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I’m still having that nightmare of twisting my neck from one accident two years ago. I know I should be over it by now, but I’m not. At least, not yet. For a jiffy, I forget that I’m alive until my head involuntarily shakes me back to now… 

It’s quite scary how my brain replays the feeling… My back, which I know is already healed, still tingles from the pain… And my eyes stare blankly at the air until my toes and finges curl to regain my self-control.

 I do not know what to name it. Could you help me?

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I ain’t who I thought I was.

I keep on telling myself that I am a person who values the process more than the outcome… But as I can see now, I am different from what I tell myself that I am. I value the output, too, because of the obvious fact that without an output, a process cannot be considered whole. Also, realizing an ouput gives us the measure of how effective and efficient (or not) the process was.

It’s surprising to me how being the leader of an 11-month project is surfacing some parts of me that I never knew existed, or rather, parts that I preferred to keep hidden.

Thank you for his opportunity. Another month to go and this event will conclude. I’m excited as well as afraid as to what the future will bring, but I know that my prayers are heard, and when I ask fo something from my God, as long as it is according to His will, I can believe in my heart and mind that it is mine.

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She’s dead since a century ago.

They told me that we can’t move forward if we keep looking back.

But I beg to argue. 

I’ve been the person I am today, not just because I have hope for the future, but because I am in constant contact with the past. I’ve had the sanity to take that step forward because the pain reminds me that I am alive – that I have emotions and feelings and knowledge. More than anything, the pain makes me feel. It tears me apart from the numbness and isolation.

Bro, pain isn’t all that bad. At least, for me.

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‘Farmers’ to ‘Farmer-Entrepreneurs’: PCAARRD-LGU collab to teach farmers about Marketing

Comments are welcome.

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By Johanna Marie F. Drece | Last updated: 27 April 6:27 AM

Napakamura na nga ng benta mo tapos babaratin ka pa,” he said.

Nestor Pamulaklakin –  a 65 year-old organic farmer of Brgy. Maahas, Los Baños, discusses his experiences in his small-scale organic farming business. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece. Nestor Pamulaklakin –  a 65 year-old organic farmer of Brgy. Maahas, Los Baños, discusses his experiences in his small-scale organic farming business. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece.

Just like any other small-scale farmer in Los Baños, Laguna, 65-year old Nestor Pamulaklakin of Brgy. Maahas wants to earn the appropriate amount of money that he thinks he deserves for growing and tending the organic vegetables. However, he is powerless when it comes to the demands for cheaper price of his customers.

For example, he wants to sell his organic petchay for five pesos per bundle; each bundle has three average- sized petchay. However, he never seems to sell them that way because customers pushes him to sell his vegetables for an unreasonable price of two to three pesos per bundle.

“Sa kagustuhang magkapera ng mahirap na magsasaka, kahit mura  ibinibigay,” he said.

The problem, he pointed out, was the lack of standard protocol for the prices of  organic produce in the community. He said that this is not just his struggle, but also  of most small-scale organic farmers in Los Baños. Adelaida Calizo, Mang Nestor’s 85-year old co-farmer from Sityo Ibaba, affirms his stand in a separate interview.

Nanay Adeling agreed that most of the time, the price that the consumers demand is  far below the real worth of the organic vegetables. She knows she could earn more  than what she is earning now if only there is a more accessible market where their  organic vegetables can be sold at a strictly prescribed uniform price.

To answer this problem, a mini-market has been set up beside the front steps of the municipal building. Dubbed as  the Los Baños Friday Organic Market (LBFOM), this venue has been set up in  November 2014 as a market place for the vegetable products of the farmer  participants of a project about organic vegetables farming implemented by the  Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and  Development (PCAARRD) in partnership with Gender and Development Office Los Baños-Local Government Unit (GAD LB-LGU).

The LBFOM is very strategic for those who want to buy organic vegetables because of its place in the municipal building. The problem here, according to the farmers, is  their incapability to access the market to sell their goods in the LBFOM because  most of them live far from the municipal building.

For Nanay Adeling whose farm is situated in the far flung community of Sityo Ibaba,  delivering the vegetables to the LBFOM is very challenging.

Sa edad kong ito, kaya ko pang magsibak ng kahoy at mag-farm. Pero magpasan ng kilu-kilong upo, ampalaya, sitaw, talong, at iba pa kada Biyernes papunta sa munisipyo? Nahihirapan na ako ‘neng,” she stated with a quivering voice.

Nanay Adelaida Calizo, an 85-year old organic farmer, recalls her experiences while selling her organic produce to the people in their barangay and in the nearby communities. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece. Nanay Adelaida Calizo, an 85-year old organic farmer, recalls her experiences while selling her organic produce to the  people in their barangay and in the nearby communities. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece.

She says that delivering organic vegetables to the municipal building is difficult  because she does not have a vehicle to directly deliver her vegetables from her farm to the LBFOM, 2) she has to manually carry all of her goods from her farm to the  highway which has a distance of more than one kilometer, and 3) she cannot afford  to pay a very pricey tricycle fare from the highway of Sityo Ibaba to the municipal  office.

LB-LGU and PCAARRD’s solution

To address this problem, the GAD LB-LGU in partnership with PCAARRD, has drafted a new program on March 23, 2015  anchored to its current project regarding organic vegetables farming. The program is comprised of newly introduced seminar that is geared to focus on marketing.

This new program is in line with the future expansion of their current 15-month project entitled “Enhancing Gender Sensitive Agriculture and Aquatic Science-and-Technology-Based Livelihood Enterprises in Los Baños: PCAARRD-LGU Collaboration”. This project was first implemented in March 2014 with initially 25 farmer participants from each of barangay Maahas, Timugan, Bagong Silang, and  Tuntungin-Putho.

As of March 5, 2015, a total of 113 vegetable farmers are identified as the participants of the project. Thirty-two of which are from Bagong Silang, 16 from Maahas, 25 from Timugan, and 40 from Tuntungin-Putho. With the set expansion of the project, more people from the different barangays will be granted the opportunity to learn how to farm organically and to build their own small-scale farming business.

The project implementation of the said expansion is targeted to be done in August 2015 after the project ends in June in the same year. Karen Mercado, Officer-in-Charge of GAD LB-LGU, said that the project will have a two-month hiatus to give the officers rest after the first wave of successful implementation.

Free Organic Certification

According to Mercado, Ecoland Executive Director Rafael Barroso has voluntarily  pledged to grant the organic farmers with free organic certification before 2015 ends.

On normal occasions, it will take P30,000-P40,000 for just one crop to be certified as “organic” because of the cost of the tests each crop needs to undergo to see if it passes the strict scientific standards of the Organic Certification Board.

This free organic certification is important because it is needed to strengthen the  credibility of the farmers in terms of their competency in producing organic  vegetables.

The farmers are currently producing more than 10 kinds of vegetables, the most  popular ones being ampalaya, upo, sitaw, eggplantoniontomato, among others.  Reymuel Salongkong, a licensed agriculturist from PCAARRD, said that it would be very costly for PCAARRD and GAD to accomplish the certification themselves.

Sobrang mahal talaga kapag tayo ang magababayad sa pagpapa-certify ng bawat gulay. Pang-bahay kubo ang gulay natin dito sa organic [vegetables farming project] eh – halos lahat meron,” he attempted a joke referring to the popular folk song entitled  Bahay Kubo where various Filipino vegetables are mentioned.

Through the generosity of Dr. Barroso, the organic vegetables farming will be saving a large amount of money. The funds can now be channeled to other programs that  will build up the farming businesses of the farmers such as that of Mang Nestor and Nanay Adeling, among others.

The Marketing Program

“Marketing? Malaking maitutulong niyan sa farmer!” Mang Nestor agreed.

Through the benefits of free organic certification, the marketing program has acquired a fixed place under the expansion of the ongoing project.

The marketing program has been planned to focus on the strategies that are suitable to the knowledge, skills, and practice of the farmers.

The project implementers say that this is not enough for the farmers to only consider  the price of vegetables in the public market in deciding the price they will impose on their own goods. In the marketing program the GAD staff is formulating, farmers will  be oriented with the actual worth of their produce.

They will be taught to compute for the selling price of their own vegetables relative to 1) the money that they are spending for the production of their home-made organic farm inputs, 2) transportation fee from their farms to the market where  they sell their organic vegetables, 3) competition with other sellers in the public  market, and finally 4) the congruency of the quality of their produce to their desired  price.

Mang Nestor talks about the price of his vegetables that are very cheap compared to those in the public market. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece. Mang Nestor talks about the price of his vegetables that are very cheap compared to those in the public market. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece.

According to Mang Nestor, the marketing program will help farmers such as himself  to gain a better insight about the value of their products and how they can use this to improve their profit in their own small-scale businesses.

Another benefit, he says, is price control. He said that even the consumers who were so used to demanding for very cheap prices might even change their behaviour once they are confronted with the new set of marketing skills that they will learn from the marketing program.

‘Farmers’ to ‘Farmer-Entrepreneurs’

Before, Mang Nestor only knew about using chemicals as the means to grow plants and vegetables effectively. However, when he found the opportunity to adapt an  organic method of farming, he said that he went ahead and was very enthusiastic to  learn.

Mang Nestor presently experiences a lot of great benefits from organic farming. He  said that even if the profit is not much, he is still thankful because of the numerous  benefits that he is enjoying out of working as an organic farmer.

Unang-una dyan ay yung exercise ko kasi senior citizen na ako,” he said.

As the previous president of the community of senior citizens of Brgy. Maahas, Mang Nestor said that inactivity is the main cause of speedy health degradation among the senior citizens in their community today, and he wants to help them overcome it.

Secondly, he said that he is enjoying his life very much because he has found  something that he is passionate in doing.

Natutuwa akong nakikita ko yung halaman kong unti-unti siyang lumalaki hanggang sa magbunga siya. Naliligayahan akong makita silang masigla at malusog sa pag-aalaga ko,” he said cheerily as he gestures towards his vegetables.

Mang Nestor also said because of his small organic farm, his family’s everyday  expenditure is reduced. More than profiting from his organic products, he said that  the needs of his family is his number one priority in terms of vegetable supply.

Kahit bumagyo, meron at meron talaga kaming nakakain dahil sa farm ni asawa.  Hindi kami nawawalan. Malaki ang pasalamat ko sa Diyos dahil kahit malaki ang pamilya namin, lahat kami ay nakakakain,” Primitiva Pamulaklakin, Mang Nestor’s wife, said.

Most of all, Mang Nestor pointed out that his business is something that he treasures because of the health benefits that he is able to enjoy from his organic produce. He  pointed out that it brings him priceless peace when he knows that what he shares to his family is chemical-free and healthy.

After the harvest, few of Mang Nestor’s protein-rich winged beans (locally known as sigarilyas) were left to provide seedlings for the next batch. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece. After the harvest, few of Mang Nestor’s protein-rich winged beans (locally known as sigarilyas) were left to provide seedlings for the next batch. Photo taken by Johanna Marie F. Drece.

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Simply Difficult

The fever he gives me needs me to scribble on his face.

This is me. This is me wanting to scribble on his face, wanting to pour hot coffee on it, wanting to smirch it’s existence from my memory because of the way he was making me feel.
-Tanvi Bhakta

Artwork by Daniel Segrove via berlin-artparasite

“It’s not you. It’s me.”

Cliché, stupid, and heartbreaking – these words have scarred my life and has left me broken ever since the early morning of December 1, 2014. I can’t believe how I loved him for so long, but in a bat of his long lashes, everything was turned to trash.

Curse Love, I thought. You’re never going anywhere near me again.

“There are more fish in the sea,” they would say. Well, I felt like a freaking fish in a bucket.

It was hard and excruciating. Moving on was so much harder that staying in. Problem is, there’s no place for me to stay anymore.

But one day I woke up, and suddenly he’s not there, and saying “I moved on” finally sounded right. Nonetheless, fear of attachment became so real to me that I struggled to grab hold of relationships ever since.

Maybe I’ll find new love, I thought. But what if.. And there the fear grew into thorned vines that snaked towards my throat until my eyes bled of tears. It was really difficult, but the journey of moving on actually taught me rare life lessons.

What if that person stops loving me?

We’ve had enough of the feel-good starters of relationships where there’s so much to talk about, so much excitement about knowing each other. We know someone will get tired soon. Someone will get bored and say “It’s not you. It’s me”. Again.

But a part of me also says that relationships are not meant to be predictable. There’s always the possibility of falling out love. Scientific researches even say that the hormones that keep couples in love lasts for only six months. After that, it is up to the couple to keep the relationship going. Maybe you can make each other stay. Maybe you can try new things together and enjoy life your way.

Maybe, just maybe, you can make each other grow in instead of grow apart.

What if something goes wrong and there’s nothing we can do to fix it?

We know something terrible is always, always, bound to happen when people are too happy. We can’t afford to feel secure and comfortable with a guy and then all of a sudden, everything will just be taken away without our consent. It’s unfair.

However, maybe it is possible for you to hold hands until the storm is over. Maybe if your grip is strong enough, you can survive the turbulence and after the twists and backflips, your knots are tied tighter.

What if I am not good enough?

Speculating about the possible reasons why the previous one failed to work, we usually come up with unhealthy conclusions about our womanhood (or manhood if you’re a male): 1) I need more sex appeal, 2) I’m too polite, 3) I should have been more aggressive, 4) I am boring, and 5) I AM UGLY.

So why would anyone stick to me anyway, we tend to think. They might as well use us up and then throw us down just for the heck of it.

But you know what, this is what I learned: We are so much better than what they made us believe ourselves to be. We are strong because we forgive people quickly. We are smart because we know the difference between right and wrong. We may be too polite sometimes but it’s because we know how important respect is. We may not be the sexiest woman (or man) on earth but the kindness of our hearts is enough to last us a lifetime.

No one has the right to tell us otherwise.

What if he won’t accept me after all?

“I pick my nose with my pinky (sometimes with my point finger). I don’t wash my hair for days. I don’t comb my hair as often as I should. I still wear my old pajamas to sleep. I forget to brush my teeth sometimes. I’m not the perfect woman he expects me to be.”

That’s who we are. If they really do love us, then they should accept our entirety. We have flaws and imperfections that differentiates us from other people. They are what makes us us. They give us our identity.

It’s just like what they say: If they can’t take us at our worst, then they don’t deserve us at our best.

What if he leaves me terribly broken again like the last time?

Honestly, this is the hardest What If to give a counterattack to. I can’t vouch for your safety. Neither can I take responsibility for any heart falling apart. There is so much thing that could happen. Taking risks is not really my thing. But one lesson that I have learned in moving on is weighing the consequences of each of your possible choices first before finally deciding.

You know your situation better than anyone. If he’s a playboy, then he’ll definitely hurt you. If he’s faithful to his parents, then there’s a great probability that he will also be faithful to you. I leave the weighing to you.

Time and time again when Love knocks on my door, I still hide behind the kitchen counter – afraid and paranoid of the things that might possibly hurt me again if I ever let Love invade my comfort zone.

But I know better now. I know that it is only when I stopped asking myself “what if” that reality will finally unfold and show me “what is” and possibly, “what will be”.

And you know it’s true.

The fever he gives me needs me to scribble on his face.

This is me. This is me wanting to scribble on his face, wanting to pour hot coffee on it, wanting to smirch it’s existence from my memory because of the way he was making me feel.
-Tanvi Bhakta