CANAMAN, CAMARINES SUR – As strong typhoons slammed the Bicol region amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic, Bicolano farmers learned to be tough, more resilient, innovative and unrelenting or “hindi sumusuko”.

One farmer who has these remarkable qualities is Domingo Bedrero, 47 year old farmer of Fundado, Canaman, Camarines Sur. Fundado is a coastal barangay along the broad Bicol River which bounded Canaman on the south-west.

“Tuwing high tide ang Bicol River, nalulubog sa tubig ang aking 1,000 square meter na gulayan. Ganoon din kapag umuulan. Kaya naisip ko na i-angat ang aking taniman.”

Thus, a couple of years ago, Bedrero invested on big poly-ethylene bags where he transplanted his green chili or long pepper (siling haba or panigang) seedlings. He constructed several  long lines of elevated plant platforms made  of sturdy wood scraps which are supported by several 2-3-feet tall wooden posts that are firmly planted to the ground. The poly-ethylene bags were fastened securely to the plant paltforms that they were able to withstand even Super Typhoon Rolly.

In May 2020, he planted close to 1,200 hills of green chili pepper, ampalaya and string beans in poly-ethylene bags. Green chili pepper dominated his crops.

In July he harvested 80 kilos of pepper which he sold at P280/kilo in Naga City. Harvesting of pepper continued every after 10 days. The following month, he harvested 160 kilos. Before typhoon Quinta devastated the region in November, he was able to harvest 180 kilos green chili pepper.

“Wala pong nagutom dito sa aming barangay noong nag lockdown dahil kami po ay nagtanim. Hindi ko inaasahan na ang simpleng sili ang tutulong sa akin upang mai-angat ang kabuhayan ng aking pamilya sa gitna ng pandemic. Hindi po ako sumuko kahit maraming bagyong dumating dahil tinulungan po ako ng Municipal Agriculture Office ng Canaman at ng DA regional office.  Dininig po nila ang hiling ng aking anak na matulungan kami. Tinawagan po ako ng DA regional office – High Value Crops Development Program at binigyan po nila ako ng hot pepper and chili pepper seeds, garden hose,  plastic pail, seedling tray, 1 bag organic fertilizer and plant growth enhancer.”

Bedrero thanked the Dr. Mary Grace Rodriguez, chief of the Field Operations Division and regional coordinator of High Value Crops Development Program (HVCDP) for the interventions given to him.

 “Ang mga tulong po ninyo ang nagpalakas ulit ng loob ko upang ipagpatuloy ang pag-develop ng aking farm.”

“Ang kagandahan ng pagtatanim ng sili, ay hindi ito pinag-iinteresan ng mga magnanakaw, at hindi kailangan ng komplikadong farm management. Organic fertilizer ang gamit namin. Bago maglipat ng punla, hinahaluan  namin ng pinatuyong hog manure ang lupa sa poly-ethylene bags. Matibay din sa bagyo ang sili at ang elevated  poly-ethylene bags dahil yun mga tinanim ko sa lupa ay madaling nabuwal ang bagyo. Samantalang itong mga elevated pepper ko ay hindi naapektuhan ng bagyo. Kinailangan ko lang magpalit ng mga puno ng sili nitong December 2020 dahil matatanda na sila.”

Bedrero’s elevated poly-ethylene technology is suited in the Bicol region where the farms are always submerged in water due to frequent rains and typhoons. This technology  helps plants withstand water intrusion, prevent weed growth, snail infestation and damages caused by stray animals. The farmer can also select the best soil to use as plant medium, thus farmers can still grow plant foods even in muddy, rocky soil and near swamp areas where the soil is not suitable for planting.

Bedrero also added that tending to his elevated plants is also not physically stressful  as he does not have to bend too low to tend to them. “Hindi nakakapagod kase nakatayo lang ako, ka-level ko lang yun mga paso.”

Each plant is also accessible which allows him to easily water, weed, inspect the plants or harvest the fruits.

“Ang asawa at limang (5) anak ko lang po ang katulong ko sa aking gulayan at palayan. Maganda pong maaga pa lang ay natututo na sila sa pagsasaka. Ang dalawa ko pong anak ay may kanya kanya na ring sinasaka.”

Bedrero did not earn a college degree but he finished a 3-month course on welding at TESDA in 2007 through a scholarship grant from LGU Canaman. After which, he put up a small welding shop where he singlehandedly assembled tricycle sidecars and motor boats. Recently, the LGU Canaman procured 2 units motorboat from Bedrero which the LGU used in patrolling the different coastal barangays of Canaman.

As proof of his best practices in farming, Bedrero won 2nd place in the LGU and MAFC initiated Vegetable Garden contest in August 13. 2020, during the foundation anniversary of Canaman town.

Canaman Municipal Agriculturist Lilia O. Quintana commends Bedrero’s perseverance and resourcefulness which makes him a role model for farmers in barangay Fundado.

Quintana also said that Bedrero was also listed in the  Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA), that’s why he was able to avail of the fertilizer reimbursement under the DA’s Rice Resiliency Program (RRP), P5,000 Financial Subsidy for Rice Farmers (FSRF),  rice seeds for two cropping seasons under RCEF, and  crop insurance from PCIC.

Quintana urged other farmers to enrol in the RSBSA. “Ito (RSBSA) po ang pangunahin at basic requirement para maka-avail ang farmer ng mga benefits mula sa Municipal Agriculture Office at sa DA. She also thanked the DA Regional Office for its full support to the farmers.

Dr. Rodriguez also emphasized the importance of registration of high value crops farmers in the RSBSA as this will also be a requirement in the availment of HVCDP interventions.

(Lovella Guarin RAFIS 5 / photo credit: Hermito Privaldos, Ramon Adversario and Rochelle Bedrero)