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ELARDO FAMILY: Pantawid family tills soil to grow organic vegetables

As early as 5 o’clock in the morning, Francisco Elardo, is already tending his plants in his backyard garden.

He would see to it that he greets his plants a good morning because he treats them as friends.

Para nako makatabang ang pagestorya sa mga tanom, dili man sila makatubag apan makatabang kini sa ilang pagtubo (I believe talking to plants can help, even if they could not respond to you but this would help the plants grow healthy),” shares Francisco.

The Elardo family utilizes recycled materials in their organic demo farm in Barangay Taytay, Badian.

In a 1,000 square meter backyard garden that Francisco and his family own in their home in Barangay Taytay, Badian, Cebu, one can see a variety of vegetables like alugbati, eggplant, sweet potato, string beans, pechay, patola and malunggay. The family also have fruit bearing trees like guyabano, papaya, tambis, guava, coconut and avocado.

The Elardo’s love for farming started with their father Francisco Elardo, 46 years old, who once thought of finding his fate beneath the skyscrapers of the city. But later on decided to return to the countryside to till the soil.

Padre de Familia

A college dropout, Francisco worked in a paint factory to feed his family. However, he got sick and he left his work. He returned to his hometown and started farming.

Nipauli ko sa amoa kuyog akong asawa aron magpaayo sa akong sakit ug didto nako nadesisyonan nga mag farming ko (I came back to my hometown with my wife to recuperate from my illness and there I decided to do farming),” he adds.

And that was when Francisco saw his purpose.

Organic farming advocate

Francisco’s inclination to organic farming started when he attended a seminar on organic farming.

Nakat-unan nako sa seminar nga dili kinahanglan mogamit og spray nga adunay mga kemikals (I learned from the seminar that there is no need to use chemical spray to plants),” Francisco says matter-of-factly.

Marilou, 42 years old, Francisco’s wife and partner in tending all their farm crops says that as a couple, they help each other in various household chores. Francisco he is more focused on farming while Marilou takes care of the children. Marilou also helps her husband in nurturing the plants.

The couple is blessed with two (2) children, namely: Reese and Christian who also have their own tasks in tending their farm.

Reese, 19 years old, is currently a second year college taking up Bachelor of Education Major in Pre-Elementary and Technical Livelihood Education at the Cebu Technological University (CTU) Moalboal campus and Christian, 14 years old, a grade 9 student of Badian National High School and a monitored child under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps).

Reese uses her creativity in making artistic and colorful design for their plant pots while Christian is a reliable partner to his father in ensuring that the plants are healthy.

Despite the meager income that the family would earn from farming, Francisco believes that it was in farming where he found himself to be of help not only in providing healthy meals for his family but also for other members of their community.

Each member of the family has its own task in tending the demo farm.

Akong pangandoy gyud nga ma-echo ang organic farming sa akong mga isig-katawo kay mas luwas ni kaysa sa kanang gamitan og synthetic fertilizer. Importante kaayo ni labi na nga ang mga bata dali magkasakit (It has always been my dream to impart my knowledge on organic farming to others because this is safer compared to vegetables sprayed with synthetic fertilizer. This is very important, especially that children are prone to sickness),” Francisco underscores.

In 2013, the family decided to make the backyard garden as a demonstration farm. Since then, many people coming from various institutions like students, government workers and fellow farmers visited it to learn more and see an actual organic farm.

Miski kapoy, malipay gihapon ko mag-demo sa mga estudyante kay ganahan man sad ko nga mapa-ambit sa lain akong nahibaw-an kabahin sa organic farming (Even if I am tired, I am happy to demonstrate to the students because I love to share what I have learned about organic farming),” explains Francisco.

He added that he will never refuse anyone who would approach him and visit their demo farm to gain knowledge on organic farming.

If there are visitors, Francisco would show to them his plants and then discuss about natural farming system like indigenous microorganism, fermented plant juice and fermented fruit juice inside a make shift classroom made of indigenous materials like bamboo and nipa.

The Agricultural Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) tapped Francisco as one of the resource speakers for organic vegetables farming seminar. In fact, ATI has chosen the Elardo demo farm as one of the learning sites on backyard gardening.

Francisco is also a barangay coordinator of the Farmer Scientist Training Program (FSTP) and at the same time a farmer’s trainer under the Office of Provincial Agriculturist of Cebu province.

The family also raises animals like cow, goats, chicken and maintains a small pond in their organic farm.

Sa panahon nga wala pay ani, kining mga tilapia maoy among sud-anon (During lean season, these tilapias are our viand),” he says.

Farming is the backbone of the nation. Sa nagkataas nga populasyon, nagsaka pud ang demand sa pagkaon. Kung kalimtan nato ang farming, unsaon man nato pagpakaon sa mga tawo nga sa pagkaon raba na maggikan ang kusog? (Farming is the backbone of the nation. As the population continues to grow, the demand also increases. If we disregard farming, how would we feed the people? Human strength comes from eating healthy food),” Francisco emphasizes.

Kung kita tanan mahimong engineer o mosakay og barko, kinsa may mananom sa pagkaon nga atong andamon para sa atong pamilya? Di ra ba na mahilis ang puthaw (If we all become engineers or become seafarers, who will be left to grow the food that we will serve to our families? Steels are inedible),” jokingly says Francisco.

As an advocate of organic farming, he also encourages other Pantawid Pamilya partner-beneficiaries to follow the natural farming system.

The family is also a member of the Taytay Hillyland Farmers Association.

Kung adunay murequest nga magpatudlo sa pagpananom, andam ug tagana kami nga mupa-ambit sa among kaalam kabahin sa organic farming (If there will be request for lectures or trainings, we are more than willing to share our knowledge about organic farming),” says Francisco.

To the Elardo family, what they have gained is a blessing and is something to be shared to others. It is the family’s advocacy to share it with others to replicate their efforts on organic farming. The family has encouraged their neighbors and other people to produce organic vegetables and fruits which are safe to eat and are not harmful to the environment.

Pantawid Partner-Beneficiary

Before the Elardo family became a Pantawid partner-beneficiary, they already showed determination and hardwork.

According to Francisco, he is grateful when his family became a partner-beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in 2011 because it aided them in providing their children’s education, a basic right of every child.

Dili ingun nga dili nata magkugi kay naa tay tabang gikan sa gobyerno, so akong gibuhat gidoble pa namo among kakugi. Naa naman pamugas nga gihatag ang Pantawid, ang akong gibuhat ang pagpangita sa sud-an (It does not mean that we stop working hard because there is already an assistance from the government, so what we did is we double our efforts. There is already a rice subsidy of Pantawid, what I do is to provide for our viand),” expresses Francisco.

Marilou agreed on Francisco’s statement, “Miskin wala ang Pantawid maninguha gihapon mapaeskwela ang mga bata kay responsibilidad man kana sa mga ginikanan (Even if there is no Pantawid, we should continue sending our children to school because it is the responsibility of the parents to send their children to school)” enthuses Marilou.

On Parenting

For Francisco and Marilou, parenting is also like taking care of the plants.

Just like plants that need a foundation of good soil to support and nourish their roots, sunlight to produce food via photosynthesis and a sufficient supply of water, children also need to have a good family foundation.

Marilou share that in order to strengthen their family, they never forget to have time for each other. Great meal conversations serve as a good venue for the four of them to discuss what transpired during the day in the school, in the farm, in the home and in the community.

Francisco and Marilou Elardo happily pose together with their two children Reese and Christian in their home in Badian, Cebu.

Upat raman mi kabuok mao nga open ang among communication ug adunay problema dali namo masolusyonan kay magtinabangay man kami isip usa ka pamilya (We are only four in the family, so we have open communication at home. And if there is a problem we can resolve it immediately because we help each other as one family),” says Francisco.

Francisco understand that Reese and Christian have their own distinct personality and they have their own life to decide.

Isip ginikanan, ang ato ra man gusto nga maayo ang kaugmaon sa atong mga anak ug kung unsa ilang ambisyon suportaan nato (As parents, we only want what is good for our children’s future and we will support whatever their ambitions are),” adds Francisco.

But Francisco never fails to instill to his children the value of education.

Dili nako gusto nga maparehas sila nako nga wala makahuman og eskwela. Walay rason nga dili sila makahuman og eskwela labi na nga adunay tabang gikan sa gobyerno (I do not want them to be like me. There is no reason for them not to finish their studies, especially now that there is aid from the government),” ends Francisco. ###

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