“Farming has become my passion.”

Gravela O. Rele, a former Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) turned farmer-businesswoman is VSU’s UGMAD Outstanding Farmer Entrepreneur awardee for 2019. The award is the highest recognition given by Visayas State University (VSU) to a farmer during the annual Farmers’ and Fisherfolks’ Day celebration.

The activity was held as one of the highlights of the 95th VSU Founding Anniversary on April 27, 2019 at the VSU Convention Center.

Rele, a retired OFW nurse, kindled her passion for farming when an old couple sold their farm to her. She was hesitant at first, realizing she doesn’t have any idea on how to manage a farm.

Meron isang magtiayon na may edad na. Gusto nila na ako ang kumuha ng lupa nila. Sabi ko di ko kailangan ‘yan kasi di ako mahilig. Sabi nila na kahit pang-medicine lang nila. Hinay-hinayun ko lang ug hatag. Mao to, nag-start na ako dito (sa farm),” she detailed in a mix of Cebuano and Tagalog.

[There was an elderly couple who wanted to sell their land. I turned down their offer. They insisted and asked me to just pay it in installment to cover for their medicine. That was when I started farming.]

Originally from Manila, the former OFW is now a resident of Brgy. Sabang-Bao in Ormoc City after marrying a local who has been her partner in managing their two-hectare farm. Gravela, “Tagalog” as her patrons call her, recounted her struggles as a starting farmer in an unfamiliar ground.

Sa edad ko na ito, [murag] ito [farming] na ang passion ko… Kasi first-time ko dito [sa Ormoc]. Wala akong kamag-anak. Ako lang mag-isa... Naka-harvest ako ng ilang sako [ng lemonsito]. Sabi ko, dyos ko saan ko ba ito ibebenta, wala akong kakilala. Halos barat na barat na yung hatag ko. Hindi nahurot,” she told in an interview.

[At this age, farming has become my passion… It was my first time here (in Ormoc). I have no relatives. It was just me… When I harvested sacks of calamansi, I don’t have any idea where to sell it. I sold it for a very cheap price but lots were still left.]  

But the adversities she had faced did not stop her from wanting to progress. She sought for the assistance of local agencies like the Ormoc City Agriculture Office to enhance her knowledge on agriculture and, chiefly, to improve her market.

“Sinishare ko din yung kaalaman ko... Ito na siguro ang papel namin sa mundo, ang mag-share ng blessings. Ok na ako dito pero gusto ko pang matuto.  Don’t stop learning. Happy lang. Kahit na lisod, happy lang,” added Gravela.

[I am also sharing what I learned to others… This is probably our role in the world now, to share our blessings. I’m fine with what I have, but I still want to learn. Don’t stop learning. Just be happy. No matter how hard it gets, just be happy.]

Gravela attributes her achievements as a farmer-entrepreneur to her experiences as a once struggling farmer herself. After seeing agriculture as a worthwhile endeavor, she is now also encouraging other OFWs to invest into farming.

Sumasali rin ako sa training ng agriculture. Maniguro akong matuto. Ini-invite ko rin yung ibang mga OFW na kung meron kayong extrang pera, iinvest ninyo doon sa maayo. Lalo na yung sa yuta…kasi lasting. Inaanyayahan ko rin kayo sa farming kasi maganda [talaga] ang farming… Maraming salamat po sa recognition,” she said in her acceptance speech.

[I also participate in agricultural trainings for me to learn more. I invite other OFWs, if you have extra money, invest it in something worthwhile. Invest it on a land... because it is lasting. I also invite you (OFWs) to farming because farming (really) is good... Thank you very much for the recognition.]

Aside from the Plaque of Recognition, Rele has also received Php30,000.00 in cash from the Agricultural Training Institute - Regional Training Center 8 (ATI-RTC 8) and feed products from Pilmico Foods Corporation.

Here are the other recognized UGMAD farmers and their respective awards:

- Outstanding Root Crop Farmer

Ricardo M. Gula

Brgy. San Antonio, Basey, Samar

Prize: Php 20,000.00

 

- Outstanding Livestock Farmer

Engr. Christopher C. Gonzales

Brgy. Bilwang, Isabel, Leyte

Prize: Php 20,000.00 + UNAHCO Feed Products + PILMICO Feed Products

 

- Outstanding Vegetable Farmer

Rosa Mazo

Brgy. Kansungka, Baybay, Leyte

Prize: Php 20,000.00

 

- Outstanding Farmers Association

Sitio Lana-Sustainable in Life Farmers Assoc. (SLSULFA)

Tarangan, Samar

Prize: Php 25, 000.00

 

The cash prizes awarded to the winners are sponsored by ATI-RTC 8.