Usually we write our Tuesday’s piece for this page every Sunday in the afternoon. So, at around 3 p.m. the other day we switched on our computer at our farm residence to start putting into words the issues we had in our mind.
But even before we could figure out how to begin our piece we heard clanks on our gate with males’ voices calling our name. Since the wife was not around we were forced to stand up and abandoned the work we were about to begin to find out who were looking for us on that somewhat lazy and humid Sunday afternoon.
And lo and behold; they were our neighbors whose farms planted to coconut have boundaries with our little property which is also planted with the same crop. As we opened the gate of our fence a tricycle came to a stop and another farmer friend alighted as he unloaded a case of cold beer. All in all there were seven visitors who came to our house. With us included we were eight to down the bottles. But we were determined to control our intake of the beverage with whatever believable alibi that can crop up from our mind.
As we led them to our living room we jokingly asked our farmer friends what ill wind brought them to the house and what occasion they wanted to celebrate with us. We told them quite frankly that we were not celebrating any occasion. That Sunday was not our birthday; not our wife’s; not our wedding anniversary. And it was already three days past Valentine’s Day.
Our friends chorused in answering us.
“You are right Pare’ng Vic. It’s really ill wind that brought us here in your house. But wait Pare, we are bringing with us beer because we know that you are already ‘applying some brakes’ in your drinking after your two surgical operations in 2014. We know you are more compliant with the order of the Mrs than that of your doctor’s. So we see to it that there is no more hard liquor for you, at least for now.”
We retorted, “That’s good. The temptation to drink hard liquor might just be very strong to resist that we cannot hold ourselves. We could only imagine what would happen if the wife saw…” “See you break her rules?” responded our farmer neighbors with boisterous laugh.
In minutes all the eight of us were already holding a bottle each. We got a can of peanuts that our daughter hid after it was not consumed by her kids and forgot to bring it to our city residence. After putting the peanuts on a “platito” all hands were in that direction to savor the special “pulotan.”
“Now tell us without delay what is that ill wind that you admitted to have brought you to our house?” Our tone was a little bit forceful even as we endeavored to retain our very friendly voice to avoid anyone getting slighted.
Two of our friends did a “duet” telling us straight on the face that they are getting disgusted with the way coconut farmers are being virtually abandoned by the government. The others then proceeded to ask, “When was the last time you sold your harvested nuts?” Our answer was that it was three weeks ago. And anticipating what question they would ask next, we added on to say that it was bought at P4.20 per kilo of raw nut, not the dried copra.
We felt it was our time to throw in our question so we asked, “Why, what is happening in the coconut market that you seem so agitated to pay us a visit with only the coconut price issue as subject of our discussion?”
Again, three of our visitors answered simultaneously. “Pare’ng Vic, si Pare’ng Sammy nagpasaka sa iyang lube kaniadtong Huwebes ug Biyernes kay matud niya daghan nakaayo ang nangahulog nga bunga ug nangasagay na ang tu-a sa taas sa puno-an.”
We saw the three guys also emptied the content of their bottles and shook their heads. In dialect one of them continued: “Kabaloka Bay Vic, grabe ka ubos ang presyo sa tibuok nga lube. Way nahimo si Sammy kay nasakana man ang iyang lube. Tag P3.50 lang ang palit matag kilo sa tibuok nga bungasa lube. Grabe kaayo ang pagpahimulos sa mga hakog nga mga negosyante. Unya ang gobiyerno mora ug wala lang magpakabana; mora ug wala’y nadunggan nga mulo sa mga mag-uumasa lube.”
And suddenly, perhaps the fast pace of their drinking seemingly started affecting their mental stability our friends already started talking in broken English.
“You know Bay Vic, we farmers are very lugina. Imagine, the coco pickers are already vanishing. Those remaining they give you only two choices. You pay them P10 per puno nga sak-on, or 30-70 sharing ratio. In other words kung dunay 1000 ka bunga nga ilang mahulog 300 ilaha, 700 ang mahibilin sa tag-iya sa mga puno-an sa lube. Then you have to haggle with them for the schedule when your coconut will be picked.”
While trying to control our urge to drink more, we used our own scheme to deceive our visitors that we were only holding our beer bottle and sipping small amount of the liquid every now and then. We made it appear that we were focusing our attention to their protestations.
It was only then that we realized how seriously they have taken the situation into their hearts. We felt they were pouring out all the hardships of the life of a famer. And we too were convinced that it is also our own life that they were talking about.
Yes, while the buyers of coconut are virtually talking among themselves to make sure that no one offers higher prices and even push it further down, the prices of coconut by-products like cooking oil, desiccated coco meat and others are rising almost daily. Even the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is helpless in arresting the price increase of coco by-products.
But what is surprisingly intriguing is the inability of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) to help the coco farmers survive by arresting the slide of the prices of coconut. Is the PCA not mandated to look into the welfare of coconut farmers? Is overseeing the coconut production not including ensuring that the farmers themselves can continue farming?
Is the PCA under its present leadership so inutile that the only responsibility it knows is allowing its people to make money from its projects and from whatever fees the agency derives under its mandate?
Or, are the executives of the PCA making programs and projects, as well as policies for coconut hacienderos and big-time coconut traders only? How is it Bay Kiking Quimpan?
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