The PSHF team struggled up some rough and slippery terrain to get to Isaias’ home in the hills above Santa Catalina earlier this month. Isaias (62) is one of three brothers from a large family of 14 who have applied for a loan for farming and banana trading purposes. The other two brothers are Samuel (61) and Osias (46). All three of them are farmers focusing on banana cultivation but planting a wide range of root crops as well.
We were greeted by Isaias on the porch of his home. His four cats appeared then a few chickens and before long his brothers had arrived from their homes further up the hill. After the introductions, I asked Isaias to tell us his personal story and that of his family.
The Batomalaque family is from Calatrava in the province of Negros Occidental. Isaias and his siblings all grew up on a hacienda. Their parents worked as sugar cane cutters and loaders and so did the children once they were old enough to do so. Life was tough; Samuel tells us that they were paid 60 centavos a day in the 1970’s which was enough to buy rice but little else. In 1973, the province suffered from the “El Niño” and the sugarcane industry was severely affected due to the draught conditions. With planters no longer able to pay wages to their workers and rice unavailable, the municipal government gave them flour to make bread. Isaias and Osias decided to seek pastures new in Negros Oriental on the advice of a neighbor. They were amazed to find fertile land to grow corn. They reported back to their father who proceeded to sell his land in Calatrava for 17,000 pesos and move to Alanginan with the rest of the family. With the proceeds of the land sale, he bought three hectares of land for cultivation by the family.
Isaias, unlike his siblings, spent a large part of his life in Manila where he worked in a plywood factory. This is where he met his wife, Largita. When I asked him about Largita, he started crying; she died in 2004 from complications arising from a re-occurrence of a facial polyp. In 2008, Isaias received the sad news that his mother had died. This is when he decided to return to Alanginan and be reunited with his remaining brothers and sisters. He has one daughter, Jean Rose (24) married and living in Bulacan. He looks forward to her coming to see him one day.
Along with his two brothers, Isaias grows bananas as a main crop. The three of them are applying for a loan for working capital. The loan will be used mainly for the payment of wages as each of them needs to hire a farm labourer to help with weeding. Samuel and Isaias will receive 5,000 pesos each and Osias will receive 3,000 pesos. Samuel will use half his loan to engage in banana trading. The three of them can harvest as many as many as 1,200 bananas (3 sacks) a week from their respective farms. They team up with other banana growers and have their bananas transported by truck to Dumaguete, the provincial capital. After deducting transport costs, the three of them make an income of about 6,000 pesos ($140) each from the sale of bananas. We are delighted to assist these three brothers in their banana venture.
The Batomalaque brothers:
Isaias (62), Osias (46) and Samuel (61)
The PSHF team: Ireen, Hazel and visitor, Suen going down the path coming back from the Batomalaques.