When I was in 3rd grade at the Tagtagumbao Primary School, we had a vegetable garden at the front of the school that the entire class tended. We did a few things in school that are not normally done in American schools like growing a vegetable garden, cleaning the outside of the school, and cleaning our classroom. In order for the garden to thrive, it needed fertilizer. And what is the best natural fertilizer? Animal waste. Our teacher, Mr. Esguerra, required his students to collect dried up carabao, or better known as water buffalo, dung from the agricultural fields surrounding our village in order for our school vegetable garden to thrive. It was probably one way for our teacher to get us out of his hair for a day. We were graded on how well our garden was tended. I am not sure if this was for a civics-type or home ec-type class.
In the Philippines, carabaos used to be the common beast of burden to use in the farm for all the arduous work. You can find plenty of these carabao products on roads, access ways, and dirt routes near the agricultural fields. As young third graders are wont to do, we were happy as sh*t, literally, to spend time outside of school with friends just walking around the surrounding pasture and countryside. With burlap sack in hand, we were ready for the challenge in the hunt for dried up chips and collect them with our bare hands. The chips were about six to eight inches in diameter, and about an inch thick. They looked like oversized, flattened cinnamon rolls. You had to be real careful, though. Sometimes it may look dry, but it still may be somewhat moist underneath or inside. The fully dried up ones usually stayed intact; not the semi-fresh ones.
It got to be a competition among a group of classmates on who would fill up the bags first: Amianan vs. Bagatan (northern vs. southern). Yes, even in my small village there was a division depending which side you lived in. We filled up several bags before bringing them back to school.
With the collection of fertilizer we brought, we must have had a thriving garden. I don't remember much of the garden except for the bunches of pechay and kamote. I do remember the time I spent with my boyhood friends out in the field without a care in the world and having a great time, in the hunt for dried up carabao chips.
No, I don't have any accompanying photos. And somehow, I wash my hands often and anxiously whenever this set of memories is brought back.