The 1st Annual Roselle Festival

The 1st Annual Roselle Festival video (11 minutes)

Good Morning.
My name is Tony De Castro and I am the Project Director for the Shumei Natural Agriculture Farm in the Philippines. I would like to share some of our experiences in the Philippines, more specifically about an event held in November 2015 at the Shumei Farm. It was the 1st Annual Roselle Festival, a thanksgiving festival for our bountiful harvest of roselle that year.

Roselle is variety of hibiscus. In the Philippines we call it gumamela.1

Here in the US it is more popularly used for herbal tea. If you know Celestial Seasonings Tea, it’s their Red Zinger. Also you can find it at Starbucks as Hibiscus Tea,2

In Latino shops and restaurants they offer it as Flor de Jamaica. It’s the red juice in the container usually right next to the horchata. In Jamaica it’s called Sorelle and in Egypt it is called Karkadai.3

It is native to the Philippines. The sour young leaves are used as a vegetable in a sour soup dish we call Sinigang.4

For our purpose we mainly use the calyx. This is what remains after the flower falls off.5 6
An interesting aspect of roselle is that in the Philippines it is also called a las doce, which means 12 noon. The flower blooms at sunrise,6 7
peaks into full bloom at 10:am,7

starts to close at noon,9

and falls off around 3 pm. Everything takes place in one day.10

An important part of what we do in Shumei Philippines is we work with small farmers and indigenous communities. A typical small farm consists of 3 hectares, about 6 acres. Along with small fisherman, small farmers are amongst the poorest in the Philippines with an average income of USD 2,000 – 5,000/year. Indigenous peoples, such as the Dumagats, still practice rotational farming, where they move from one piece of land to another each year. This is not to be confused with rotational cropping where different crops are grown on the same piece of land. Most Dumagats survive on subsistence farming.12

Our project is to help improve the livelihood and living conditions of small farmers and indeigenous peoples like the Dumagats in our area. Roselle features prominently in this. Our approach is through agroecology or farming with nature. It will be a vertically integrated approach where the growers will also be involved in the higher value chain of processing, packaging and marketing. Usually, small farmers are only involved in growing and get the least value for their crops.

We held the Roselle Festival to promote roselle as an environmentally friendly farm crop. Roselle is grown with no-tilling or cutting of any trees. The grass that is cut in the planting area is left on the ground as mulch and compost.13

We featured the products that can be produced from roselle, such as
wine and jams,14

hot and cold herbal teas,15

a syrup that can be used to make mixed drinks like margaritas,16

and a herbal salt made in the traditional way with sea salt.17

The Roselle Festival was a harvest and thanksgiving celebration to recongize and appreciate what is given to us and was an expression of gratitude for these blessings. Incidentally, this no one appreciates this more than the Dumagats and other indigenous groups in the Philippines, who acknowledge the spirit(s) in Nature and all that is around us.18 19
There were interfaith prayers and ceremonies. These are the Dumagats with their prayer offering.20

We also had taiko drumming.21 22
Then we picked roselles.22

This is the poster from the Roselle Festival whose central figure is what we call Diwata or the Spirit in Nature.23 24
Our theme for the Roselle Festival was “We are Stardust…We are Golden…and We’ve Got to Get Back to the Garden.” Because we and everything around us is made, literally, from stardust and We are golden because divinity resides in all of us. And back to the garden… as Mokichi Okada said, “to create heaven on Earth.”
I would like to close with a prayer consisting of a verse from the Talmud:

Every piece of grass
Has an angel over it
That whispers
“Grow, Grow”25

Thank you.

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