by Sheila Mae H. Toreno

To work as a health care professional abroad was a dream for Henry Michael “Boy” Doliguez. However, it was not realized since he had to face inevitable circumstances that pushed him to the brink of frustrations and despair.

After six years of practicing nursing in Iloilo City hospitals, Doliguez was supposed to take his flight to Canada sometime in 2008, but his father, a retired police officer, got admitted and later diagnosed with laryngeal cancer. His two older siblings were working overseas back then that left Henry no choice but to forego his plans. He took care of his dad until the latter succumbed to death in November of the same year. Six months later, his mom died of breast cancer.

Devastated, Doliguez, 26 at that time, cannot fathom why such ill-fated events happened abruptly. Losing both his parents make his foresight bleak and dull. Despite being clueless on how to continue living, he thought of his father’s advice “indi magpakulba, may talamnan kita, ubraha bala.”

“Wala guid ako sang idea kung paano manguma. Nagakadto guid ako sa uma, ginplastar ko ang talamnan halin sa paghanda sang lupa, sa pagtanum, pag-abono, kag lunob para mahibaluan ko ang sitwasyon kag balatyagon sang isa ka mangunguma,” he shares.

He chose to stay in Patnongon and realized his call of becoming a farmer and an agri-entrepreneur rather than pursuing his medical career.

Notwithstanding the uncertainties and risks in farming, he tried his knack and luck in cultivating the agricultural land he acquired from his parents by working hands-on and observing other farmers’ best practices.

“Sang una, nagaprodukto lang 80 tubtob 85 ka kaban sa kada ektarya sang mga tinawo pa lang sang ginikanan ko ang naga-uma apang sang nag-umpisa ako hands-on sa pagpanguma, nakalab-ot na sa 155 cavans ang akon patubas,” he adds.

He was able to improve his yield by adopting appropriate farming protocols and technologies.

“The key is proper land preparation and utilization of quality rice seeds,” says Doliguez who became one of the region’s seed growers after reaching 250 cavans of rice production on his fourth cropping.

He prompted other rice farmers in Patnongon to intensify their use of hybrid seeds to increase their rice productivity and income.

In 2014, Doliguez formed the San Rafael, Patnongon Communal Irrigators’ Association that paved the way for the construction of an irrigation facility that had been serving at least 122 farmers. The association sought assistance from the National Irrigation Administration (NIA). Since there had no project grant available for them at that time, they opted to secure a P15-million loan from NIA which is payable for 50 years amortization. In less than a year, the project was completed and made rice farming easier and more profitable in Pantongon.

“With the irrigation facility, farmers can start planting early. Kun makauna ka tanum mas mataas ang presyo sang palay kay bangud manubo pa lang ang suplay,” he says.

San Rafael farmers experienced minimal to zero pest incidents because they are practicing synchronous planting. DA had once put up a 10-hectare demonstration farm in Brgy. San Rafael which furthered the utilization of hybrid rice seeds in Patnongon.

His unimpeded growth as a farmer was made known nationally when he became the country’s highest yielder of hybrid rice in 2016.

“I planted Bigante Plus Rice that time and I was able to produce 14.275 tons in one hectare which is equivalent to 340 cavans,” Doliguez cites.

As an award, he received a unit of 2016 model of brand-new Mitsubishi Strada in which until today is being used for his undertakings as a hands-on farmer and president of Kalipunan ng mga Magsasaka sa Pantongon (KAMAPAT).

When he became a federation president in 2018, he developed more farming initiatives which boosted livelihood and income of small farmers in the town. He also encouraged other farmers to plant other crops aside from rice such as corn and vegetables.

Those farmers who cannot go for second cropping had availed themselves of 20 heads of native chicken each from DA-Research Outreach Station in Brgy. Padang, Patnongon. The same number of heads were rolled over to other farmer members.

Doliguez embraced a much bigger role after KAMAPAT was tapped as the marketing partner of the Bayanihan Tipon Center (BTC), a joint project of DA and Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).

“Wala na nabudlayan ang aton mangunguma sa pagpamaligya sang ila produkto bangud sa Bayanihan Tipon Center. Natuman na guid man ang ila handum nga makahambal sang kaugalingon nila nga presyo para sa ila mga produkto,” he says.

BTC Patnongon has so far offered the highest buying price for rice, corn, copra, and vegetables in the region, according to Doliguez.

“We are buying farmers’ produce at a price favorable to them. Pero ginabalik man namon sa konsumidor sa katamtaman nga presyo,” he remarks.

Doliguez thanked the KOICA for the Panay Island Upland Sustainable Rural Development Project (PIU-SRDP) that eased the marketing problems of small and marginal farmers in Patnongon.

Farmers and consumers have to travel at least 20 to 25 kilometers and have to pay P200 each for a back and forth motorcycle ride just to bring their products to the town market or to buy their daily necessities. In response, the KAMAPAT launched the “Bugasan sa Barangay” last July 2019.

Each barangay has a designated area for the “Bugasan” where villagers have access to affordable and quality rice.

The Bugasan is being managed by the barangay’s farmers association who inked consignment marketing agreement with KAMAPAT.
“On average, we are buying 800 to 1,000 sacks of palay every day from our local rice farmers. This Bugasan sa Barangay has given a guaranteed market for KAMAPAT’s rice stocks,” he says.
Doliguez and other KAMAPAT officials are embarking on another marketing initiative. They are proposing to put up an eatery on the rooftop of BTC Patnongon. Surplus vegetables they purchased from farmers will be cooked and will be sold at minimal cost to the public.

“Ini ang pamaagi naman para indi man ma-uyang ang ginpangabudlayan sang amon mga mangunguma,” he adds.
He sees the need to systematize farming entrepreneurship, thus he proposes that all KAMAPAT members and consumers shall be issued identification (ID) cards.

“Farmer members with KAMAPAT IDs will be able to sell their products to us at a higher price and our loyal customers can avail discounts in their purchases.”

The DA-Agricultural Credit Policy Council (ACPC) has recently released a P1-million loan to KAMAPAT under the agency’s Survival and Recovery Aid (SURE-AID) loan program for micro and small enterprise (MSEs). This zero-interest loan which is payable for five years will be utilized for the expansion of the association’s marketing projects.

The P500,000.00 will be used for the procurement of agricultural supplies such as seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides, animal feeds, and biologics. According to Henry, farmers in Patnongon resort to buying expensive agricultural inputs from private traders because there are only a few agricultural stores in town.

“We have started already selling some inputs like fertilizer. We can sell around 80 to 100 sacks a day at a much lower cost,” he adds.
The remaining P300,000.00 will be allocated for the palay procurement and P200,000.00 for the various agricultural commodities for their Kadiwa display.

To encourage farmers to continue planting amid the global pandemic, KAMAPAT will be providing the farm input needs of farmers which will be payable upon harvest.

“Rice farmers will no longer be at the mercy of the traders. We will give them assured markets.”

Emphasizing the significance of farmers in combatting the threat of hunger, he eyes a lot of ways to capacitate and empower the food producers with the interventions coming from DA and the government as a whole.

“Kun wala mangunguma, gutom guid kita.”

For now, DA, LGU Patnongon, and KAMAPAT are devising plans to implement agricultural projects through the clustering of barangays. He added that the 36 barangays in Patnongon will be clustered into six.

“Starting this second cropping, each cluster barangay will be focusing on a specific agricultural commodity. This is to avoid competition in the market,” he points out.

Patnongon food producers will continue to rise amidst public health emergency, declining economy, and ongoing threats of climate change. This is because of KAMAPAT and his decisive goal of taking the farming sector to the next level. Who would have thought that a nursing practitioner who gave farming a try is now an agricultural envoy who continuously creates reforms and paves more opportunities to the farming community.