Friday September 29:
We were presented at home, by an official from the local council (Barangay) with a summons to appear on Monday to answer a complaint lodged by a neighbour that our pigs were too smelly.
So we asked the offical if she could smell them..... and she couldn't smell anything either.
Our "defense" will be that the complaint is malicious, unfounded and divisive....
Monday October 02:
In the morning we went to see the Provincial Organic Farming experts in Tagbilaran City.
One of them offered to come to the meeting with us -but we declined, because we didn't want to escalate the situation by introducing new people. However, we did accept some documentation from them regarding the Provincial Organic Farming Act.
Then we went to the nearby shopping mall for lunch.
After lunch we went straight to the meeting. Near the entrance to Barangay Hall is a notice saying that the inhabitant's occupations are largely farming (84), fishing (54) and construction worker (16). A population of 2,200 people, with 593 families living in 450 households.
Because we had arrived early we exchanged friendly chit chat with the Barangay captain. Then she left us to meet and greet the others. The meeting was composed of the Barangay captain as chairwoman, the councilor for health, the neighbouring husband and wife who had made the complaint, an officer from the Municipal Health Center and the witnesses who had signed the complaint -and us.
Fatima started by pointing out that the woman claimed to be a resident of the barangay -but was not registered as a resident -and was in fact, rarely present.
Fatima also complained that the complainant had gone directly to the Health Center -without discussing the problem with us -and requested to the chairwoman that in future no complaint should be accepted without a written declaration that the complainant had done everything possible to solve the problem amicably with the persons concerned. This was accepted.
The chairwoman then interviewed the witnesses as to why they had signed the letter -and what exactly they were supporting with their signature. The answers varied, some replied they were family members (although one did say they had noticed a smell when visiting their sister), one thought it was a compost pit and the rest had signed because the others had signed and they thought there was sometimes a mild smell.
Then Fatima pointed out that the so called "pig pen" which was the basis for the written complaint was, in fact, a goat pen -although it was (in emergency cases) used as a temporary pig pen. However, Fatima also admitted that the structure was rotting and sometimes smelly, especially in wet weather. Indeed, our attempt solve the problem by building new pens which would prevent such smells was actually being retarded by the complaint.
This lead us to point out that normally we had good relationships with our neighbours and that the way the complaint had been handled by the neighbour was extremely dangerous because it could easily lead to friction between otherwise peaceful neighbours who did not rush off to the authorities every time they were upset by something.
At this point, it was becoming clear that the real issue was that (some people) wanted us to build a septic tank to deal with the manure. So then we were able to introduce the fact that most local experience with pigs was based on pens with concrete floors -which were indeed very smelly, required lots of rinsing water -and therefore made a septic tank essential. However, what we were doing was entirely different -because we used a soil based bedding, which together with added vegetable matter and roughage in the diet, meant a natural (self cleaning and non-smelling) composting process within the pen. Such that a septic tank is not only unnecessary but, in fact, impossible because there is no excessive use of water. Obviously, a good roof and good ventilation were very important.
We then went on to point out that the area is largely rural and that many people use backyard subsistence farming as a means to economic survival. It would therefore be a disaster if backyard farming was discouraged. Particularly so because the pressure of modern society generally painted a denigrating picture of those who loved from the land. In that context, it was important to remember that we were not running a piggery for commercial profit -but more as a hobby, which was also intended to support local small scale subsistence farming on an emotional and cultural level -as well as an economic one.
We therefore rejected the septic tank -but would be more than pleased to build a "firewall" along the property boundary in front of the neighbours house.
During the meeting, Fatima noticed that the husband was videoing the meeting -especially her and the Barangay Captain. They both insisted that he stopped and afterwards demanded that the secretary made sure the video was deleted....
Meanwhile, the agreement papers were drawn up: A boundary wall would be built -and no more complaints without first attempting an amicable settlement on a personal level.
We also assured all the witnesses that we understood their situation and we remained good friends.
Interestingly our relationship with the Health Care officer also seemed to improve the more we defended ourselves. When I apologised afterwards for my emotional outbursts she replied that it was good for a person to express themselves -because other only the doctors got richer from the effects of our pent up emotions.
Work starts on the pig pens again on Wednesday (it was too late to gather the lads to start Tuesday).... and the next step is to develop our contacts with the Organic Farming experts and to liaise with the local Barangay.
...and then it was time to go home and eat.