The Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) of WESVARRDEC
By Niño S. Manaog
Regional Applied Communications
If there’s one thing common to Ramon D. Peñalosa, Jr., Rebecca C. Tubongbanua, Margarito R. Andrade and Baltazar J. Gumana, all farmer scientists of the Western Visayas Agriculture and Resources Research and Development Consortium (WESVARRDEC), it would be social responsibility. All of them have been given the gift to share what they know that can certainly make other people’s lives better.
Appointed Magsasaka Siyentista (MS) by the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) for their cutting-edge practices, these farmer scientists have continuously been developing innovative technologies and making significant contributions to the lives of their people and community.
Ramon Peñalosa, Mr. Organic
For one, Ramon Peñalosa’s passion for organic farming has inspired a growing number of agriculture enthusiasts from across the country. In the Peñalosa Farms situated in Victorias City and Manapla, Negros Occidental, Peñalosa showcases an integrated farming system where good, healthy food comes from fruits and vegetables and livestock harmoniously grown for productivity and profit. In more ways than one, Peñalosa’s constant efforts championing markets creation have helped increase awareness and even appreciation of agri-tourism in Negros Occidental. In 2009 alone, a significant increase in the number of agri-tourists coming from across the country was noted by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in Negros Occidental.
The said influx can be attributed partly to the dynamic efforts of Ramon Peñalosa, whose number of visitors to his organic farms posted one of the highest for the province. Acting more than a marketer himself, Peñalosa tours his visitors to his farm like a staunch advocate of organic farming, a technology he himself practices in the said farms. In turn, the marketer is abundantly rewarded with productivity and celebrity that both work to make him and the community prosper. Among others, WESVARRDEC takes pride in Ramon Peñalosa’s La series Technology, a good farming practice that maximizes swine production with the right procedures and attitude toward farming.
DOERS, PROVIDERS, INNOVATORS (Clockwise from top left)
Ramon Peñalosa hosts visitors in his agri tourism farm in Manapla, Negros Occidental; Baltazar Gumana tours visitors in his cutflower farm in Mali-ao, Pavia . Iloilo; Rebecca Tubongbanua poses before a Christmas tree adorned with mango seeds which were leftovers in her production in Guimaras; and Gary Andrade addresses the crowd who visited his Libas, Banga farm during the Darag Field Day hosted by Aklan State University.
Margarito Andrade, Mr. Incubator
Similarly, Margarito Andrade’s venture into the incubation technology has gained PCARRD’s nod for a Science and Technology-Based Farm (STBF) through a 1700 sqm. lot situated in Barangay Libas, Banga, Aklan. After having worked as banker for more than two decades, Andrade set to consider his innovative tendencies for some purpose. In 2003, he developed an AC-DC incubator prototype that can hatch up to 2,000 eggs at a time, a technology that helps propel darag native chicken production in theWestern Visayas. From then on, the darag chicken farm given him by PCARRD has been producing considerable amount of hardened chicks ready for raising and production.
Recently, he incubated some 200 eggs needed by Aklan State University’s Darag station for the Angara-sponsored darag native chicken project based in the Banga campus. Andrade’s original incubator concept has also attracted some following, even as it is copied by a number of enthusiasts from across Aklan and even Negros Occidental, where it was featured at the Panaad Festival by WESVARRDEC. In particular, Andrade’s advocacy on organic farming which allows for the use of natural fodder for chickens has even intensified his support in the darag native chicken initiative continuously being bannered by WESVARRDEC and PCARRD.
The Birds and Flowers of Baltazar Gumana
Meanwhile, in the outskirts of Iloilo City, Pavia-born Baltazar Gumana, a civil engineer by profession, has developed a number of practices allowing flowers (and even birds) to make for a natural therapy for the common people. An avid grower of ornamental plants including fruit-bearing trees, Gumana envisions a self-sustaining horticultural organization in Panay Island that suffices the needs of Iloilo businesses and households and trends of the covered sectors like florists and landscapists, to name a few. Gumana is a forward-thinker, always willing to take risks, all for the purpose of making people aware that horticulture is one alternative means of livelihood for farmers nowadays.
Recently he spearheaded Iloilo HORTI 2010, a ten-day plant fair-exhibit that showcased ornamental plants, herbal plants and other plant varieties produced by the members of the Horticultural Development Cooperative of Iloilo City (HDCIC), of which he is an active member. Significantly, Gumana’s is affiliation with HDCIC allows Gumana to propagate plants even as he propagates awareness among the public that active and committed involvement in horticulture affords the farmer a win-win situation even in dire times.
Rebecca Tubongbanua, Reyna ng Mangga
Then, a former chemist working for the Guimaras Foods, Inc., Rebecca Tubongbanua’s decision to focus on food processing has virtually gained fruition through the years. In 2003 she started processing mango jams on a 7,000-peso working capital. From then on, her innovative recipes have gained considerable acceptance from consumers that she expanded to several other bestselling mango processed products that continue to rake profits in Iloilo and Guimaras.
The innovation lies in Rebecca’s ability to maximize—as in, without waste—the whole mango fruit into sensible processed products. Rebecca Tubongbanua can be considered a celebrity farmer producer, wowing some national media outfits to produce for and feature her innovative home-based technology on television and newspapers. Her McNester product line which features low-sugar and sulfite-free dried mangoes and the delectable Mango ketchup has also been luring foreign buyers and investors since her business expansion was in full swing.
More important, Rebecca’s openness to change and commitment to industry has inspired her to share the technologies to other people. In countless instances, various entities from the local government units to the academe have asked her to share her know-how in these process technologies, much to the delight of students, public officials and the general public. Since her appointment as MS in 2007, Tubongbanua has generously been sharing her mango recipes, while her products constantly sell like hotcakes in local and national trade fairs and exhibits. There is no stopping Rebecca’s mangga-nimous (magnanimous) momentum these days.
In these various capacities, the farmer-scientists or Magsasaka Siyentista of WESVARRDEC very well exemplify lives well-lived because of their talents and resources being maximized for the benefit of the people in Western Visayas. All of them have a sense of purpose found in the genuine service of others, perhaps one of the best reasons for being alive.