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The Philippine Star
February 25, 2005
What's the buzz at Honeybee Farms
By Michelle Katigbak

There are several things you can do when you go to Tagaytay. I re-learned this first hand after spending the entire weekend there with my family to celebrate my father's 60th birthday last week. Tagaytay is actually very accessible to me and I've gone on numerous day trips there to eat delicious homegrown cuisine, grab a one-of-a-kind burger at Mushroom Burger, or even just hang out at Highlands with good friends. It's been awhile though since I've been there and I was happily surprised to re-learn that there are so many new things to do while you're there than just relax and visit Taal. You can try your luck at the casino (and maybe win a few bucks!), eat in one or both of the two famous cuisine hotspots (you know which two I am talking about), or simply make your way down to one of the most interesting, thought-provoking and inspiring little workshops I've come across in really a long time.

I'm talking about a well kept secret nestled deep within the city. I'm talking about Ilog Maria Honeybee Farms. Logistically speaking, Ilog Maria is actually located in Silang, Cavite (just on the outskirts of Tagaytay and even closer to me, hooray!) but Tagaytay loves laying claim to this little gem of an enterprise. Many establishments in Tagaytay even use the products from this bee farm like Josephine's, Taal Vista Hotel, and Sonya's Bed and Breakfast. And why not, the products churned out by Ilog Maria are all natural and just plain good.

There's really no other way to describe this beautiful farm located just down the road from Gourmet Café'. Ilog Maria is a wonderful enterprise that is all about keeping the goodness and purity of their products alive despite the growing demand from their customers. "I've been producing honey my entire life," the good-natured proprietor of this honey bee haven, Joel Magsaysay, says with a smile "and I can never seem to produce enough." Indeed, ever since their business began, the demand for Ilog Maria's Virgin Honey has done nothing but increase and yet, despite this, Joel and his lovely wife


and partner Violaine along with their four children refuse to expand beyond their home. "I couldn't be happier that the business is doing well and that people love our products," Joel admits, "but I wanted to make sure we maintained the purity of each item in our shop. We do everything from beekeeping to harvesting to making our products and I want to keep the enterprising and socio-civic orientation of our business alive." He further explains, "It's our goal to keep things simple so we can keep our prices affordable for the market. Our packaging is simple and non-commercial and we do everything by ourselves. We do export to other countries but we like keeping our small shop here in the Philippines restricted to this farm. After all, I believe a good product really sells itself without the need for commercialization. If people like it, they'll always come back for it. We simply want to maintain our quality." And, in order to do this, Joel and Violaine have kept all the aspects of their business within their family which the proud dad happily refers to as the business' board. In addition, the amount of honey produced is still small compared to the demand for it, Ilog Maria rations out its honey supply to protect against hoarding and to ensure that everyone can enjoy their wonderful product. It's usually limited to one bottle per customer and is even rationed on a wait list that is often four or five months long.

My journey to the delightful honeybee farm occurred quite by serendipity. While having dinner at Josephine's I saw the front desk was selling hand made organic soap made form honey and other essential oil ingredients. These soaps weren't only cute and sweet-smelling; they were useful in many different ways. For example, honey and cinnamon soap for eczema, pimples and skin infections, or honey and lavender soap for tired and aching muscles, or honey and rosemary soap for circulation and headaches. Being the lover of all-natural products that I am I was very interested in the organic basket of goodies and saw that they were manufactured at Ilog Maria. The name instantly rang a bell and I remembered several girlfriends who have raved about Ilog Maria's natural honey, beeswax and propolis lip balm along with their miracle honey propolis throat spray, which instantly cures coughs and sore throats, and I recalled the farm being located nearby. After urging my parents to take a detour there our entire family fell in love with this little honey sanctuary.

I admit, we did have to search a little to find it, but it was worth every minute. Such a wide selection of


all-natural products were available it almost took my breath away. From the scented soaps to the famous lip balm and throat spray, to honey and propolis shampoo, bee pollen energy and fat burning pellets, honeymilk cleanser and moisturizer, beeswax candles, leather balsam, wood polish royal jelly facial oil, propolis liniment and ointment, honey massage oil, and so many more. I felt like I was in honey heaven and it was while perusing their vast array of products that my family and I met the creative genius behind this unique organic venture.

Joel Magsaysay, the happy-go-lucky and very friendly shop owner of Ilog Maria told his story. Since he graduated from college he was against the nine to five thought pattern. "I wanted to live my life while I was young enough to enjoy it," he relates. "I was looking for signs when I was younger that would point me to an enterprise that I could commit to that would allow me to enjoy my life while living it. It just so happened while windsurfing one day with a good friend in Anilao I found my energy supply dwindling quickly and I asked him if there was anything I could take to keep my energy level up. He mentioned that he could take me to a small honey farm he knew of nearby. The rest, as they say, is history."

Joel knew the beekeeper of the honey farm and this was just another sign. From his first fateful encounter with what would become his lifelong career, Joel began Ilog Maria 28 years ago in a small bahay kubo with just a few bee colonies. It was a risky venture but he and his wife devoted themselves to their enterprise and soon began producing the six natural products that can be derived from their buzzy little tenants namely: honey, beeswax, pollen, propolis, royal jelly and bee venom all of which are important in their own right and serve special different purposes. "We harvested all the available products from the bees," Joel says. They were all important. Our honey which is packed fresh straight from the beehive to retain its full nutritive and medicinal benefits. It rich in vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes that are helpful. Not just for giving you extra energy honey can also boost your immune system and aid in digestion. It's also a wonderful natural solution to cuts, wounds and burns and I highly recommend keeping some in every first aid kit." In addition to this pollen, propolis and royal jelly – referred to by Ilog Maria as the "Magic Trio" – has numerous benefits


of their own along with the beeswax and beevenom that Joel and his family manage to extract without harming the bees. "everything we make here has a purpose and a benefit whether it be for smoother skin, to battle asthma, help combat coughs, prevent diseases, effectively battle gout or even do the most important job of all that of boosting your immune system to essentially keep our bodies fit enough to battle disease on its own. We ensure that our many products are not only all natural but have a purpose as well," the beekeeper explains.

"My wife is actually the driving force behind our successful female product line," Joel admits. "After a few years of harvesting our main six products, she began experimenting with the original formula for soaps. After some experimenting, she perfected the process and our line of natural health soaps began. This instantly clicked with the female market and very soon they were clamoring for more and more."

I carried away a god number of Ilog Maria's wares which I have been very happily using. "It's been wonderful how women respond to our products," Joel says. "They've been very loyal and we've been happy to keep them supplied. My wife stocks our shop nearly 12 times a day to keep up the supply and to ensure our products are always fresh," (This bit of info made me feel a whole lot better for hoarding their famous lip balm).

Recognized as an expert in bees and beekeeping, Joel and his family are constructing the Ilog Maria Bee Museum which will explain everything there is to know about beekeeping incorporated in a professional audio visual presentation of their procedures followed by live demos. "It's a living museum," Joel explains, "good for educational tours, prospective clients and anyone who wants to learn about our business and how its all done."

The couple also provides other services besides their shop's amazing all-natural product lines. They offer bee seminars, host field trips, do bee project consultancy and even offer contract pollination services. Indeed, they are as well rounded and multi faceted as their many products.

What began as a serendipitous trip to this honeybee haven has turned into an enlightening and inspiring exposure to a family and a business that is comprised of purity, integrity and all things good

Comments, suggestions, rants, raves? Email me at aquamarine_tranquility@yahoo.com