Nestled at the foot of the majestic Mayon is a sprawling seven-hectare farm that is creating a buzz among local tourists even if many-a tourist sites have closed or stop operating since COVID19 hit the country and continue to prevail

Located at Barangay Salugan, Camalig, Albay, the El Miro De Shei or “The Look of Shei” Integrated Farm is considered “the only positive thing that happened to us caused by the COVID19 crisis,” Barangay Captain and owner Shiela Dino said.

She recalled that when the whole family was subjected to a 14-day quarantine after their attendance to the party with the Mulatto Band, she was so stressed out. Adding to her worries was when the whole country was placed into Enhanced Community Quarantine and a total lockdown was imposed.

Pano na ang mga tao natin sa FLFB Construction business namin? Paano na ang aking mga tao sa barangay?” she worriedly asked her husband Engineer Edmiro.

Believing that “when God closes a door, He also opens a window”, Shiela saw an opportunity when she saw their large property.

With gardening as a hobby, she mobilized and led her construction workers, staff and her neighbors (to help her) in cleaning up their property. They were paid for their work, thus, sustaining their livelihood and taught them the value of farming and hard work.

“Dakuluun na tabang samon yading farm ta pawno, indi napundo su hanapbuhay namon, kina naturuan pa kami magtanum, kina pigatawan pa kaming gugulayun san tagsadiri, ( This farm was   big help for us as  it  a sustained  our livelihood and we were taught how to plant and we were even supplied  with vegetables by the farm owner)  ” shared Beth Pabon, a staff that worked for five years already with the company.

April Jay Nocillado, a grade 12-student of Malabog National High School also said that aside from the pay that he is receiving, he is inspired to take agriculture at Bicol University College of Agriculture and Forestry in Guinobatan this year.

Malangogma ko pawno magtanum kina nawawara an kapagalan kina stress dara sading COVID19 sa buway ko, ( I was very happy  because by planting  I feel relievedfrom the tiredness and stress  brought about by COVID 19) ” Nocillado said.

Another youth-worker Reynante Gordo related that “nagdakulu su utang san pamilya ko dahil sa lockdown kaya nagtrabaho ako didi sa farm. Tama man yading desisyon ko ta durudiretso an trabaho kina nakatabang ako sa pamilya ko na mabayadan an samon na utang dawa nagCOVID. ( Because of the lockdown  our family’s debt increased so I work in this farm.  It was a right decision as  my employment was sustained  and I was able to help my family  pay our debts )  ”

As the farm is just a few kilometers away from the Department of Agriculture-Albay Breeding Station, the Dino couple also sought the assistance of the station manager Dr. Elsa Maranan on how to avail of the DA’s services and programs.

Maranan presented the DA’s “Plant, Plant, Plant Program” or “Ahon Lahat, Pagkaing Sapat (ALPAS) Laban sa Covid-19” program which will benefit farmers, fishers and consumers as proposed  by Agriculture Secretary William D. Dar to increase the country’s food adequacy level during the emergency situation resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aside from the vegetable seeds that were distributed to the farm, DA-Bicol distributed 25 heads each of Kabir and Camarines Strain Native Chickens, and five native pigs (a boar and four sows).

Moreover, the couple and their farm workers attended the Training on Native Chicken and Pig Production before they received those animals.

Maranan said that their staff constantly monitor and provide technical assistance on vegetable and livestock production and management and on pasture development.

Malaking tulong sa amin ang DA kasi po naturuan kami about farming and its technicalities. Computer graduate ako kaya wala talaga akong alam ng iba pang technicalities sa agriculture,” “Kap Shiela” said as she is fondly called by her constituents.

Aside from Maranan, DA Bicol technical staff Leo Beltran and Pedro Oliver provided inputs in developing the farm into a lush horticultural haven and in establishing a mushroom production area. At present, they have already 1000 mushroom bags.

During the interview, this writer met Polangui assistant parish priest Fr. Al Ray Compuesto together with his parish staff who were touring around the farm. He said that he is getting some ideas as to lay-out, design, plants and new technologies to be applied in their community.

This integrated farm is now an accredited Agricultural Training Institute Learning Site; an accredited tourist spot of the Department of Tourism and an accredited skills development area of Technical and Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Maglalagay kami ng multi-purpose building para sa mga interesadong matuto ng farming.”

Kap Shie said that the farm also allows the local community to share and invite people to experience, participate and appreciate the agricultural landscape.

The farm offers “Instagrammable” scenes of nature in full bloom with Mayon as backdrop. The trees, grasses, colorful flowers and vegetables certainly looks like the perfect place to go to.

The farm also operates a restaurant that serves freshly-picked vegetables and juices to tourists.

Kumbaga, nothing beats eating food straight from the farm!”

However, the management requires visitors to wear face masks and observe social distancing despite its spacious grounds.

“Ayokong madaanan nila ang stress ng quarantine kasi napagdaanan ko na ito kaya, dapat sundin an protocols pa rin.”

The entrance fee of Php50.00 helps maintain the area and its staff.

Moreover, the farm also provides fresh vegetables for the weekly feeding of children and pregnant women in her barangay, and as daily source of food for Persons Under Monitoring (PUMs) billeted in Salugan Training Center. The flowers in the area are donated to the parishes of St. Jude in Legazpi City and St. John the Baptist in this municipality.

According to DOT, the EMDSIF is one of the 16 farm sites which highlight agricultural products, research developments, and farmers’ training. Agri-Tourism is seen as a key for the recovery of the economic impact on the local tourism industry by the pandemic.

On November 2020, the farm became an Integrated Science Farm and Learning Site.

On January 20, 2021, the farm in partnership with TESDA-Special Training and Employment Program and Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda culminated its Organic Agriculture NCII program with 50 scholars.

“El Miro de Shie” is not only a beautiful place to look at and behold.  Truly, this farm serves its purpose of enjoyment, education and inspiration to all who visit the farm.

And most importantly, the farm is a living proof  of what Kap Shie believes—“the more that we take care of the environment, the more that it will thrive and prosper lalo na kung para sa mga kabarangay ko.” (jaysonmgonzales with additional photos from Congressman Joey Salceda’s FB page)