Johnny, his two sons; Jerick (18), Jhon Cris (4) were there. Cristina (43), Johnny’s wife is in Manila working as a house helper. The other two children were not at home as Sharon (19) was out looking for a job and Christine (8) was attending her classes in a nearby elementary school.
Johnny inherited a nine-hectare piece of land from his parents, five hectares of which are planted with coconut trees and the rest of it is hill land and not being farmed. There are almost 600 coconut trees with just under half of them recently planted by Johnny and Jerick. Copra production is the main source of income for the Cuenca family. Every quarter Johnny hires men to help him and his son to harvest mature coconuts to make copra. His average quarterly sales of copra amount to 1,200 kilos, worth about 20,000 pesos ($440); the family’s share of this is 12,000 pesos and the rest is the share of the hired labourers. Aside from his copra production, Johnny earns about 2,500 pesos a month from his “habal” driving, after paying the cost of gasoline. Now, in the rainy season, “habal” driving is less productive, as passengers do not want to ride on a motorcycle. Cristina has stopped sending money from Manila and instead is saving for the repair of their wooden house; she plans to come home in December this year and stay for good in Negros Oriental with her family.
Johnny is keen to cultivate and plough the areas in between the coconut trees. He is applying for a loan to complete the purchase of a carabao for this purpose. He has 15,000 pesos saved which were destined to pay for Sharon’s college costs but she decided to quit college and look for a job. With a carabao, he will start ploughing in areas where the coconut trees are not bearing fruit, in the hope that when the soil has been cultivated, the trees will be productive. In these areas he will focus on planting legumes such as mongo beans and peanuts that will nourish the soil.
Johnny is hoping to make an additional income of 4,000 pesos every six months from the sale of legumes and as much as an extra 18,000 pesos ($400) per harvest from copra production as a direct result of having a carabao. With this farming income, he will be able to enrol Jerick in college in October for a degree in Electrical Engineering. Also, the increased income will mean that Cristina will no longer need to go back to Manila to work as a housemaid as making ends meet will no longer be a struggle.