"Ang Pagpanguma Walay Katapusang Kurso"
(Farming is never ending learning)
- Armando Catolico
President Roxas, North Cotabato
Story by: Jonna Mae Rendon Lacamento-Ducala and Guiller Domingo
Like many farmers in his community, Armando Catolico or Manong Arman, was not able to finish formal education. For 17 years, he obtained his information on what to use in his family’s farm from billboards of chemical and seed companies which promised better yield and higher income. He incessantly applied gallons of pesticides on their two-hectare farm, only to realize much later that those products were not as good as advertised.
In 1996, he decided to participate in trainings on rice production, plant breeding, and varietal selection conducted by SEARICE to acquire new knowledge and skills. He attended the season-long training (16 weeks) traveling 7 kilometers to the venue on a rented motorcycle. If a motorcycle was not available, he would walk for three kilometers from his house to the nearest highway, ride a tricycle or jeepney to the town proper, and then ride on another tricycle to finally reach the “classroom”.
His determination and dedication paid off as Manong Arman has developed three local varieties (JACS 06, JACS 15 and JAC 33) and has at least 40 selections. He is meticulous in selecting his parent materials to make sure he will produce good varieties for his own use and for other farmers. He shares his varieties with other farmers especially those who do not have seeds to plant and many of them have expressed their satisfaction with the yield.
“Ayokong umasa kami sa binibigay nilang [gobyerno] binhi kasi walang kasiguraduhan kung angkop ito sa aming lugar. ‘Yung mga na-develop ko na binhi, mas sigurado ako dun kasi ilang taon ko munang inaral at na-testing sa bukid ko bago ko pinasubok sa iba” (I don’t want to rely on what they [government] are giving because we do not have assurance that those seeds can adapt in our locality. I am more certain of the varieties I breed because I study them for years and test in my own farm before I let others try them in their farms), Manong Arman shared.
Still, Manong Arman continues his pursuit to learn something new. In 2019, he joined another training, this time on breeding vegetable crops. And when lockdowns were implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, his whole community enjoyed free fresh vegetables from his garden.
Manong Arman is very thankful for all the support he has received since the beginning of his journey in plant breeding and organic farming. His advice to his fellow farmers and students enrolled in agriculture courses who frequented his farm is simple: seize every opportunity to learn.