Farmers, tourists toil for art at Palawan attraction

Published: September 24, 2019 09:25am | PUERTO PRINCESA CITY


PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—Hundreds of farmworkers in a farm tourism destination here literally tried their hands on a painting session that showcased their talents and opened up their dreams and life aspirations on canvas. The hand-painting session dubbed “Guhit ni Ama (Father’s Drawing)” is a project involving employees of emerging farm tourism destination Yamang Bukid Farm in Barangay Bacungan here.

A lady tourist shows off her opus "I love Agutaya" during a hand painting event by farmer-employees and guests at Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan recently
(photo by Jennifer Milante)

Part of drumming up its fifth Agros Festival for farmers, the sprawling agri-tourism attraction initiated the event “to honor all farmers and give them an avenue for their artistic skills they they usually underestimate,” said Bro. George Maria, Yamang Bukid Farm’s vice president for community relations.
Initiating the activity were brothers Adonis and Julius Opiala and J-joy Umambong, the farm’s resident visual artists.

Body of work created by farmers and tourists during a hand-painting event by farmer-employees and guests at Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan recently
(photos by Reden Villaester)

Most of the artworks centered about the farmers’ simple dreams and environment, with subjects like houses between rolling hills, a garden with sunflowers labelled “Yamang Bukid Farm” and standalone sunflowers.
Interestingly, the activity caught the attention of other farm employees as well as guests who dirtied their hands to try their painting skills.

Their subjects were as diverse—about two islands and a boat against a red sky and signed with “I love Agutaya”, to a messy attempt at psychedelic impressionism, and to a gray cloud against a blue horizon which according to the artist, was the noxious Indonesian haze now blanketing Palawan’s skyline.

Against a background of sunflowers, farmers literally try their hands on painting their dreams and aspirations during an art session at Yamang Bukid Farm-Palawan recently
(photo by Frinston Lim)

“I’m surprised I can paint,” exclaimed farmer Sonny Tesado, who worked in one hand due to a disability caused by a motorcycle accident several years back, showing his painting of a huge tree with what appears like sunflowers growing around it. “This activity showed our farmers are not only creative at growing food but also at drawing their aspirations on canvas,” said Maria.

The event’s output were put on display at a kiosk converted as temporary open gallery inside the farm, where guests can buy the artworks for as low as P350 each, with the sales revenue going back to the farmer-artists.

With the overwhelming success of the activity, Maria said they were considering to hold it on a regular basis, probably once in a month.
(JL)

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Palawan farm tourism site prides “toilets for all gender stripes”

  • A farm tourism destination in Palawan is raising the concept of gender sensitivity a stripe higher.
    For nearly two years now, Yamang Bukid Farm in Puerto Princesa City’s Barangay Bacungan has introduced a novel way of giving people the facility where they can answer nature’s call regardless of their sexual orientation.

    Guests pose outside the marked "gender-sensitive toilets" of Yamang Bukid Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. The farm tourism destination at Barangay Bacungan is a place of respect, tolerance and equality.
    (Photo by Daniel Kat)

    Manned and maintained by elderly women, Yamang Bukid Farm’s comfort room has separate spacious cubicles for girls, boys, gays and lesbians.
    The round-shaped building is made of concrete and roofed with indigenous materials. Outside it has two porcelain tubs and faucets for washing hands. Inside each cubicle has a flush toilet and bidet hose for cleaning.

    Outside, one can easily see the markings on the top of each of the four white wooden doors. Emblazoned in white against a black background each of the doors are the words GIRL, BOY, BAKLA and TOMBOY.
    One may argue that bakla and tomboy (Filipino slang for gays and lesbians, respectively) are in fact derogatory but for Bobby Arzaga, a Palawan-based vlogger and receptionist for the Farm, the terms are mainly names that describe their sexual label and nothing else.

    “I’m not offended because that’s how I want people to see me. I don’t know with other gays if they’re offended, though,” Arzaga said, adding he uses the cubicle labelled for the gays more often than that of the boys’.
    A learning site for sustainable and organic-based agriculture, the Farm which is a subsidiary of health and wellness products-maker Yamang Bukid Healthy Products Inc. (YBHPI), is advocating equality for all, embracing and respecting all guests of whatever gender stripes, according to the toilets’ designer Benjie Monegasque.

    “This is a reflection of doing business with a heart. Yamang Bukid welcomes and embraces all gender. The Yamang Bukid brand promotes equality, respect and tolerance,” Monasque said. (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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Life-changing
tales at YB farm community

  • GMA Network host Drew Arellano recently traveled to Puerto Princesa, Palawan to visit the Yamang Bukid Farm in Barangay Bacungan for an episode of his travel show "Biyahe ni Drew."

    Aside from marveling at the property's all-natural farming methods and wide selection of produce, the TV host was given a peek at the life-changing stories of YB's farm workers.

    Yamang Bukid only used to have 20 farmers but eventually tapped around 200 former illegal loggers and helped them mend their ways by introducing them to an alternative, stable, and sustainable source of income through crop and poultry farming, as well as agro-tourism.

    One such farmer was Ronnel Espino, who told Drew how Yamang Bukid not only helped his family financially but also — and more importantly — trained him and his fellow farmers how to do agribusiness with a heart, having a reoriented mindset to protect the environment.

    But Drew's trip to the Yamang Bukid Farm would, of course, not be complete without him trying out the farm's all-natural produce — from healthy pasalubong options to meals made form ingredients freshly picked from the plantation.

    Watch Drew help himself with one of Yamang Bukid's most popular treats, "sumbulo" or suman (rice cake) sa "bulo" or kawayan (bamboo). — YB
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