Our visit to the on-going construction of a new farm to market road at Barangay Pandan, Dingle rewarded us with an insight on how senior citizens can still remain productive despite advancing age. Being in the countryside offers a big advantage to these people who can putter around their yard and exercise their limbs and muscles and thus prevent atrophy and debilitation.
Manong Manny Dator, a resident since birth of Brgy. Pandan is in his mid-70s and tapping the coconuts in his front yard is his way of spending his time. With about 6 coconuts planted close to each other, he has defied farming logic of close spacing where it is assumed that closely spaced plants will not bear fruits, or nuts in the case of coconuts. Just about 5 meters apart, his coconuts, the yellow dwarf variety once made popular by the Philippine Coconut Authority, are tapped for its sap or plant juice and either drank as tuba or fermented sap or directly made into vinegar.
To make things easier for him, he has connected the coconuts with a series of big bamboo poles so once he is up tapping one floral shoot, he can proceed to the next palm without getting down, a tedious and painful task for him at his age. On a given day, his six palms produce not less than 5 liters, which if sold as fresh tuba or slightly fermented sap will sell for not less than P100.00, but will sell for P225.00 if fermented to vinegar in one month or more. Manong Manny ages his stocks of vinegar in a corner of his home lot where buyers can simply pass by and get their stocks. He has systematically arranged the bottles so that he knows instantly which bottles are already acidic and ready to sell.
With his family, Manny is getting his whole yard ready for a possible renovation into a home type resort and eating destination in the barangay. The soon to be completed road building project would now make his place easy to access and visitors can partake of clean healthful coconut sap drink, fresh young coconut, fresh vegetables and freshly killed native chickens. His vinegar sells for about P15.00 per lapad or the flat bottle originally containing rum, whiskey or brandy (330 ml.), while his tuba sells for about P20.00 per liter.
Nearby is Manang Regina Villasana who specializes in raising improved native chickens. Her stocks originally came from the darag strain now being popularized by the academe at WVSU and CPU. She complained that apparently that strain in synthetic and prone to diseases because of heavy inbreeding so she decided to do her own brand of breeding. She looked for fast growing strains and started again with the commercial day old chicks intended for growing to 1.5 kilos in 30 to 40 days. She chose the pullets to breed with a rooster from the darag batch and incubated the eggs through the surrogate hens that sit on eggs.
Every new generation, she selects same colored chickens to mate for the next generation. Now she has a brood of eight hens colored brown red just like the color of kabir chickens. They also approximate the size of these imported breed but her strain or breed is more resistant to diseases since their genetic make up is just like the darag chickens too. But her total population is never below 100 heads of all ages because of the regular batch that she sells. People already know her and go to her regularly to buy her native chickens. They find her chickens healthy and antibiotics free.
Manang Regina has a practical feeding method. She feeds her newly hatched chicks with a commercial ration for two weeks after which, she gradually shift them to her homemade ration she she herself makes. Once the chicks are ready to be ranged, she directs them together with the surrogate hen to the pile of leaves which she purposely collects and wets thoroughly so that termites will gradually colonize. Termites are excellent feed for chickens as their bodies are rich in amino acids and fats. Termites are also highly digestible. The surrogate hen teaches the chicks how to scratch and feed among the piles of leaves and other debris. Using this method, Regina not only saves on feed and management but also gives her chickens the best nutrition.
At her age, Regina is sprightly and full of energy because of the farm environment and the availability of vegetables that her family grows. Like any progressive farmer, she indulges in healthful food year round by growing them herself. She keeps abreast of the latest in farming because she is a member of the Community-based Participatory Action Research, a project of the Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit 6 under the able leadership of Director Larry Nacionales.