lying trellises. The area was bare because the grapes were just pruned. I said hello to the yellow corns left and right, and then a few cacti which I would later learn were dragon fruits. At the farm, I met Danica Gapuz. I added her on Facebook last year, and then bugged her nonstop about bringing me to their grape farm. After missing one or two harvest seasons, I finally had my turn to experience picking grapes straight from the vines.
A Legacy Busy slicing tomatoes, Danica and I started the talk about their farm. She shared that the business has been around for many years, in fact as early as the 1980s. The passion of farming grapes started with her grandfather Cirilo, a government employee who had to find other means of supporting a family of seven. With his eldest son, Danny, he was able to put up a vineyard and grow their own grapes. It wasn't an easy start, but faith and passion carried the business until it became sustainable.
The farm has already been in business for more than 30 years. Each one of the Gapuzes has their own share of work in raising the legacy of their parents. Danny oversees the operations. Joe, the youngest of the Gapuz sons, who learned the ins and outs of grapes growing in California, works heavily on introducing grapes to local farmers. He sets a high goal of selling grapes cuttings every month and assists farmers in growing their own vineyards. Romy, who gave us a demo on pruning the vines, is also busy with farmwork. Danica, on the other hand, works aggressively on the marketing stuff.
The Porch Life Lunch was almost ready. On the table was fresh crunchy seaweed and green mangoes with bagoong dip. The watermelon was cut open and the fish smoked in the grill. The fat cow in the corn field mooed at the smell of dinengdeng, an Ilocano vegetable dish.
I found new company under the vines—not the reddish-purple fruits, but Danica’s friends who all drove from Manila to La Union to experience farm life. The idea was to relax, slow down, and pull ourselves from the hustle and bustle of the metro. Calm down in the hammock. Turn off the Internet, make new friends, and talk to real people. Share jokes and travel stories. Strum the guitar or just listen to farm music (thanks to the birds and the cows). Savor the fresh summer air. Chase the chicken and the dog. Take photos. And, of course, pick grapes! So I did all those and had a good time, so much so that I honestly didn't think of going back to Manila.
The event which kicked off during our visit was dubbed as "The Porch Life Project." During harvest seasons, people can spend time at the farm to experience the good life. Soon, after expansion work is over and cottages have been put up for more visitors, I'll certainly take my friends there to experience this one of a kind adventure.
Your Turn So, the next time you head up north to surf, you’ve got another great stop: the Gapuz Grapes Farm in Bauang. For scheduled pick and pay, contact Danica at 0916 418 6232 . If you’re interested in growing your own grapes and living your dream porch life, Gapuz Farms can also assist you in starting up your own vineyard. For grapes cuttings supply, demos, and seminars, you can contact Joe Gapuz at 0915.888.6724.
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