BIMP-EAGA ministers
visit Yamang Bukid Farm,
praise ‘sustainable
agri-tourism’

Published: June 28, 2019 02:11pm | Palawan


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Information technology ministers from Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines-East Asia Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) visited Palawan’s emerging agriculture tourism destination Yamang Bukid Farm on Thursday, immersing with local farmers and learning about sustainable agriculture and tourism.

Undersecretary Mano Verabathran of Malaysia’s Ministry of Communication and Multi-media led the delegation of representatives from the four-country sub-regional bloc.

The foreign guests were accompanied by their Filipino counterparts and representatives from the provincial and local governments in the hour-long tour around the six-hectare farm at Barangay Bacugan here

Upon arriving, the visitors were greeted by a flash mob performance of flag-waving farmer-employees of the farm. Hope Alas, Yamang Bukid Farm’s tourism officer and several lady-farmers led the guests to a guided tour around the farm, visiting the picture-perfect sunflower garden, nursery of herbal and ornamental plants, the farm’s bee yard, clamping tents and other parts of the sprawling upland getaway before being treated by performances of Filipino folk dances from some young farm workers and a sumptuous lunch featuring authentic Filipino dishes. “It’s a very beautiful farm, and I like the way that you all have the farming going back to the people,” Verabathran said.

The Malaysian official also praised the farm’s unique business model of giving importance to the welfare of its workers as “it’s not too profit-oriented and it’s more of people going independent of the farming”, even as he cited it as a good farming model for the sub-regional bloc.

“I’m sure that different models are applied in Malaysia but this seems to be more soft, soft model. Everybody is happy. You’ll realize everybody is happy here. We came here and there is dancing,” said Verabathran, who gamely obliged when prodded by his host to a round of Filipino courtship jig “tinkling,” much to the delight of everyone.

“So maybe we can inject happiness into the other models, within BIMP-EAGA,” he added. Souvenir bags made of indigenous materials and adorned with designs painted by the farm’s in-house artists Julio Opiala and Jjoy Umambong were given to the guests, who in turn, bought Yamang Bukid Healthy Products such as turmeric 10-in-1 tea and local delicacies like the famed suman sa bulo or sumbulo, a rice cake of varied flavors cooked in bamboo.

The foreigners were in Puerto Princesa for a four-day information communication and technology (ICT) cluster meeting among top Cabinet officials from the BIMP-EAGA member-states. Malaysia, headed by Verabathran, is the current cluster chair. Kuala Lumpur will head the bloc until 2021 and Manila will follow the next three years after that.


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Englishwoman, over 500 others join Palawan run for farmers

  • PUERTO PRINCESA—For Freya Scrowston, a five-kilometer run is a breeze despite the steep climbs and drops of the trail. More so when she knew she was doing it to raise a point and funds to help impoverished farmers in a country over 10,000 miles away from hers.

    (Photos by JM Zap)

    “We were five friends who agreed to join. But they were not able to get up on time. I went ahead and left,” Scrowston, a tourist from the United Kingdom, said. Over 500 others like Scrowston opted to defy their morning schedules to rise early, put on their running shoes and white sleeveless shirt to join the Takbo Para sa mga Magsasaka (Run for the Farmers) by this city’s fast-rising farm tourism destination, Yamang Bukid Farm.

    The run, organized as part of the events to coincide with Yamang Bukid Farm’s second anniversary, was participated in by different groups and organizations, both local and abroad.

    “I usually run for five kilometers back home. This is a minimal distance to me but the terrain’s just challenging, with the steep climbs and drops,” said the English girl. She said she admired the place as well as how enthusiastic her fellow participants were.

    “The place’s so amazing. The hills are lush and green, and the people are warm,” the foreigner said.
    Saturday’s run for a cause was also meant to raise awareness about the plight of farmers in the country, with the focus on those agricultural workers affected by the plummeting farm gate price of palay, according to Hope Alas, Yamang Bukid Farm tourism officer.

    With each ticket costing P350, organizers had hoped to attract at least 1,000 runners said Alas.
    Massive promotions and other activities to hype the activity led to the tickets being sold out a week before the charity run, prompting organizers to reprint new tickets that were also gobbled up by the public.

    Majority of those who bought the tickets hailed the event as a noble act that could influence others to care for the farmers.
    Among them was 86-year old Nuevo Umambong, a wheelchair-bound great-grandad from the southern Palawan town of Batarraza.

    “I wanted to run but my wife and our children did not let me,” said Umambong, his remaining teeth glinting in the afternoon sun as he smiled.
    Umambong said he was a farmer nearly all his life so he felt the pain of the farmers who had to endure because of low palay prices.

    “I’ve been a farmer since I was 20. I only stopped working in the farm five years ago. I’m inspired because I was told by my granddaughter this was meant to help the farmers. They really need our help,” said the octogenarian, whose first ambition was to become a teacher but was forced to shift to farming following World War II.

    Race organizers said the run’s proceeds are set to be used to help a community-based non-government organization (NGO) helping farmers—the Palawan Center for Agriculture Research and Technology (PCART)—and a farmers’ association in the town of Narra, Palawan’s so-called rice granary which has been battered by the plunging prices of palay, with farm gate prices nosediving to P7 per kilo.

    The run started at 4 a.m., with the first runners sprinting past the finish line at the Farm’s huge marker at Sitio (Sub-village) Candes III some 30 minutes after gunstart.
    Most of the hundreds of participants strived to reach and run past the end marker.
    “I struggled but this is my first time to join a run so I really tried to finish the entire distance,” Carlo Dapitan, 51, a Yamang Bukid farmer-employee, said in Cebuano. Fifty-six year old Vivencio Arcilla, another farmer agreed.

    “I run because this is for my fellow farmers,” Arcilla said. Scrowston, the Englishwoman, said she was awed when friends told her the run she was about to take part was aimed at raising awareness about the sorry economic state of most Filipino farmers.

    “I’m elated there are many people who want to help the Filipino farmers. After all they are the ones working in the fields so people can have something to eat,” she added. With the proceeds, Alas said they would buy palay from Narra farmers at P20 per kilo, have these milled and the rice given back to the farmers themselves for free.

    The run was followed by a zumba exercise and short program, with farm guests and other visitors gyrating and shaking their extra calories off to the tune of modern dance music.
    (JL)
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Millennial Muslim finds deeper meaning in Eid al-Adha

  • Meet Clarck, a shy young man. He’s a millennial and a Muslim. “I’m 100 percent proud to be a Muslim. I believe that Islam is the perfect way of life,” said the 18-year old who works as a food crew for Yamang Bukid Farm, an emerging farm tourism destination in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. “Islam is the way for me to become a good Muslim,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

    As a Muslim teenager working in a predominantly Christian company, Clarck—whose real name is Sabdano Ian Clarck Longno—was elated that he was warmly embraced by fellow employees and company officers.
    “As a Muslim, I saw no religious discrimination here in Yamang Bukid. They do not look on people based on their religion. They treat me as a son. They would scold me into eating if i skipped meals,” the soft-spoken teenager said.

    Clarck is among the four young Muslims in Yamang Bukid Farm and its parent company Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI) who will join with the 10.7 million Filipinos and over 1.8 billion others worldwide in observing Eid ul-Adha or the Festival of Sacrifice, one of Islam’s most revered religious holidays.
    The holiday that starts in the evening of Aug. 11 and ends the next day, remembers the sacrifice of the Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham) when Allah commanded him to kill as an offering his only son Ishaq (Isaac). As in the Bible, the Quran tells that before Ibraham could carry out the deed, Allah intervened and sent down a lamb to be slaughtered instead.

    “I felt valued and respected despite being a Muslim. I also observed that we are the same in giving value to the family,” Clarck said. And how will he celebrate the holiday?
    Like most Muslims, Clark said he will go fasting a day before Eid al-Adha. He plans to attend the salah by going to the masjid to pray and do any good deed towards his fellow Muslims (zakah).
    “After the salah I might go celebrate with my siblings. We will enjoy the celebration with limitations based on the teachings of Allah (Swat),” said Clarck.
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Want to learn organic farming? Go to Palawan

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY——This city’s emerging farm tourism destination is fast becoming an immersive site for learning organic and sustainable agriculture with the visits recently of farmers and experts who wanted to observe and learn from its agricultural practices.
    Over a dozen agriculturists from the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan spent three days at Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan as part of their season-long training on good farming practices.

    Agriculturists from the provinces of Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan pose with Bro. George Maria, vice president for community relations of Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan (first row, extreme right) during their visit and exposure to organic farming practices of Puerto Princesa City's emerging farm tourism destination.
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    The visit on Tuesday was facilitated by the Department of Agriculture through its Agriculture Training Institute (DA-ATI).
    The farming experts were toured to Yamang Bukid Farm’s 2-hectare main tourism area where they took part in planting lettuce on plots, observe huge pens of native chicken breeds like the Zampen (Zamboanga Peninsula) and interact with farmers as they go about with their different farming practices.

    According to Cristina Gonda-Magnaye, ATI-Mimaropa extension services head, they were overwhelmed by what they saw at YBF.
    “What we saw were beyond our expectations. The technology and good practices are there. The people, especially the farmers are warm and welcoming,” Magnaye said. Fernan Hubo, one of the farm’s agriculturists, said the visitors learned about the Farm’s sustainable agriculture practices such as inter-cropping, contouring and vegetable production.

    The farming experts interacted with farmers as they work on the field and the two groups exchanged ideas on traditional and modern farming practices, said Liza Jean Yocte, another YBF agriculturist.
    “They are able to adopt latest trends in (sustainable) agriculture such as making organic concoction as pesticides in lieu of commercial pest repellants. The farm is continuously developing techniques to make it sustainable,” said Jane Siscar, an agriculturist of the city government of Calapan, Oriental Mindoro. For Jocelyn Bernardo, another DA-ATI agriculturist, the experience was “very inspiring and worth sharing.”

    “You will really love the experience of being in a rural farming place with people and farmers around who are accommodating and friendly,” said Bernardo.
    During their stay at the farm, many of the guests turned emotional as they felt the genuine warmth and care of worker-farmers whom they had interacted with.
    Karen Tulay, an agriculturist of DA-ATI said she was moved by the values espoused by the farmers and the way the farm management takes care of them.

    “Technology can be transferred but the farm’s values cannot be quantified. Here at Yamang Bukid, I found my purpose as a public servant by the way they showed love and care to the farmers,” said Tulay, weeping openly before her fellow participants.

    Roxanne Fadriquel, an agriculturist from Baco town, Oriental Mindoro, said her visit to the farm opened her heart and strengthened her resolve to help farmers in her community.
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