Away from the Preying Eyes: Treasure amidst El Niño Devastation

 I was literally panting. As  we trekked up to the fringes of the foot of Mt. Kalatungan, we were so subdued. I glanced at my companions and understood why nobody is talking. We were all catching our breaths. Another companion later confided that he was afraid that there might be insurgents in the area as the place is really quite isolated. Me? I was just concentrating on putting one foot forward as we climb higher.  The van that we rode cannot cross one of the creeks that we need to pass through to get to our destination. We have no recourse but to walk.
The sun was high but the breze is cold.What made walking quite trying aside from the rising elevation is the fact that the roads are very dusty due to El niño that made the plants around so depressing to look at. But I welcomed the intense but unexpected work out. We who are city dwellers seldom get this kind of exercise. And what an EXERCISE! But along the way, the vista is really breathtaking.
We (together with my Boss and some ATI staff) were there to document and assess a farm (for a possible ATI Learning site) of a coffee farmer, Kagawad  Cornelio Eraya of Barangay Bagong Silang, Maramag, Bukidnon. Kagawad Eraya is one of the farmer-partners of Kape Maramag, a rising coffee enterprise in Maramag, Bukidnon operated by RIC-Maramag. He was also one of our participants in our coffee production training last year.

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much because Kag. Eraya was very unassuming. Secondly, the coffee trees along the way were not impressive. It was also a time of severe El Niño and the rice and cornfields along the way were severely affected.
I was in deep contemplation when I was tapped in the shoulder and informed that we have arrived. If I was silent on the way up, I was speechless at the beauty of the coffee trees of our host. Amidst the El Niño, his trees are green and full of fruit. Harvesters are filling up one sack after another and one can just marvel at the wealth that is hidden in the area.  Kagawad’s area has no electricity yet and their water came from the very cold creek within his farm. As I drunk the water, Ireally marvelled at the simplicity of the life in the farm. Consumerism has not yet poisoned the minds of the Eraya family.  They do not have TV, refrigerator and other appliances since they don't have electricity. Their means of transportation going down is their motorcycle. They have an analog celphone which they charge downtown.  It isn't much use as the signal is erratic.
What really caught my fancy is the fact that the trees in the farm are not tall. Infact, Kagawad said that the trees are already 30 years old and were not yet rejuvenated. He just practiced pruning when the trees are still very young.  He doesn;t use chemical sprays and uses very minimal, if at all inorganic fertilizers. What he uses are the  decomposed pulp of the beans which are regarded as wastes once the beans are dehulled. Presently, Kagawad’s coffee farm is  around 4 hectares and his productivity is really high.  (The pictures can speak for itself).

After all the hardship in going to the farm, my tiredness quickly evaporated by the majestic sight that greeted me. Kagawad Eraya’s life is what a farm life should be- fresh air, bountiful harvest, fresh water from the creek and a family who finds  joy in simple things. They don’t have high end smart phones (though they can really afford it), tablets or modern toys.  But who needs them? They can run or play hide and seek to their heart’s content.
As we began our trek down, I began to ask myself, why are people crowding the metropolis when there are wide spaces in the rural communities with high earning opportunities?