Hardworking heroes

by Ma. Leah Fleurrane I. De Fiesta

“Magtanim ay di biro (Planting rice is not a joke;)
Maghapong nakayuko (the whole day you’re bent like an ox.)
Di man lang makaupo (You cannot stand more than one bit;)
Di man lang makatayo (till you’re done you cannot sit.)

Braso ko’y namamanhid (Oh, my arms, the feeling’s gone)
Baywang ko’y nangangawit. (and my waist, its tired and sore.)
Binti ko’y namimitig (My legs feel a thousand pricks,)
Sa pagkababad sa tubig.” (soaked in water, six to six.)

“Ito na ang nakalakihan ko.” (This was what I was used to growing up.)
-Boyet Biscarra, Sasmuan farmer

“Ito na ang bumuhay sa ‘min ng pamilya ko.” (This is my family’s source of income.)
-Orlando Cunanan, Mexico farmer

“Ito ang pangunahing pangangailangan ng tao.” (This is the main need of the people.)
-Arturo Laxamana, Floridablanca farmer

“Dito, nakakatulong ako sa tao.” (With this, I could help other people.)
-Antonio Rivera, Angeles City farmer

With the dwindling number of farmers in the province – 34,421 to be exact – some now call them “a dying breed”.

Nowadays, children of farmers show no interest whatsoever in the industry they grew up in. At this time of technological advancements, where being techie savvy is the “in’ thing, these kids who literally grew up in the farms do not want to be a laughingstock of their peers.

Would they have the guts to stand in the middle of the field, under the scorching hot sun, and harvest palay like their fathers, and their fathers before them?

Do they also have the courage and the passion to embrace life in the rice fields?

This alarming scenario in the agricultural industry in the province did not escape the keen observance of Pampanga Governor Lilia ‘Nanay’ Pineda. She is very well aware of the fact that a so-called “farming” family would not send their kids to a university to take up a course related to agriculture.

From this was borne the newly constructed 17.9 million “Agripreneurship” Building at the Pampanga State Agricultural University (PSAU) in Magalang, funded by the provincial government, aimed at attracting the youth to take a second and long, hard look at the agri industry.

The Provincial Capitol of Pampanga has always prioritized education, and this is but a testament that it wants to fulfil the dreams of the farmers of old for their children – and their children’s children – to continue their legacy.

An added bonus is the passing of the free tuition law which will lead to an influx of incoming students who would want to try their hand at farming.

Good among the bad
Amidst the limited number of farmers in the province, however, Pampanga remains to be the Top 11th rice producer in the Philippines.

Since 2010, the province had produced 64,640,586 cavans of rice. Every year, Pampanga also produces 1,174,440 sacks of corn; 12,645,000 kilograms of ampalaya, eggplant, sitaw, okra, squash, upo, patola, and 23,995,000 kilograms of mangoes, bananas and papayas.

See, who would have thought there is no advantage in farming?

The provincial government has also been giving help to less fortunate farmers, allotting P5.9 million for financial assistance; P14.4 million equivalent to 12,000 sacks of free certified seeds; P9.6 million for farming machineries; and P8.2 million for other equipment.

Far from dying
A dying livelihood, they say? Maybe, if it will not be preserved by the present generation.

Without farming, and without the farmers of the previous generations, we will not be here savoring various fruits and vegetables, and enjoying that extra rice with every meal.

This is no joke. This is not a dying livelihood – far from it. Farming is a decent living, and this keeps us breathing.

What the older generation wants to shout out to the youth of the present is this: the youth must give importance to the essence of farmers, and of farming.

The telling of the farmers’ legacy from one mouth to another, from one generation to the other, from grandparents to their grandchildren will be an honor. Seeing their children adapting and continuing the only thing they have learned then to live and survive – would be etched in their family history.

This may be the only source of income for one farming family back in the day so they can send their kids to school, but now, there are different programs by the government to assist them in every way possible.

For farmers, to be able to provide food to the people is pure bliss. Regardless of how much they earn in a day – what matters most is they are able to help feed the people.

They have passion, for they do not just love their families, but also their crops. They show compassion, for they don’t just take good care of their families, but also their crops and livelihood. They have courage – with dirt in their hands and under their fingernails, standing under the intense sunlight – what they value the most is their responsibility to the people.

Hardworking heroes, indeed.

“Sa umaga, paggising (Mornings when I wake and rise;)
Ang lahat, iisipin (I tell myself to think, be wise)
Kung saan may patanim (and pray to find some land to till,)
May masarap na pagkain. (so I can have a tasty meal.)

Halina, halina, mga kaliyag, (Come, dear fellow stewards of the earth,)
Tayo’y magsipag-unat-unat. (stretching muscles is good for the health.)
Magpanibago tayo ng lakas (Let us pause so we can catch our breath,)
Para sa araw ng bukas.” (and then tomorrow back to work!)

“Ito ang susundan ko sa paglaki ko.” (This is what will I pursue when I grow up.)
“Ito pa rin ang nagbibigay at magbibigay buhay sa lahat.” (This livelihood gives and breathes life.)
“Ito rin ang laging pangunahing pangangailangan ng lahat.” (This is still the main need of the people.)
“At dito, mas makakatulong ako..” (With this, I can help the people more.)

Sooner or later, we hope these lines would be what the present generation will say with conviction.

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