After farm destination buys palay in high prices, grateful Palawan farmers give away free rice

Published: November 28, 2019 01:25pm | PUERTO PRINCESA CITY


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Paying it forward.

Farmers in a rice-producing village in Narra, Palawan have expressed gratitude to a farm tourism destination here for fulfilling their vow to buy palay from them at higher gate price by giving away rice to neighbors.

Photo by JM ZAP

At least 21 farmers from the village of Burirao benefitted the palay buyout scheme by Yamang Bukid Farm which highlighted its campaign to help impoverished farmers in Palawan, which palay bought at double the current buying prices, according to Bro. George Maria, Yamang Bukid Farm Palawan (YBFP) vice president for community relations.

Photo by JM ZAP

“We were able to gather some 21 farmers and each of them brought with them five sacks of palay,” said Brother Maria, adding they coordinated with the local government of Narra and the Department of Agriculture in identifying small-time farmers who may want to sell their harvest.

The buyout scheme, Maria said, was the culmination of the farm attraction’s advocacy to help palay farmers adversely affected following the steep lowering of palay prices since late this year. Last month, YBFP kickstarted its campaign by launching a fun run with the aim of generating awareness and support towards the plight of palay farmers across the country.

That campaign dubbed “Run for the Farmers” generated massive support and a significant amount of money which was used for the palay-buying project.

In buying the palay, Maria said they ensured those who can benefit were really poor, lowly farmers.

“We challenged them to work hard and not view our initiative as a sort of dole-out,” said Maria.

In a simple ceremony, YBFP’s chief farmer, Totong Arceo, gave the farmer-traders inputs on organic farming “which they received overwhelmingly,” according to Maria.

“They even requested if we could come back in another time and share them more knowledge on natural way of growing crops, which we promised to do,”said the YBFP executive.

The Farm bought a total of 105 sacks of palay at P20/kilo, double the current buying price, with the milled rice given back to the farmers.

A mill owner in Narra, Norile Enriquez, agreed to give a 50-centavo/kilo discount to the farmers to have their palay husked and milled, which “helped significantly the farmers,” said Hope Alas, YBFP vice president for tourism affairs.

Upon learning of Yamang Bukid Farm’s generous offer, the farmers were ecstatic that one of them, Felix Gonzales, even gave away portions of the milled rice to his non-farming neighbors, shocking even the Yamang Bukid personnel.

“Mang Felix asked us to accompany him to his house where he repacked his milled rice and give these away to his neighbors, particularly those who do not own a farm,” recounted Maria.

Other farmers also expressed intention to share their harvest to their community, in an apparent case of “paying it forward,” said Maria.

“We are thankful to all who supported us when we started this endeavor months ago, particularly to the hundreds of individuals who ran with us and believed in our advocacy of helping raise awareness about the sorry state of Filipino farmers,” said the YBFP executive. “We are grateful that by doing business with a heart by living a life for others, we are now able to not just bring a message but enlist people who are willing to do the same mission as we’re in now, even if they come from diverse backgrounds,” Maria said.

“Our farmers now are inspired that they have us who are their allies in their effort to improve their lives through agriculture,” added Maria, a former seminarian.

(Juan Lim)

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Agriculture flunker gets 2nd chance with Yamang Bukid

  • He dreamed of becoming a musician and Daniel John Zabala ended up trying to become an agriculturist.
    A native of Palawan, the 26-year old is one of two aspiring agriculturists Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI) is funding to take this year’s licensure examinations. The would-be examinees are in the thick of their review classes at the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB).

    “While being an agriculture in itself is good, it’s still better if you pass the exams and get a license,” Zabala said during an interview at the foot of a tall monument at the UPLB grounds.
    His love for farming sprouted when he was still young, although his family was not really into farming. “I just love to grow plants. I love farming,” Zabala said, adding this motivated him to take up agriculture.

    After graduating from college at a university in Palawan, Zabala did not take the exam immediately. He went to Manila and worked for a call center company, doing punishing graveyard shifts that took a heavy toll on his health. He only lasted months before deciding to return to Palawan.

    He got a job at the city agriculture office in Puerto Princesa, doing special projects in the barangays. While it was somehow a rewarding job, Zabala still yearned to become a licensed agriculturist and improve his career. He therefore decided to take the boards years after he had graduated. “I started my self-review routine but found it quite difficult because I’ve been out of school for a long time already,” said Zabala. Nevertheless, he still took the exams. He failed.

    Zabala said he was saddened but undeterred by the results. He continued his job visiting the barangays of Puerto Princesa doing technical works, until he came to Yamang Bukid Farm, an agri-tourism destination at Barangay Bacungan that is becoming popular among locals and visitors. Zabala said he was struck by the uniqueness of the agri-tourism farm because it operates based on novel ideas, like not having an entrance fee for visitors. He also appreciated how the farm cares for its employees, particularly the farmers who were given a chance to turn a new leaf after engaging in illegal logging and other destructive forest activities as means of livelihood.

    That’s why Zabala readily accepted an offer of employment extended by the farm management, leaving his government job of a year-and-half. There, Zabala immediately embraced the farm’s culture and made friends with the employees.

    “I found working at YB (Yamang Bukid Farm) very fulfilling. i adjusted well with the working environment. They let you learn and improve at the same time,” Zabala said. Apart from getting a compensation well above his previous income, Zabala also got additional bonus when he the farm offered to shoulder his review and board exam expenses.

    “I could not contain my happiness. God gave me the second chance to reach my dream of getting a license through Yamang Bukid’s generosity,” Zabala said, vowing to make good his second attempt.

    For his second try, the aspiring agriculturist sees to it that he is well-prepared. “I have to read many modules. The board exams is for those who have so much knowledge. You can’t rely on a single module and expect to pass.” Whether he makes it this time might be not yet certain, but Zabala was sure he would stay working with Yamang Bukid Farm after the board exams.
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Japanese farms offer lucrative jobs to poor Pinoy farmers

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY——A group of Japanese farmowners is inviting farmers from the Philippines to work in Japan, promising attractive compensation to mostly impoverished land tillers in the agriculture-based Southeast Asian country and help prop up Japan’s technologically-advanced farming sector now being threatened due to an aging population of farmers.

    (photo by Jennifer Milante)

    Filipino farmers are offered upwards to 100,000 yen (P48,000) as net monthly salaries by working as farm hands in agriculture-rich rural Japan, with free living and other accommodations given by employer-farmowners as additional incentives, said Sandra Moriso, a Filipino-Japanese who has been in the Land of the Rising Sun for 22 years now.
    “They are in need of young farm workers as their farming population is aging,” said Moriso.
    Rapid industrialization after rising from the rubbles of World War II brought unprecedented growth to Japan, with technology-based methods pervading even into the traditionally labor-intensive farming sector, causing a growth in productivity. Japan’s farming sector however, suffered as many well-educated youth of later generations opted to corporate and blue-collar jobs in Tokyo, Nagoya and other megacities of the island-nation, instead of becoming farmers. Moriso said Japanese have known Filipino farmers as hardworking even with limited and oftentimes obsolete farming technologies.

    The compensation offer of the Japanese to the Filipinos is significantly higher and even surpasses the monthly salaries of mid-level executives in a country where there are still people who survive with below 2 dollars (P100) as daily income.
    “Our farmers are in demand in Japan,” said Moriso, who on Sept. 21 toured with a group of farm owners and members of an agriculture cooperative in eastern Japan’s Iwate Prefecture to Yamang Bukid Farm, an emerging farm tourism destination here. At least 208 Filipinos are known to work in farms under the Agriculture Cooperative Society in Iwate alone, said Moriso.

    “They usually work in three-year contracts although they may extend it up to ten years, depending on their agreement with the farm owner,” said Moriso. “What they earn there is certainly way, way many times over than what they could have gotten as workers here.”
    The Japanese flew in from Manila and motored to Barangay Bacungan, a 30-minute drive from the city proper, to visit the 20-plus hectare Yamang Bukid Farm. They were enamored by the beautiful and fresh music and enjoyed the sights around the sprawling farm tourism site, which recently has been accredited by the governments’s Department of Agriculture—Agriculture Training Institute (DA-ATI) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).

    “This place is so beautiful. The plants and the rolling hills are beautiful,” Takeshi Sasaki, chief executive officer of a vegetable farm in Iwate, said through an interpreter. The Japanese also enjoyed interacting with some of Yamang Bukid Farm’s farmer-workers and dined on local dishes.

    As a token of gratitude, the visitors gave a box of unagi pie—a sweet delicacy from Iwate—to the farm officials. As a return gesture, the Filipinos also handed jars of Yamang Bukid turmeric 10-in-1 Tea, a turmeric-based hot beverage manufactured by the farm’s parent company, Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI). “Thank you for dropping by the farm and listening to some of the stories of our farmers,” said Bro. George Maria, Yamang Bukid Farm’s vice president for community relations, himself a farmer.

    Maria said the Japanese farm owners’ offer are generous to the Filipinos, particularly now that local farmers are suffering due to cheap prices of their produce.
    “We are with you in helping our respective farmers. We employ nearly 300 farmers, most of them former illegal loggers and slash-and-burn practitioners. We give them dignified salaries and a shot at redeeming themselves from their former reputation as nature destroyers,” Maria told the Japanese.
    (JL)
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Yamang Bukid Farm draws over 254,000 visitors in 2019

  • Yamang Bukid Farm is among the most visited tourism destinations in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, drawing over a quarter of a million guests last year, government data released recently revealed.

    At least 254, 449 local and foreign tourists visited the 20-hectare farm tourism destination in Barangay Bacungan in 2019, according to a report Friday by online Palawan News.

    Citing data released by the city government, the report said Yamang Bukid Farm placed fourth in the list of the most popular destinations for tourists in tourism-magnet Puerto Princesa.

    Topping the list is Baker’s Hill, a privately-run hilltop destination in Sta. Monica village where popular Palawan delicacies and other pasalubong (souvenir) are sold. It attracted some 630, 455 visitors last year.

    The UNESCO-heritage site Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP) came in second with 331, 356 visitors. Palawan Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center was third, logging in 272, 881 guests.

    Rounding up the top five is Luli Island resort off Honday Bay, drawing at least 144,965 tourists.
    Yamang Bukid, a two-year old sprawling farm has been popular among tourists for its well-manicured flower gardens and delicacies such as sumbulo—a saccharine glutinous rice cake cooked in bamboo and flavored with health and wellness herbs—among others.

    The Farm has some 300 employees, more than 90 percent of whom are former illegal loggers and tree poachers.

    It is also an advocate of sustainable and organic agriculture. Last year, Yamang Bukid Farm, has embarked in a partnership with Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) in teaching modern farming methods and technology to the grassroots in Bacungan and nearby communities.
    (JL)
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