farmers in the Philippines

‘This is our lifeline’: Catanduanes celebrates farmers at 8th Abaca Festival

Andreana Chavez

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‘This is our lifeline’: Catanduanes celebrates farmers at 8th Abaca Festival

Andreana Chavez/Rappler

The story of Ric Tano, who has dedicated 48 years of his life to abaca farming, was among those that was highlighted during the festival

CATANDUANES, Philippines – Ric Tano is a 56-year-old abaca farmer from Kilikilihan, San Miguel, Catanduanes. The father of 10 has dedicated 48 years of his life to abaca farming. Balancing his time between being a full-time electrician and a part-time abaca farmer, Ric symbolizes resilience and hard work in the local community.

Ric’s moving story is just one of the many that was highlighted during the 8th Abaca Festival in May, held in Catanduanes with the theme, “Pagkamoot sa Abaca: Paglaom asin Kusog Kan Islang Maogma” (Love for Abaca: Hope and Strength of the Happy Island). The festival aimed to celebrate abaca’s rich cultural heritage and economic significance in the region.

Love for his craft

“Ang dagang ini, sa ina ko pa. Dahil uya nakakabakal man kami ning samuyang pangangaipo. Uya talaga kami nabubuhay (This land belonged to my mother. It has provided for our daily needs. Abaca farming has been our lifeline),” Ric said, fondly recalling his connection to abaca.

Ric remained optimistic despite the fluctuations in abaca prices, with rates reaching as high as P75 per kilo and dropping as low as P32 per kilo last year. He emphasized the positive impact of high prices, saying, “Magian sa pagmati, lalo na pag mahal ang bandala (It lightens our spirits, especially when the selling price is favorable).”

Ric Tano surrounded by bundles of high-quality abaca fibers in Kilikilihan, San Miguel, Catanduanes. Andreana Chavez/Rappler

Ric’s love for abaca is undeniable. He recounts a memorable experience as an abaca farmer.

“Pag makusog ang ulan, awat talaga kami makadugang. Pero sige lang ta mahal mi ang gigibo mi (During heavy rains, it becomes challenging to dry the abaca. But our love for this crop keeps us going),” he shared.

Ric stressed the importance of sustaining abaca farming for the welfare of families in the community. However, he also acknowledged the hardships faced by fellow farmers when prices plummet. Some are forced to migrate to Manila and seek alternative employment, often in construction.

Ric’s lifeline is the abaca, providing income and livelihood for his family. Andreana Chavez/Rappler

Pag nagmahal ang bandala talagang maogma ang palahag-ot, pag barato masakit man, ang iba ngani di na gahag-ot, gaiba na sanang trabaho, ga-construction, gahanap trabaho sa Manila (When abaca prices are high, we are truly happy, but when they are low, it’s really difficult. Some even look for other jobs in Manila, while others resort to working in construction),” he said.

Ric also noted the correlation between abaca sales and the farmers’ inner strength. “Pag makusog ang bakalan, makusog man kami (When the abaca market is strong, we are strong too).”

The success of the abaca industry significantly influences the local economy, and Ric believes in harnessing its potential. “Abaca ang samuyang paglaom. Kaya maski ako gurang na, sige lang ta habo ko ining mawala samuya (Abaca is our hope. I don’t want to see Abaca disappear in our area. So, even in my old age, I keep going).”

The Abaca Festival, which ran from May 27 to May 31, was a vibrant showcase of Catanduanes’ rich cultural heritage, featuring traditional dances, exhibits, and culinary delights. Visitors and locals were able to immerse themselves in the beauty and significance of abaca and recognize its role in shaping the lives and livelihoods of the residents of Catanduanes.

Even if the festival has come to a close, Ric Tano and his fellow abaca farmers continue to nurture their crops and hope for a better future with the spirit of “Pagkamoot sa Abaca: Paglaom asin Kusog Kan Islang Maogma” throughout the festivities and beyond. –

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