When the anti-insurgency campaign in the hinterlands of Cebu City became intense in the late 1980s, some farmers there were forced to evacuate ro safer places like Bohol. I was already working as a writer after I was arrested twice but my salary was meager. The pay got better when I transferred to SunStar. It was during this time when one of the evacuees sought me out for help. He told me that in Bohol, the mango trees were mostly neglected. And could I help them if they volunteer to tend to those trees? I could finance the endeavor and earn something in return.
I had some savings at that time and accepted the offer. I thought I could help them start a new life. Let us just say that after a few months, I got a nice return on investment. But it ended up as a one-time deal after I talked with a farmer-friend whose daughter was a graduate in Commerce. He dissuaded me from further investing my money on mango farming. “It’s very risky,” he said. “When the dry season gets prolonged, or when there is too much rain, the number of the fruits that would be harvested is affected. You either lose your money or the return on investment gets smaller.”
I heeded the advice, especially because I was planning on getting married. I needed money for the wedding. But I learned something from the experience. The lack of capital and government help is one of the reasons why many mango trees in Cebu are neglected, many of them ending up bearing fruits on their own, fruits that either fall to the ground before they ripen or are being damaged by insects or eaten by birds instead of getting sold in the market or processed for export. Sayang.
Did local government officials not recognize the industry’s potential? When they talk about agriculture, it is as if they have not seen the trees that are proliferating everywhere in the province. In the mountain barangays of Cebu City, the talk is still about traditional farming even if this does not fit the terrain. And what about the mango trees? They are so ubiquitous their potential to make life better for the farmers is not recognized.