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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Yamang Bukid Farm’s “happiest” tour guide

  • His warm personality can be infectious and Isabelito Aspa Jr. has used it to his advantage.

    The 20-year old who loves to put a pink cotton ball on his wrist is a tour guide of Yamang Bukid Farm in Bacungan, Puerto Princesa City.

    Wearing a pair of rain boots, pants and a blue shirt emblazoned with block letters proclaiming Yamang Bukid Farm as an agri-tourism site, Aspa was now meeting a group of local tourists who were stepping off a van and are lining up to avail of free taste of turmeric 10-in-1 tea at the farm entrance.

    “Welcome to Yamang Bukid Farm ma’am, sir. Hope you enjoy here. Free taste,” Aspa, known to friends and colleagues as Sab or Sabie, says as he hands a cup of Yamang Bukid Healthy Products’ turmeric 10-in-1 tea to each of the new visitors who eagerly gulped it down.

    “I like it here, you can meet new people everyday,” he says, ringing the pink feathery trinket around his right wrist.

    A resident of Puerto Princesa’s Cabayugan village, comes from a fairly large family where tolerance has been the norm as it is love.

    His father is a farmer and his mother is an enterprising housewife who hawks everything, from cosmetics to homemade delicacies.

    “I used to join my mother sell polvoron (a powdery sweetened confectionary), karioka (a type of Palawan delicacy) and Avon products near the entrance to the (Puerto Princesa) Underground River in Sabang,” the youngest of nine siblings recalls. “She is not a spendthrift. She is frugal.”

    During his elementary days, Sabie found his hobby of designing clothes, particularly gowns. He practiced it well, until his classmates noticed his talent and asked him to design their toga during their high school graduation.

    After secondary school, Sabie took up a bachelor’s degree in hospitality management in one of the tertiary schools in Palawan where he met and became friends with Professor Melissa Olit, a consultant for Yamang Bukid Farm.

    Professor Olit hired him and several other students to help at the farm’s restaurant part-time. Into his third year in college, Sabie was offered by the farm management a scholarship until he got his degree.

    As a way of paying it back, Sabie decided to apply for a full-time job at the farm. He says his work entails meeting people and attending to their needs while guiding them in their tour around the sprawling agri-tourism destination. “You should give the guests full service. You attend to them in a cheerful, friendly manner. That’s my mantra in my job here.” Sabie says, adding his crackling laugh is also an additional asset.

    “Sometimes guests would also join in my laughter. i hope they won’t get irritated, but that’s just the way how I laugh,” he said. The farm tour guide, who openly admits being gay, says he gets respect and acceptance from fellow workers like that of his family’s.

    “They love me even if I’m Sabie,” he says, once again letting loose his infectious guffaws. He first learned liking girl stuff when he was still in kindergarten. But despite being effeminate, Sabie says his family accepted him whole-heartedly. He never heard being mocked upon, much less condemned, in their home. He was allowed to freely express himself.

    He says he is grateful Yamang Bukid Farm is not only a place that values its employees by giving them competitive pay and its customers by extending them excellent service. The upland paradise has become a place of tolerance for him and other members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community.

    The farm does not discriminate against workers just because of gender or sexual preferences. It supports that diversity, instead. The most striking feature of the farm related to this is its multi-gender washroom or toilet, in which it built four separate toilets for male, female, gay and lesbian guests.
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Farm destination partners with Palawan palay-producing town to help IP farmers

  • PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—A fast-emerging farm tourism destination here has partnered with the local government of Narra, Palawan to buy palay from farmers affected by plummeting prices of the staple grain.

    Palay stalks hang heavy with ripe grains on a farmland in Narra town, Palawan (Photo by Dianne Kathryn Datu)

    Bro. George Maria, Yamang Bukid Farm Palawan vice president for community affairs, said the farm would buy at least P100,000 worth of ready to mill palay at P25 per kilo, way above the prevailing buying price of the state-run National Food Authority of P19.

    Maria and other officials of Barangay Bacungan-based farm met with officials of Narra municipality and expressed their intention to procure palay from impoverished farmers there.

    Dried palay grains along a roadside dryer in Narra town, Palawan.
    (Photo by Dianne Kathryn Datu)

    “This is a great opportunity for the farmers of Narra because you will buy the palay at a higher price and give back a portion of the rice to them,” Vice Mayor Crispin Lumba Jr. told Bro. Maria at the official’s office last Oct. 29.

    Hope Alas, YBF vice president for tourism affairs, said the amount to be used was net proceeds of last month’s run for the farmers staged by the farm tourism destination.

    “This is our commitment to the farmers and to those who joined and believed in our cause,” said Maria, a former seminarian.

    Eugene Sumaydeng, municipal agriculturist, recommended YBF to consider buying from indigenous peoples (IP) communities who are cultivating organic upland palay.

    “Your help will be hugely felt in these far-flung areas,” Sumaydeng said.

    As part of their commitment, Lumba said the local government will shoulder the drying and milling of the palay and assist in the transportation of the grains from the upland down to the town proper.

    Maria, the YBF official, said they expected to help dozens of impoverished IP farmers.

    “What we’re doing is really small, but we hope this could snowball into something big and spur other businesses, well-off individuals and organizations to do the same so we can help alleviate the sorry situation of our farmers,” Maria said.

    Lumba, the vice mayor, said his town has planned to push for a similar initiative and the partnership with Yamang Bukid Farm was a start.

    “You know about government bureaucracy, we have to abide by it especially if involves people’s money, so your project is a timely and welcome development,” he said.

    Farm officials said they would give back to the farmer’s half of the milled rice and keep the other half for redistribution during its Christmas outreach missions next month, and use the collected rice bran or darak, as swine feed.

    (Juan Lim)
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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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