“Life is a journey that must be traveled no matter how bad the roads and accommodations.” – Oliver Goldsmith
At the early age of 12, Bernabe Balos started to tend the family farm back in Davao where he grew up. Being third among 11 children, it put a big responsibility over his shoulders to help provide food for the family.
“I am an adopted child. I was abandoned as a baby and the Balos family took me in. But due to several family misfortunes, I grew up not being able to attend any school. I have only known farming since my foster father has always treated farming as a way to survive,” shares Bernabe, speaking in the local dialect.
Growing in a hard up family, Bernabe had no choice but to continue working in the fields. At age 22, he finally decided to leave his home and move to Napangan, Misamis Occidental with a friend who also worked as a farmer.
“We earned Php 50.00 in a day’s job, but we can’t complain because farming was the only task we know,” Bernabe said.
It was a few months after that Bernabe met his wife Rodelina. She was a single mother of six, but Bernabe could not contain his emotions that he asked Rodelina to marry him.
“Rodelina is the love of my life. I treat her children as my own. Her youngest child uses my last name. I have come to realize that being a father to them is very important and I only want what is best for them since I came for a very difficult family life, I promised myself to do better than what I have experienced.” Bernabe added.
Building their life together, Bernabe and his wife built up a garden of spices in their own home. He started to grow onions and lemongrass. Soon enough he also planted vegetables like tomatoes, pechay, and cabbage.
Compared to his previous job, he earned more in his garden that improved their living condition. But with the fact that he has six children to feed, it was not enough.
Years passed and his garden became unproductive because the soil has become too acidic.
“It was the time when we decided to find another source of income because we have a family to take care of. That’s when we landed here in Luzvilla, Piñan, Zamboanga del Norte since my wife’s relatives also live here. We celebrated the births of our five children here. We have a total of 11 children and this means we need to work harder to survive,” he narrated.
In Zamboanga del Norte, Bernabe started as a farmworker in one of the farms owned by a beneficiary of the Department of Agriculture – Special Area for Agricultural Development (DA-SAAD) Program.
“I am thankful for Barangay Kagawad Larry Avanceña since working on his farm made me learn about the SAAD Program. Through support from Larry, I eventually became a farmer member of the Piñan SAAD Farmers Association that allowed me to earn a bigger income.” Bernabe said.
Bernabe loaned a four-hectare cornfield from Larry so he could participate as a beneficiary of the SAAD Program in 2019. Bernabe received a bag of OPV white corn seeds worth Php 1,350.00 and fertilizers that also costs Php 1,350.00 under the FY 2018 Integrated Farming Project where he claims is the moment that changed his fortune.
“I was given all the farm inputs needed so I worked hard to be able to earn a good harvest. My wife and children also helped me in farming because I always remind them that our daily meals depend on farming. I am thankful that all of them are responsible,” he uttered.
Aside from being experienced in the field, Bernabe did not have difficulty in caring for the farm because according to him, the quality of the seeds is excellent. He built a small hut near the farm where they live now so they could monitor it every day.
“While we waited for the corn to grow, we also planted vegetables. We are not worried about what to eat, because thankfully we are surrounded with vegetables,” he happily expressed.
In August 2019 during his first corn harvest, Bernabe earned around Php 45,708.00 from the 3,500 kilograms of corn. He sold some fresh corn to the local buyer and he also saved some for their home consumption.
Looking back at everything he went through, Bernabe said, “I never imagined that life has something for me to offer. I never regretted any decision I made from the past because it took me to somewhere better. I am very grateful to DA-SAAD with their assistance because they help us bridge towards progress.”
Life has its difficulties and Bernabe remains steadfast in putting his family’s needs first. At the age of 41, the hard-working Bernabe finally puts an end to the bumpy roads of his journey. He is continuously progressing as a farmer and as a father.
He is now on his second corn harvest, and he continuously works hard to provide for his big family. He can send his children to school. “My eldest son is now in second-year high school. I can now afford to send them all to school. I believe in education and I want to see my children experience success without having to go through the same path as mine,” he expounded.
Bernabe endlessly thanks SAAD for giving him hope and more courage in life. He said “I have finally found my purpose in life. I can already see a good future for my children. And even if I had to go through a hard up life, at best now, I can say that I made it through the hardships.”
The journey of Bernabe proves that when things happen beyond our control, it’s what we do next that matters. Bernabe is just one of many farmer-partners of the DA-SAAD which assisted him in changing his life into something worth living. ###
Writer: Aimee Lou Madjus, Information Officer- SAAD Region 9 – ZDN
Copy editor: Natalianne Marie O. Delos Reyes, PR and Communications Officer – SAAD NPMO