Barangay San Antonio is located 8 kilometers from the center of the municipality of Barotac Viejo. The major sources of livelihoods in our village are sugarcane and rice farming.
Because of the vast sugarcane farms in our barangay, many of our children work as child laborers. This is why the ABK3 LEAP Project of World Vision is collaborating with teachers to provide education interventions that seek to bring child laborers back to school and keep the working children in school. The Barangay Council also passed an ordinance to prevent children from engaging in hazardous child labor, especially in the sugarcane farms.
When our community was struck by Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) last year, we almost gave up hope for recovery from the loss and damages in our community. But through the help of various government agencies, NGOs and private individuals, our hope was restored. World Vision was one of the first to respond to our community.
Three months after the destruction of Yolanda, ABK3 initiated the establishment of an organic communal garden and FAITH (Food Always In The Home) backyard gardens to provide a steady supply of healthy and nutritious food for families. At present, we also have 9 CoMSCA (Community Managed Savings and Credit Association) savings groups who meet weekly. Five of these groups have ventured into hog raising and other savers, like Arleen Silva, took out a loan to start her own business.
One of the major challenges we encountered in starting the communal garden was encouraging community members to participate. At the onset, only a few were interested since there was no available land yet and water was scarce in our community. Some commented that I was making fools out of them, while others reacted that the idea of creating a communal garden seemed to be the work of a “communist”. Albeit these negative remarks, my fellow barangay officials and I continued to persuade households to join, explaining to them the value of the communal garden. Our efforts eventually bore fruit as we saw more and more people joining, including those who were initially against it.
Aside from World Vision, we would also like to thank the people who helped make this communal garden a success:
- To Mrs. Arleen B. Juanico, Principal I of San Antonio Elementary School, for offering the school’s one hectare idle land to be developed as our communal garden site;
- To the BAPA (Barangay Power Association) of San Antonio and Sitio Sibukawan because it was through them that Director Villa B. Gumban, Board Member of ILECO 3 (Iloilo 3 Electric Cooperative), donated a water facility for our garden;
- To our Municipal Mayor, Mayor Niel C. Tupas, for seeds;
- To the Provincial Agriculture Office of Iloilo for the training on Natural Farming System (NFS) and for also providing seeds and organic fertilizers; and
- To the Philippine Coconut Authority for the coconut seedlings and many other seeds.
It was through this garden that we were noticed by the Department of Agriculture. During his visit to our garden last May 8, 2014, DA Secretary Proceso Alcala pledged one million pesos for the development of the communal garden, including a water system, training on organic farming, seedlings, nets for the greenhouse and native chickens. In addition, three carabaos with implements were also raffled to the ABK3 assisted households involved in the communal garden.
Today, our communal garden has more than 300 plots. As early as 4 in the morning and 5 in the afternoon, parents are already at the garden watering and cultivating their plants. As a result, mothers who used to pass their time gossiping in the streets are now at the communal garden tending their plots. Gambling has also noticeably decreased in our community. Residents from the farther sitios used to feel inferior to those residing at the heart of the barangay. The communal garden became a venue for community interaction, breaking down barriers and helping improve relationships among community members.
I can say that this communal garden is now the most beautiful place in our barangay – a symbol of love, unity and progress in our small community. We welcome you all to our happy home. Lastly, we hope you will not get tired of helping us. Rest assured that we value them and we will continue to grow them.
Thank you and good afternoon to everyone. God bless us all.
This speech was delivered by Punong Barangay Rosene Mesa of Barangay San Antonio, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo during the visit of World Vision Senior Policy Adviser Jessie Eaves last May 14, 2014. Aside from being the village leader, he is also an ABK3 Community Watch Group (CWG) volunteer who regularly monitor assisted children and households in their community.
Barangay San Antonio’s garden has been dubbed as the biggest organic communal garden in the Philippines. It was conceived in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda and is part of ABK3’s ALSA (A Life Saving Aid) Initiative to help affected ABK3 households get back on their feet, providing a continual supply of food and an additional source of income for families. At present, they now have a greenhouse and a fishpond in the communal garden.