The woman farmers of Ibuan and Hawilian

LANUZA, Surigao del Sur (MindaNews/07 March) – Who says farming is plainly a man’s work, and women should not do it simply because they could hardly endure this backbreaking job even if the family’s survival is at stake?

This isn’t so in the case of women like Gloria Bolando who shares this tedious job with her husband apart from doing household chores at the same time.

Gloria Bolando, along with the other women in Sitio Ibuan, Lanuza, Surigao del Sur, helps in maintaining the communal herbal garden which is right beside her farm. They planted it with several herbal plants, including duyaw or turmeric (in picture) which they use to heal arthritic pains, skin diseases and digestive acidity. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday

Bolando, a Manobo mother of six in sitio Ibuan, barangay Mampi maintains a four-hectare abaca farm in addition to growing sweet potatoes or camote, banana and vegetables for sustenance. Her husband plants corn and other root crops in a separate tract of land.

With their parcels of land located in different parts of the village, she makes sure she could work for a day in one of these farms. But on Sundays, she has to rest because they have to go to church.

Nestled in the mountainous portion of this coastal town, sitio Ibuan is home to both the Mamanwa and Manobo tribes who are growing abaca in the slopes of the village for a living. One can reach here via barangay Agsam, which lies along the Lanuza-Surigao City national highway. The main mode of transport is habal-habal or single motorcycles, although four-wheel drive vehicles can negotiate the dirt road depending on the road condition.

In an interview, the 53-year old mother said she inherited the land, which is part of the ancestral domain, from her parents.

“This was already cleared by my parents a long time ago, they have been planting root crops here for hears, “ said Bolando as she stood on top of a fallen log beside the abaca and banana farm, which is nestled in the middle of the forested slope.

Since harvesting abaca takes place once every three months, her family relies on vegetables and root crops for their daily needs. “Most of our crops are for our daily consumption. The rest we sell for the children’s schooling and household needs,” she explained.

Bolando was able to send their sons to college on the income she derives from her farms. One of her sons is now a teacher in an elementary school right in front of their house.

She recalled that their parents sent them to grade school in Agsam, which meant a daily 4-hour walk carrying several kilos of camote and vegetables for sustenance while staying with their friends or relatives there.

“We did not pay for our stay in Agsam because we lived with relatives and acquaintances,” recalled Nanay Gloria who was already 16 when she finished Grade 6 after which she became a wife through an arranged marriage, a common practice among indigenous peoples.

But her first husband, with whom she had four children, was killed by the New People’s Army (NPA) in 1976 for being suspected as a government spy. Then sometime in the 1990s, she married again a Mamanwa. They have two children.

Communal herbal garden

The Ibuan villagers, more particularly the women, are also maintaining a communal herbal garden beside Nanay Gloria’s farm. They would use the herbal plants for the illnesses among the children. One of these plants is the turmeric, locally known as duyaw, which they use to arthritic pains, skin diseases, stomach acidity and other health problems.

The village is 17 kilometers away from the nearest hospital and the government health workers only visit the place just twice a year.

Woman rubber farmer in Agusan

Like Bolando, 44-year old Dory Cabato grows vegetables for sustenance and to augment their daily needs. At the same time she has planted rubber in her farm – all by herself.

Dolores Cabato at her rubber farm in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur. MindaNews Photo by Ruby Thursday MoreCabato, who has separated from her husband for eight years already, has single-handedly raised her six children in Barangay Hawilian in Esperanza, Agusan del Sur.

As early as five in the morning, she is already up and starts her day by preparing food, cleaning the house and doing other chores.

Two hours later, she would pack her food and prepare to leave for her farm, which is at least three kilometers from her house. Sometimes she has to walk for at least an hour. But there are times that one of his sons would ferry her to the farm on a motorcycle.

“I did all by myself. I worked hard to raise my kids all by myself. I worked in our farm almost everyday to be able to feed my family,” said Cabato.

She has grown at least 500 rubber trees in her one hectare farm. It took her about two months to plant all the seedlings because she could not afford to pay her fellow farmers to help her.

Since she has yet to wait for five years until she could finally make money from the rubber, Cabato planted vegetables in between the rows of the rubber trees. But the vegetables did not thrive because the soil was not suited to it.

Women’s Market

Bolando and Cabato are just among the eight woman farmers to be featured in the Women’s Market that will kick off on International Women’s Day on Thursday, March 8.

Organized by the Oxfam Philippines Program, Women’s Market is the first market of women’s products and ideas that would give the public a chance to concretely help some of the rural women and to make a statement that they count because they grow part of the country’s food supply.

First held in Manila last year, the Women’s Market will run until March 9 at the NCCC Mall in Davao City.  Celebrities Cherry Pie Picache and Ping Medina, who act as Oxfam ambassadors, will attend the event.

The activity offers food and wellness products produced by women from all over Mindanao such as fresh fruits and vegetables; root crops such as camote; fresh seafood like crabs, squid and seaweed; luyang dilaw (turmeric); organic rice; fruit jams; tablea; banana chips; rice and corn coffee and gumamela tea; lemongrass and ginger granules and coconut sugar; dried boneless bangus and cooked dilis; vinegar; passion fruit juice; malunggay polvoron and suman; embutido and bottled bangus pate; homemade peanut butter; chili sauce; and many more.

It will also feature skill sharing sessions on vermiculture, preparing halal and native delicacies, and forums on how small farmers can engage the market and government programs for rural women.

The event is part of Oxfam’s Grow campaign, which pushes for better ways to produce food as scarce resources are threatened by climate change impacts. (Keith Bacongco/MindaNews)