STO. DOMINGO, Philippines—For one who is in a rural setting, performing a yeoman’s job, running two rice mills, managing a lot of workers and dealing with lots of customers, the days may be tiring and boring.
Businesswoman Angelita Reyes-Castellano of Barangay (village) Malayantoc in Sto, Domingo, Nueva Ecija, has been living like so for years. But, as she explains, being tired and bored is far from how she actually feels.
Now in her early 50s, Angelita manages the family-owned “A. Castellano Ricemill.”
Her business supplies at least 30,000 bags of milled rice every month to customers throughout Luzon.
“I started by putting up a small grocery store. Then I went into small-scale palay-buying. Later, after securing a bank loan, [I got into] this business. My husband engages in onion and rice production at our 20-hectare farm,” Angelita says.
Her husband, Sofronio, 53, used to be a former vice mayor of this town.
Angelita’s business still entails palay-buying for the needed stock to be milled at her two rice mills.
She has 25 regular employees and, during peak season, she manages about 200 contractual workers. Also, her company now has 17 trucks.
“Who wouldn’t get tired, and feel bored at times, in this kind of business?” Angelita asks.
But Angelita has an antidote for it. She looks fresh as a daisy every day. In fact, when the Inquirer visited her sometime around noon, not a sign of tiredness or stress was detected from her.
Angelita, who can easily be mistaken for an actress, looks calm and refreshed, ready to flash a sweet smile. She doesn’t want to be photographed, though.
“Our garden is my haven. It refreshes us, binds us, and keeps our spirit soaring,” Angelita says.
When the family decided to put up a “vacation-style” house 12 years ago, the garden was on top of Angelita’s list of priorities, she explains.
The house-garden-office-guesthouse complex sits on a 4,000-square-meter plot.
Angelita then contracted Lorenz Inos, a noted landscape artist from nearby Talavera town.
Inos is credited for the refurbishment of about 380 residential, commercial, and resort establishments in Metro Manila and various parts of Luzon.
“I thought of a concept in life that will make us happy while earning a living,” Angelita says. “Lorenz captured that concept in the garden that he developed for us.”
A part of the garden has been turned into rolling terrain, with champagne palms, various kinds of plants, boulders, grass and waterfall “to appear as a natural-looking small mountain,” says Inos, who accompanied the Inquirer in a visit to the Castellano garden.
Nature-inspired landscapes and water gardens are his favorites, he adds.
On another side of the garden is an elevated lawn, put up to serve as a venue for big affairs. There are also palms and plants accented by antique materials like traviesas (railroad sleepers or ties), floaters (used by fishing boats), gilingan (rice grinder), and boulders arranged on one side to provide room for around 200 people.
“I planted assorted minimalist plants and palms. They were from my nursery in San Pascual, Talavera town,” Inos says. They include MacArthur palms, phoenix palm, bungang tsina, champaca, variegated agave, curly fern, foxtail, golden miagos, sanseviera and bougainvilleas.
Alongside the elevated swimming pool, various palms, grasses and other plants provide a soothing ambiance.
The pathways, even those leading to the kitchen of the American-style house, are lined with carabao grass.
In front of the office, a few meters from the house, is a mini-waterfall. At the back of the house, where the guest house and garage are located, is a big mango tree that provides shade.
Palm trees are planted throughout the complex, with small plants providing a picturesque look to the house and garden.
Angelita believes that one’s surroundings may pertain to his or her personality.
“If your surroundings are well-arranged and beautiful, it will project that you are well and good,” Angelita says. “If they are just a hodgepodge, and your plants are dying, then there seems to be disorder inside you.”
Angelita says she seldom cries, but when she sees one or two of her plants in the garden dying, she cries unabashedly.
“My gardeners take care of the plants very well to avoid seeing me cry,” Angelita says.
She has a mother-and-son team to maintain the garden.
She also says their garden is reason enough for her not to travel very often for leisure.
“Why should I? Our garden is my haven,” she stresses.
The garden also yields a special bounty—it helps to strengthen the bond between Angelita and her husband.
“When we have a little misunderstanding, we just find ourselves in different spots in our garden as if in deep meditation. I approach him and she approaches me and, without a word, we touch hands. Then the misunderstanding is gone,” Angelita explains.
Put up a garden, whether big or small, she advises.
“It can do a lot of good for you and your family,” Angelita adds.