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The Philippine Star
Health & Family
November 19, 2002
Truly bee-witching!
By Mylene Mendoza-Dayrit


My weekends in Silang, Cavite will never be complete without a trip to Ilog Maria farm. Everytime we have a guest (especially foreign), we bring them to this farm and they thank us profusely for such a wonderful experience. When you are along Aguinaldo Highway, driving away from the Tagaytay rotunda (and way past Santi's and Café Gourmet) watch for a midsize billboard of Ilog Maria that signals a sharp right turn to a rough but clear farm road that leads to the bee farm.

Each visit provides new lessons from the walking science encyclopedia (or mad scientist, as he likes to admit) Joel Magsaysay and a harvest of new products from the highly creative Boleng. The latter is Joel's soft spoken but strong and intelligent wife. Even their personality contrast – Joel is the exuberant one – lends a lot of charm to the quaint setting.

On our first visit, we are introduced to Joel's own blend of local coffee, while listening to his exodus from the corporate jungle that is Makati and his bee colonies. They didn't have a proper store then. Next visit was focused on poking our forefingers straight into the honeycomb, a frightening proposition until you feel the sticky honey and taste its delightful freshness.

On another visit, we are enthralled by a factory tour and how much simple yet intelligent backyard technologies work (or how this intelligent couple made them work). The next trip was spent in checking out the product store. Then the herb garden and more new products. Surprises in this farm never end.


WORKING BEES

Joel teasingly but rightfully says that he has thousands of workers but they are not unionized, there

 

are no maternity benefits, paid leave credits and unexcused absences, yet his workers are naturally productive.

The European honeybees that the Magsaysays have produce such abundance of honey that humans can harvest the excess. The largest bee in the colony, the queen, mates in flight with approximately 18 drone (male) bees. The queen starts to lay eggs about 10 days after mating. A productive queen can lay 3,000 eggs in a single day. Her life span is about two years.

Workers, the smallest bees in the colony are sexually undeveloped females. A colony can have up to 60,000 workers. Unlike the queen, the workers' life expectancy is approximately 28 to 35 days. Workers feed the queen and larvae, guard the hive entrance and keep the hive cool by fanning their wings.

Worker bees also collect nectar to make honey. In addition, honeybees produce wax comb. The comb is composed of hexagonal cells that have walls that are only 2/1000-inch thick, but support 25 times their own weight. Honeybees' wings stroke 11,400 times per minute, thus making their distinctive buzz.

THE ILOG MARIA STORY

"I started keeping honeybees at Ilog Maria 25 years ago with just a few bee colonies. My wife, Boleng, is also a beekeeper. Together with our four children, we now run about 800 bee colonies and produce ripe, unfiltered honey; natural bee pollen pellets; raw propolis; fresh royal jelly; scented beeswax candles; honey, beeswax and propolis soap and shampoos; honey cider vinegar; and many other natural bee products." Joel proudly states.

Accounts of how he and Boleng started and maintained the farm can be seen in their website but it is better to hear the story straight from the captivating Joel. "ilog Maria bee products are always packed fresh from our beehives so they retain their full nutritive and medicinal values. Ilog Maria virgin honey is ripened by our honeybees from pure floral nectar. It is rich in beneficial pollen, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes with traces of royal jelly and propolis," he adds.

 

To a layman, bee propolis may be an unfamiliar product. For our info, Joel says, "Bee propolis is nature's most powerful antibiotic. Propolis is a sticky, resinous substance secreted by flowering buds and under the bark of trees. Our honeybees collect propolis to seal, varnish and thus, disinfect the insides of their beehives. Propolis possesses antiviral, antibacterial and fungicidal properties. It is even capable of destroying bacteria that have now become resistant to modern synthetic antibiotics."

He adds, "Propolis is effective against infections of the skin, mouth, throat, respiraroty and digestive systems. It stimulates tissue regeneration, antibody formation, amd strengthens the immune system. It is also effective in treating hypertension, arteriosclerosis and coronary disease. Dermatological disorders and rheumatism respond to propolis therapy. Propolis is a potent antioxidant, which combats the ill effects of eating processed and preserved foods."

GENTLE EUROPEAN HONEYBEES

The husband and wife team of Joel and Boleng is bee-witched by the gentle European honeybees. "They are manageable and productive. They allow us to harvest many nutritive and medicinal products from their beehives," Joel explains. "Keeping honeybees is very wholesome,. We are always outdoors in sunshine and fresh air. It is quiet work, very much like tai chi or quigong, and is totally absorbing. It allows us to work amidst nature and enjoy a natural lifestyle."

Joel relates with authority, "Our honeybee are totally dependent on flowers for their food. We have planted a variety of fruit trees, coffee and hardwood trees on the farm. As summer approaches, we are always looking for flowers in bloom in the cool highlands of Cavite. We move our bees to areas in bloom where we leave our beehives to gather fresh nectar, which they ripen into honey. Starting October, our bees gather nectar and pollen from profuse flowers of mangoes, Kalamansi, wild sunflower, avocado, sweet potato, annatto, coconut, mimosa, acacia, narra, Philippine mahogany, wild herbs, vines, grasses, coffee, papaya, pineapple, madre de cacao, tamarind."

With their passion for beekeeping and creating all possible products from beeswax, pollen, etc. it

 

must be difficult for the Magsaysays to go slow.

However, keeping life and everything simple seems to be their only guiding motto in their happily serene life on the farm.

BEST-SELLING PRODUCTS


Boleng is proud of her products. The soaps are so dense they last almost a month compared to the very expensive soaps sold in the malls. The fragrance lasts and the exfoliating elements are aplenty.

One of my personal favorites that Boleng swears to be a bestseller, is the cinnamon and oatmeal health soap bar. This soap of beeswax and honey propolis is scented with oil of cinnamon. Everyone knows that