The Warmth of Home

 

November 22, 2021

Euel Santos

“Ay, farmer lang ‘yan” (He’s just a farmer.) One might say that a farmer is just some guy who tends to crops all day only to make not even the bare minimum out of a whole field’s worth of months of work. The hard fact of being a farmer is it is frankly all that. Farmers have to live with the frustrations of farming, but all hope and hard work is not lost because farming has more to offer than just a hard day under the sun.

Warm air hits the face, the sun is out again, and Mar is back on the fields to tend to his crops. Almario Abergas, Mar for short, eyes a good turn out this planting season. Today, he’s about to harvest his rice crops that he planted just over a few months ago. The field is unpredictable. The weather is temperamental. Who knows what could be in store for him today?

Mar is a farmer and the president of the barangay farmers’ association in Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. He is an accountant by profession. He went to college to study accountancy. Unfortunately, he didn’t pass the accountancy exam but regardless, he gave the field of business management a go in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, and the United States until he eventually decided to live simple and go back to his roots of farming.

Almerio
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This story goes quite a fair far back for Mar. He has been farming as early as he can remember. He says, “I used to be a farmer since my childhood. Say, I started [when I was] 4 years [old]... from there, it went up to this age [until now]”. While his siblings were out in Manila studying, he chose to stay with his parents in Nueva Ecija to juggle his elementary education and work around the fields. All throughout his childhood, he stayed in the province to take care of his family’s farmland even when his parents had to move to take care of his siblings in the city. The whole family had to rely on Mar’s farming to thrive. This was an extremely giant burden for young Mar to carry. Nevertheless, he persevered and became the family breadwinner early on. “That was one way of helping my family.” He says that it was a sacrifice he was willing to take to support his family.

Admittedly, the going also got tough for Mar. Working alone in the fields on a summer's day would get the best of anyone. The work in the fields only had a minimum payoff and quickly became too much of a chore. He eventually decided to move to the city during his third year of high school to reunite with his family in search of better soil and higher education. He had to set his priorities straight and farming had to go to the wayside to make room for college. Like every Filipino kid, Mar wanted to get a competitive degree for his parents’ satisfaction. He studied all 4 years of college and got his degree but nothing seemed quite set with his life in business management.

He had other ambitions, but farming provided a sense of comfort and ease. Through all the years of working under the sun in his childhood, farming had developed into a passion and Mar eventually went back to it. It was perhaps a longing for home that made him go back. He says he decided to go back to farming because it is what he knew best. He knew the fields like the back of his hands.

Farming is an integral part of Filipino life and yet, people overlook the food that farmers bring to our dinner tables. The main misconception that people have about farming is that it is for the lowly. It’s easy for anyone to look down on farming as a profession.“When you are a farmer, people believe that you are a very poor person.” But, Mar says not to look down on the beauty of simplicity that life in the fields has to offer. Yes, life on the fields is far from glitz and glamour but it’s not all misfortune and a lack of skill that drive people to this life. He says, Farming is a very noble profession.” To Mar, farming is not just a job. Mar has had many successes through farming and even though the harvest is unpredictable, Mar takes his shot because he’s not only in it for the profit.

 

“Farming is a very noble profession."

Farming has its fair share of downsides. For Mar, it can become frustrating at times because of the unpredictability of the harvest. “Sometimes you’re happy because your harvest is enough— at least... When you cultivate your farm, you must have a plan.” Farming taught Mar to be strategic. He says that planning is essential for success in farming and in life. The values he learned through farming he carries to his everyday life.

Farming teaches Mar the value of hard work and hard earned results. The payoff might not be ideal but it is enough for Mar. What matters to him is that he gets to see his efforts materialize into the glory of the green fields he glances at at the end of a planting season. From seedlings to fully grown crops, Mar witnesses his hard work grow through the hardships and adversities as each day passes by. More than anything else, farming dignifies Mar. It keeps him grounded and aware of the things he should be grateful for. Farming has helped him provide for his family. He says it has helped a great deal in raising his children.

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More than anything else, farming dignifies Mar.

Mar’s legacy does not stop there. For 18 years, he has been a part of the farmers’ association of his barangay in Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur.  He extends the knowledge and wisdom to his colleagues in hopes of giving the same success story he has had to his fellow farmers in the association. He has been a member of the association since 2003 when he married his wife and settled in Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. The association works with the local government unit to improve the agricultural sector of Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. As the president, Mar distributes in-season crop seedlings to the farmers and the wives. The association has different equipment and materials Mar acquired from the local government that the members can borrow to help with the harvest. The members can improve their harvests with the tools, knowledge, and support provided through the association.

One meeting, Mar had spoken up on behalf of the other members about where the association was heading. He knew that the association was falling out of the members’ best interest and so, he asked the then-president to act on it. He didn’t expect anything out of it, so it came as a shock to him when he was nominated president at the next meeting. Like always, to Mar, this was a duty he needed to fulfill for the other members rather than for himself. He has been the president for the past 8 years. Currently, he hopes to make the association a center of camaraderie among members. His goal for the association before he passes the reins to a successor is to turn it into a cooperative. He wants to help not only his constituents but their families as well. Through the cooperative, he hopes to lend and provide for the families of the members in their times of need. He hopes to be a beacon of light for the families that rely on farming in their area. 

“Farming is very important in my life.” When asked what farming was to him in one word, Mar described it as important. “Siguro iyan [farming] ang kinagisnan ko…” (Perhaps, that’s because I was born into farming...) It has been with him through every stage of his life. It has helped him all throughout his education. Farming allows him to live comfortably and lead a noble life. It has taught him life lessons only farming would have taught him. Truly, farming felt like it was there whenever Mar was in need. The fields have given him so much and he could only hope to help  his fellow farmers find the same dig from the fields. 

To Mar, nothing’s quite like a warm home as the farming fields under the hot sun.

 

Ang Init ng Tahanan

November 22, 2021

Euel Santos

“Ay, farmer (magsasaka) lang ‘yan”. Maaring sabihin ng isang tao  magdamag na nagsasaka ang isang magsasaka ngunit hindi pa rin niya nakakamit ang sapat na sweldo para sa buwan-buwang pag-aani. Ang masaklap pa ay ganoon talaga ang nararanasan ng isang magsasaka. Kinakailangang nilang yakapin ang mga paghihirap at mga balakid na kasama sa kanilang trabaho.  Gayunpaman, lahat ng pag-asa at pagsusumikap ay hindi nawawala kasi mas maraming maibibigay ang pagsasaka maliban lamang sa pagtatrabaho sa init ng araw.  

 

Narito na naman ang maalinsangan na hangin na humahaplos sa mukha, muling nagpakita ang araw, at nasa palayan muli si Mar para magtanim. Si Almario Abergas, o si Mar, ay umaasa sa mabuting pag-aani ngayong panahon. Sa araw na ito, mag-aani siya ng bigas na tinanim niya noong nakaraang mga buwan. Hindi mahulaan ang palayan at pabago-bago ng panahon. Sino ang may alam kung ano ang mayroon para kay Mar sa araw na ito? 

 

Si Mar ay isang magsasaka at pangulo ng barangay farmers’ association sa Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. Isa siyang accountant na nag-aral ng accountancy noong siya ay nasa kolehiyo. Sa kasamaang palad, hindi siya nakapasa ng pagsusulit sa accountancy subalit binigyan niya ng pagkakataon ang pagnenegosyo [business management] sa Pilipinas, Saudi Arabia, at Estados Unidos  hanggang napagpasiyahan niyang tumira at bumalik sa pagsasaka na kanyang kinalakhan.

Almerio
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Matagal nang panahon ang pinaghuhugutan ng kuwento ni Mar. Nagsimulang magsaka si Mar noong musmos pa siya. Ani niya, “I used to be a farmer since my childhood. Say, I started [when I was] 4 years [old]... from there, it went up to this age [until now].” (Dati akong magsasaka simula noong bata pa ako. Siguro, mga 4 apat na taong gulang ako tapos simula noon hanggang sa edad ko ngayon.) Habang nag-aaral ang kanyang mga kapatid sa Maynila, pinili niyang manatili sa Nueva Ecija kasama ang kanyang magulang upang ipagpatuloy ang kanyang pag-aaral sa elementarya habang tumutulong sa trabahong pagsasaka. Sa kanyang kabataan, nanatili siya sa probinsya para alagaan ang palayan ng kanyang pamilya kahit na kinakailangan ng kanyang mga magulang bumiyahe sa siyudad upang alagaan ang kanyang mga kapatid doon.

 

Sa katotohanan, nahirapan din si Mar. Ang pagtatrabaho ng mag-isa sa palayan tuwing tag-araw ay hindi kanais-nais. Nakatatanggap lamang ang isang magsasaka ng pinakamababang sahod o minimum wage at tila nagiging isang gawain na lamang ang pagsasaka. Di kalaunan ay napag-isipan ni Mar na pumunta sa siyudad noong ika-tatlong  taon ng high school upang makapiling ang kanyang pamilya, makapaghanap ng mas mabuting oportunidad at makapag-aral. Tulad ng isang Pilipinong bata, ninais ni Mar na makatanggap ng isang magandang degree. Natapos niya ang apat  na taon ng kolehiyo at natanggap niya ang kanyang degree ngunit parang hindi tumutugma ang kanyang buhay sa pagnenegosyo o business management. 

Mayroong pang ibang adhikain si Mar, ngunit sa pagsasaka niya nahanap ang kaalwanan at kaginhawaan . Sa mga taon ng kanyang kabataan nang siya ay nagtatrabaho sa ilalim ng araw, ninasa niya ang pagsasaka at muli niyang binalikan ito. Siguro ito ay ang pagnanasang  bumalik sa kanyang kinalakhan. Ito ang naging dahilan ng kanyang pagbalik. Sinabi niya na bumalik siya sa pagsasaka dahil alam niyang iyon iyung mainam na nararapat. Matalas ang kanyang kaalaman sa palayan at sa pagsasaka. 

Ang pagsasaka ay mahalaga sa buhay ng isang Pilipino ngunit madalas na hindi nabibigyan ng pansin ang pagkaing bunga ng kanilang pagsusumikap. Bantog ang maling kuru-kuro na para sa mga mahihirap lamang ang pagsasaka. Mabilis na magkaroon ng ganoong pananaw sa propesyong ito. “Kapag ikaw ay isang magsasaka, maraming naniniwala na mahirap ka.” Gayunpaman, para kay Mar, sinasabi niya na huwag tingnan ng mababa ang kagandahan ng simpleng buhay na mayroon sa palay. Oo, ang buhay magsasaka ay hindi nakaakit o maginhawa, subalit hindi lamang nagiging magsasaka ang isang tao dahil sa kahirapan o kakulangan ng kasanayan. Sabi niya, “Ang pagsasaka ay isang marangal na propesyon.” Para kay Mar, ang pagsasaka ay hindi lamang isang trabaho. Maraming hinaharap  na tagumpay si Mar sa pamamagitan ng pagsasaka at bagaman walang katiyakan ang paglipas ng panahon at pag-aani, matatag na nagpapatuloy si  Mar dito  dahil hindi lang salapi ang kanyang pakay. 

 

“Ang pagsasaka ay isang marangal na propesyon."

Marami ring kabiguan ang mapapala sa pagsasaka. Para kay Mar, nakababagot rin ito minsan dahil hindi masabi ang daloy ng pag-aani. “Minsan, masaya ka kasi sapat ang ani. Tuwing lilinangin ang palayan, kailangang may plano.” Sa pamamagitan ng pagsasaka natutuhan ni Mar na maging madiskarte. Sinabi niya na ang pagpaplano ay mahalaga para maging matagumpay sa pagsasaka at sa buhay. Ang mga aral na napulot niya sa pagsasaka ay ginagamit  niya rin sa kanyang buhay. 

 

Natututuhan ni Mar ang kahalagahan ng pagsusumikap at ang mga bunga ng kanyang pagpupursigi sa pagsasaka. Bagaman hindi gaano kataas ang sweldo, sapat na ito para kay Mar. Ang mahalaga sa kanya ay nakikita niyang nabubuhay ang kanyang mga tinatanim sa panahon ng pag-aani. Mula sa maliliit na punla hanggang mayabong na ani, nasaksihan ni Mar ang kanyang pagsisikap na nanaig sa kabila ng paghihirap at kagipitan habang lumilipas ang araw. Higit sa lahat, sa pamamagitan ng pagsasaka nahanap ni Mar ang parangal. Ito ang nagbibigay ng dahilan kung bakit kailangan niyang mapagkumbaba at mapagpasalamat. Ang pagsasaka ay tumulong sa kanya para matustusan niya ang kanyang pamilya. Bukod pa rito, lubos itong nakatulong sa pagpapalaki ng kanyang mga anak.

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Higit sa lahat, sa pamamagitan ng pagsasaka nahanap ni Mar ang parangal.

Hindi nagtatapos ang legado ni Mar dito. Sa loob ng 18 na taon, naging kasapi siya sa farmers’ association ng kanyang barangay sa Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. Ipinamahagi niya ang kanyang kaalaman sa kanyang mga katrabaho upang sila rin ay maging matagumpay katulad niya. Siya ay naging isang miyembro noong 2003 nang pakasalan niya ang kanyang asawa na siyang  nanirahan na sa Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. Ang kapisanan na ito at ang lokal na pamahalaan ay parehong nagsisikap na mapabuti ang agrikultura ng Santo Domingo, Ilocos Sur. Bilang pangulo, namamahagi si Mar ng mga punla na angkop sa kasalukuyang panahon sa mga magsasaka at sa kanilang mga asawa. Ang kapisanan na ito ay may iba’t ibang mga kagamitan at materyales na nakuha ni Mar mula sa lokal na pamahalaan. Maaari itong hiramin ng mga miyembro sa panahon ng pag-aani. Sa tulong ng sapat na kagamitan, kaalaman, at suporta mula sa kapisanan, mas mapabubuti nila ang pag-aani. 

 

Sa isang pagpupulong, ibinahagi ni Mar kung saan patungo ang asosasyon. Alam niyang nawawala ang interes ng mga miyembro kaya pakiusap siya sa dating pangulo noon na gawan ito ng paraan. Laking gulat niya nang sa sumunod na pagpupulong, siya ang pinili bilang pangulo. Kagaya ng nakaraan, ito ay isang posisyon na kailangan niyang magawa para sa kanyang mga miyembro at hindi para sa kanyang sarili. Walong taon na ang nakaraan kung saan pangulo pa rin ng kapisanan si Mar. Sa kasalukuyan, nais niyang maging isang lugar kung saan makakapagsalu-salo ang mga miyembro. Ang kanyang layunin bago niya ipamana ang kapisanan sa susunod na pangulo ay gawin itong kooperatiba o cooperative. Nais niyang tulungan hindi lamang ang mga miyembro knndi pati ang mga pamilya rin nila. Sa pamamagitan ng pagbuo ng isang kooperatiba, nais niyang makatulong sa mga pamilya ng mga miyembrong nangangailangan. Hangarin niyang maging pag-asa at ilaw para sa mga pamilya na nakasalalay sa pagsasaka bilang pangkabuhayan. 

“Ang pagsasaka ay mahalaga sa aking buhay.” Tuwing tinatanong siya, kung ano ang pagsasaka para sa kanya sa isang salita, tugon niya na iyon daw ay mahalaga. “Siguro iyan [ang pagsasaka] ang kinagisnan ko…” Naging malaking impluwensiya ito sa bawat yugto ng kanyang buhay. Ang pagsasaka ay tumutulong sa kanya upang mamuhay ng komportable at upang magkaroon ng marangal na buhay. Marami siyang natutuhan na aral na mapupulot lamang sa pagsasaka. Tunay ngang nariyan palagi ang pagsasaka sa mga oras ng pangangailangan . Maraming naitulong ang mga palayan at ang nais niya ay matulungan rin ang ibang mga pamilya. 

Para kay Mar, ang isang maginhawa na tahanan ay tulad lamang ng pagtatanim  at pag-aani  sa mga palayan sa ilalim ng bunga ng araw.