A 28- year old lady from the island province of Catanduanes was adjudged Bicol’s regional winner to the Search for Outstanding Rural Women 2021. Christina L. Torreda from San Andres, Catanduanes was awarded by the Department of Agriculture Bicol a cash prize of P50,000, a P100 thousand worth loan package from the Agrpinay Loan Program and a plaque of recognition in simple blended virtual and face-to face awarding ceremonies in one of the hotels in Naga City. She will vie for the top award at the national level.

            Torreda got the highest rating over the seven other contenders based on the criteria which are: contribution to food security/agricultural & fishery development -30% – contribution to sustainable development- 30%; impact to rural development -40%. A graduate of Hotel and Restaurant Services she has initially worked in several hotels in Baguio City, Puerto Galera and Metro Manila after graduation. But the salary she was earning could hardly support her and her family in the province which included her 11 siblings. 

In 2018 she decided to return to her hometown and considered going into farming using the lot that their family own. She started planting strawberry a non-traditional crop in their area but nonetheless thrived well under the local condition. Her strawberries attracted buyers and curious visitors from neighboring municipalities. She then decided to plant other crops like dragon fruits, lettuce, vegetables, herbs and spices and other berries. As their farm is located in the upland she adopted hydroponics and developed their farm into an agri-tourism site with a camp site and other amenities for outdoor and nature- focused activities. She also began her advocacy to encourage youths into farming and empower women by conducting lectures and trainings and making their farm a destination for educational tours and a showcase for new technologies and god practices. Although their farm was totally damaged by the three successive typhoons in 2020 yet she was able to recover and start anew by seeking help of friends and government agencies. Today their farm is thriving again.

            In her acceptance speech she said that: “For me, winning is not only about the money (cash prize), not only about the title but winning the hearts and interest of the youth to love and appreciate farming instead of being obsessed with gadgets.”

            DA Undersecretary for High Value Crops and chairperson of the Gender and Development Focal Point System, Evelyn G. Laviña joined the awarding ceremonies virtually and conveyed her message to the winners and the rural women. She said: “The pandemic was a great leveler as everybody rich or poor had to bear its adverse effects and it put everyone under a pall of dread and anxiety. But the rural women have shown their courage, strength of character, leadership and resiliency as they assiduously heeded the call of duty and tirelessly pursued their goal for their family and community” She cited Bicol as one of the models for women empowerment.          

            The regional finalists were likewise recognized and awarded with cash prizes and plaque of appreciation. They are: Sonia S. Padilla from San Miguel, Catandaunes withP30,000; Chita A Luzong  from Masbate City with P20,000; Angelita l.  Dacara from Pili, Camarines Sur with P15,000;  Marilyn A. Haya, from Calabanaga, Camarines Sur with P12,000; Marissa A. Agripa from Legazpi City with P10,000; Mailyn M. Perez from Dimasalang, Masbate  with  P8,000 and Anna Marie Quilala from Daet,Camarines Norte with P5,000.

            Regional Technical Director for Operations, Luz Marcelino who chaired this year’s board of judges personally attended and gave a message. The three other board of judges were: Bernadette B. de los Santos, 2017 APEC International Green Economy Awardee and 1st runner-up, National Search for Outstanding Rural Women 2008 and Rebecca S. Purisima, Grand Winner National Search for Outstanding Rural Women 2017 and Elsa A. Parot, Center Director, Agricultural Training institute Bicol.

            As a parting word de los Santos urged her fellow rural women; “Let us always be outstanding in living our daily life.”

          The Regional Search for Outstanding Rural Women is being facilitated by the GAD FPS under the supervision of Aloha Gigi Bañaria. (EMILY B. BORDADO/DA-RAFIS V/Photos by Eduardo Collantes, Jr.)