The farming barangay of Caigangan, in Sta. Catalina, is home to Hilda and Marvin and their three children, Marichel (12), Jhon Paul (10) and Michelle (8). Hilda has an older son, Joshua (22), who used to live with them but is now in Dumaguete, living at the water delivery depot where he works. In Caigangan, when times are normal, life in the countryside is simple and Hilda is happy living with her husband and children in their one-roomed wooden house. The house has electricity, and there is a water source around 50 meters from their place. Their only furnishings are a couple of wooden benches and a long table which Marvin made from a fallen tree in their back yard several years ago.
The couple are the owners of one and a half hectares of land on which they cultivate sugarcane and rice. They also have a backyard garden where they grow vegetables and root crops for home consumption. We first came to know the Ac-ac couple in 2018 when they applied for a loan for sugarcane farming. In 2019, they applied for and received another loan to buy fertilizers. Both loans were fully repaid ahead of schedule. Now they have applied for a third loan to buy fertilizer and to pay for labourers to weed their area. Marvin had a stroke earlier this year so is not well enough to work full time. He enjoys working in the mornings until 10 and then again after 3pm when it gets cooler. He takes a daily medication for high blood pressure which enables him to stay active on the farm.
The rainy season has begun in the Central Philippines and the covid-19 lockdown has been lifted so Marvin and Hilda are eager to proceed with their land preparation. The sugarcane points from their April 2020 harvest remain in the ground so the first job will be to plough along the edges of the rows to dig up the weeds. The hired labourers will pick up the weeds and stack them in various locations for smudging purposes. Marvin and Hilda will use their PSHF loan to pay these workers and to buy 15 sacks of fertilizer for application as soon as the weeding is completed.
The couple’s last sugarcane harvest in April was a disappointment in terms of income because the Covid-19 lockdown brought about a reduction in mill prices. They ended up making a net income of 35,000 pesos ($700) from the sale of their sugarcane when they had projected to earn twice as much. Furthermore, the milling company had no buyer for their molasses. Thankfully, their rice field yielded a good harvest - 10 sacks of unmilled rice - so the family will be self sufficient in rice for the next six months.
We are pleased to be helping Hilda and Marvin with another loan for their farming endeavours. Hilda and Marvin are grateful for our help in realizing the potential of their farm.
Winelin De La Cruz and Ireen O. Ingles
PSHF Negros Oriental