PASSION OR SERVICE?

 I am apprehensive at first.  All I thought Col. Francisco D. Millare is a military man who is difficult to approach like other military officials I have encountered.   I was wrong.  He is very approachable and a low profile person.  He is the 42nd Commanding Officer of the Philippine Army.  I met him when I and my team were tasked to document the success story of the 77th Infantry Battalion in implementing the Integrated Diversified Organic Farming System.
 Image in this blog of Norma Maddalora
Despite his position, he shows enthusiasm in dealing with his subordinates and other people.  While he relates his experiences, passion and goals, the words he uttered echo his personality as a man of action.  
 
His mission as a military man is to protect the country and the Filipino people from intruders.  But being a graduate of BS in Agriculture, he loves agriculture.  “Nasasayangan ako sa nakikita kong mga lupang nakatiwangwang lang,” he said. 
 
With his passion in agriculture, he initiated the conversion of the 5-hectare vacant area of the 77th IB inside Camp Melchor F. dela Cruz into a paradise-like “Integrated Diversified Organic Farming System (IDOFS)”.  You can see here the well-arranged beds of different varieties of vegetables and fruit trees, banana and pineapple designed in a multi-storey cropping pattern.  Native pigs and native chickens complement the system.  Accents of ornamental plants and structures enhance the beauty of the area.  It’s amazing!  In barely eight months, he was able to establish the system.  “This is the first organic farm found inside a military base of the Armed Forces of the Philippines. High ranking officials of the Philippine Army often visit the project and they are amazed of the established project inside a military base,” Col. Millare added. 
 Image in this blog of Norma Maddalora
It is his principle that wherever his assignment, he always sees to it that he will leave a legacy not only related to military operation but also in agriculture - converting an idle land into a beautiful and productive workplace for his troop.  This is by utilizing the available local and natural resources around without added cost to ensure sustainable supply of food for his troop.
 
With just few hours of encounter with this man, I have learned so much from his principles and ideologies.
 
Putting things in their right place
 
This is my first lesson.  “There are many idle resources around that can be utilized to create beauty with productivity,” Col. Millare said.  Stones are abundant.  He utilized stones in creating beautiful scenery.  He used old iron bars from dilapidated building, lumbers and cogon grasses from the forest area in the camp to build huts. 
 
As he toured us around the project, the way they manage their wastes caught my attention.  All household and farm wastes are piled in fenced beds for natural decomposition.  The organic fertilizers derived from this composting strategy are being used to fertilize their crops.  Non-biodegradable materials such as bottles, cans and plastics also have its separate bins which are strategically located in the area.  These are placed in sacks and are used as land fill in low lying areas of the park.  Col Millare said that he learned the technology in Benguet when he was assigned there. 
 Image in this blog of Norma Maddalora
Clean and cozy workplace, beautiful and refreshing to the eyes.  “If you want to make your working place beautiful and clean, it’s just a matter of putting things in their proper place”, he said.
 
To achieve great things, work hard on it
 
My second lesson learned.  Hard work and persistence is the key to the success of the IDOFS at 77th IB.  He sets his hands at work.  He plowed the area himself manually using a carabao-driven plow.  He has many workforce, the CAFGUs and the soldiers under his command, but he preferred to put his hands on the job.  The people under his command followed him diligently.  He sets an example of a servant-leader.   In eight months, the project was completed.  The vegetables they planted began to produce fruits.  Again, I learned this lesson from him when he said, “to achieve great things, work hard on it.”
 Image in this blog of Norma MaddaloraImage in this blog of Norma Maddalora
Positive way of responding to rebellion
 
Third lesson learned.  Rebellion cannot be solved by war.  This is as simple as hatred begets hatred.  The more we make war, the more we create rebellion.  This is one of the principles of Col. Millare that I appreciated most.  He wants to bring peace by encouraging people to become more productive.  He said, they have caused many rebel returnees by encouraging and helping them become productive.  “Ang proyekto ay modelo ng organikong pagsasaka na nagbibigay pag-asa sa mga tao upang hindi mamundok; upang matugunan ng positibong pamamaraan ang paghihimagsik; at upang manaig ang kapayapaan at hindi upang manalo sa digmaan. Sapagkat naniniwala tayo na kapag busog ang tao ay hindi namumundok”- a message from a dedicated patriot that touch my heart.    
 
The IDOFS project which was initially assisted by ATI-RTC 02 became the convergence of different support agencies like DARFO 02, DA-CVRC, PLGU of Isabela, PVET Isabela and of course ATI-RTC 02.  With much gratitude, Col. Millare proudly acknowledged the support of ATI-RTC 02 and other participating agencies and organizations.  “It is a dream come true”, he sighed. 
 Image in this blog of Norma Maddalora
Now, the farm was finally certified as organic farm by Ecoland last February 28, 2015.