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Feature: Hard work pays off

by Rosario V. Medrano

Malaybalay City, Bukidnon (17 May) -- Felix Pabulayan Cordero started too early in his life. When he was 17, he became the breadwinner for a family of 11. His father Federico who was sickly that time had to give him the responsibility of taking care of the whole brood on his shoulders. As a dutiful son, he cannot do otherwise but to accept his fate.

During school breaks, Felix was out working in the fields. Likewise, summer is not playtime for him. Unlike the other kids who gallivant around, this was the time when he joined the working men in the field cutting sugar canes, fertilizing the crops and whatever work that can give him income.

After high school graduation, the more he persevered because his family depended so much on him. Aside from the family's basic needs, he had to support his older brother who was at that time studying at Negros Occidental Agricultural College taking Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. There was also other siblings' education to attend to. Practically, it was all work and no play for him.

In 1980, Felix joined the group of young men who sought greener pasture in Bukidnon. From far away Pinaginpinan, Kabankalan City, Negros Occidental, these sakadas came to harvest canes in Bukidnon. That time, Bukidnon was just starting out with the crop. Thus, harvest was plentiful but their earning can only peg at P300 to P400 per week. Everything he earned was sent back home to support the family. Work included cutting, hauling and piling of canes that was real manual labor notwithstanding the searing heat of the sun.

When harvest season was over, some of the men went back to Negros but Felix decided to remain to try his luck in Bukidnon. Work just came after the other. There was time when he went to work in Quezon in the Montalban Farm earning him P1,200 per month. To earn extra income, they narrowed down the number of working men to four instead of six. Looking back, Felix can only laugh and say, "That was the worst time in my life when I had to turn the nights into days. I was very bony then."

After Montalban came the Rang-ay, Fortich and GAMCor Farms where he was utilized as an all-around farm-laborer. This was the time then that he met his future wife, Raquel, who was also working as farm help doing weeding in sugar plantations. But, as they started to build a home, GAMCOR Farms where they both worked shut down. Fortunately, they had saved as much as P2,000 which enabled them to buy the rights of a small rice land measuring more or less 0.7 hectare.

For Felix, it was a very big challenge to work on the rice land. It is good that his father-in-law, an Ilocano was at hand to teach him the basics of rice production.

Nevertheless, Felix had to admit that it was not a bed of roses after all. Based on his experience, rice production was more laborious compared to sugarcane. It entails more time in the farm and always on the lookout for possible pest and insect attacks. As a first time rice planter, he had to learn it by heart. One learning that he is very passionate about is the proper leveling of the rice bed to allow even distribution of water. In this way, weeds, shell and pests attacks are minimized.

He is proud to say that he yielded higher compared to other farmers in the area. Being a hard worker, he put all his effort, commitment and energy to make the land productive. In any way, the first harvest paid off his effort.

As they were building a family with three children in a row, so were they acquiring additional rice lands to augment their income. They were awarded 1.4 hectares of land under the Direct Payment Scheme (DPS) alongside, there were parcels of rice lands that they have also acquired. With this accumulation of lands, their harvest was aplenty that they decided to supply rice in the market. For two years, 200 cavans of milled rice were peddled twice in a week giving them additional earnings of P40,000 per week. Also, they acquired a market stall at Valencia City Public Market where their produce was sold in bulk and in retail.

Even with good fortune, the couple was firm to "save for the rainy days" as the old saying goes. It was their practice to put aside a portion of their net income. These savings were used for additional inputs, investments and resources. Right now, they cultivate more or less 20 hectares of rice and corn lands. Of the 20, Felix maintains 2 hectares where he personally worked on the farm. This where he applies his best practices learned since he became a rice farmer.

In 2005, they started to build their dream house with their own earnings. Standing tall, the house, which was built in two years, roughly costs more than P3 million out from their own savings. Their two children Jocelyn and Jessie had finished their college degrees. The third child, Eliezer, took a two-year vocational course and is actively helping farm chores and in their rice marketing.

Felix is an accomplished man in his own right. He is a barangay kagawad who serve well his constituents. He is one of the farmers tapped by the Department of Agriculture to produce certified seeds. This is one proof that he is reliable and can be trusted.

As a family man, he beams with pride talking that he bought each of them life and health insurance. Jokingly, he says, that his family can afford to be sick. He is also a big brother to his kin. In fact, when they celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary on April 21, 2010, the whole clan was there to join them in their happiness and success. (DSWD) [top]

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