April 26, 2018, 7:29 pm
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Journalist farmer

(Reprinted from Mr. Macasaet’s  column published Oct. 2, 2015)

From the time I bought more than 90 percent control of Malaya in August 1986, I have hardly ever missed visiting my small farm in Batangas every weekend. Being the eldest child of a poor farming couple, I learned crude agriculture before I was ten years old. 

I did not go beyond high school.  My parents did not have the money to send me to college.  I worked for more than two years as house help in the home of Justice Mariano H. De Joya, a distant relative born in my barrio. 

I have been in this thankless journalism craft for more than 50 years. I am a better farmer than a journalist. Still I proclaim I am clearly the most industrious newspaperman of my age.

I wish I were as successful a journalist as I am farmer. Neither gives me wealth but I feel I am a successful farmer if only for the reason that I am honestly convinced it prolongs my life and develops in me a healthy respect for nature including the birds, bees, butterflies, fireflies that used to light big tall trees in the early days but are now hardly ever seen anywhere although they seem to be multiplying in my farm.  

I have a farmer’s hands and a poor mind as a journalist.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing a flock of yellow orioles flitting from tree to tree in my place. Nothing makes me feel I am alive and well when I hear birds chirping early in the evening. 

Tikling, the ground birds that make delicious adobo, feed themselves with grain I scatter around precisely to see them multiply faster.

I move around the farm with a Rottweiler, not to guard my person but to let loose against people who dare come to my farm with air guns hunting the  birds.

I finished high school in three years  because I enrolled in two summers in The Mabini Academy founded in 1922 by Dr. Jose Katigbak and his wife Tarcila Malabanan.

The sun was  still up at past five in the afternoon when  I was attending summer school.  I was always home at around 5 p.m., my last class ending at 4:30. I had about an hour helping my father plow the rice field he did not even own.

I was about 15 years old when I started high school. Having been born in 1936, I was six years old, ready for the first grade when the Second World War broke out. I started Grade I in 1945 when I was already nine years old. I finished my elementary education in four years instead of six having been accelerated twice not because I was exceptionally brilliant.

My teachers probably thought I would be a bit too old when I went to high school if I took   the full six-year elementary education term.

I was always with my father planting fruit trees on a one-hectare orchard his mother gave my parents as dowry when they got married. There is absolutely nothing in crude farming I did not learn from my industrious father. I have not forgotten those farming ways. In fact, farming got so deep in my heart and mind, I still refuse to use fertilizer in the small farm my son bought from the profits of Abante,  probably still the biggest tabloid up to this day.

Times have so slowly changed. My nephews and grandsons by my first cousins do not plant anything in their small farms. They never knew farming.

About 10 years ago, I thought I would plant lanzones. My nephews and other relatives   mocked me, saying I would probably be dead. The trees would be there even if I die sooner than I thought. The lanzones trees of the Thailand variety are now bearing fruits. If the rains come heavy in the summer next year, I expect to make at least a million pesos from the lanzones. I planted about 10,000 trees. About half of them started bearing fruits two years ago.

The trees are only one reason I go early Friday morning to my farm. I get so much fun when native chickens follow me every time I get a pail of corn grits to feed them. I started raising native chickens about seven years ago with 30 hens and 10 roosters. They multiplied fast. One of my farmhands told me I was spending more than P200 a day buying the corn grits from a shop that sells feeds for fighting roosters.. Quickly, I asked my cousin to plant corn on his one-hectare lot.  I harvest twice a year.  I pay him P5,000 a year in rental.

The farm is too small to bring a farm tractor 10 kilometers away from my place. I rented a carabao with the plow to furrow the field in preparation for corn planting.

I knew only of one farmer-journalist, Mario Chanco who had a farm in a place called Bosoboso.  I never bothered to ask where the place is, but there is a such place in Antipolo, Rizal.  But we never talked about journalism when we met.  We talked about farming.  Mao has long been dead.  I did not even know until I was told by Boo Chanco, a columnist in a daily, that Mao had died.

I am in organic farming. I collect and pay for tons and tons of horse manure from a ranch nearby. It takes about six months to make compost of the horse dung. I have the patience to wait.

In fact, the manure still smells like “perfume” to me.  Before I reached my teen years I was sleeping on a floor of bamboo.  Below was my father’s cow I had to feed  before sunrise so I could spend longer time plowing the field.

I hardly buy vegetables. I grow them myself. I do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizer. They are not as lush but I feel they taste better probably because I grew up eating them.
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