Englishwoman, over 500 others join Palawan run for farmers

Published: September 30, 2019 02:22pm | PUERTO PRINCESA CITY


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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