By Vina Medenilla
Filipino-American development worker and entrepreneur Michael Bryan P. Pascual, 35, grew up next to vast cornfields in Iowa, United States.
“I had summer jobs where I counted plants or manually fertilized flowers,” he recalled.
The young Pascual later made his way to San Francisco, California, realizing his dream of moving from the countryside to the city. Amid all the lifestyle changes and transitions, his desire to be close to nature remained constant.
He returned to the Philippines in 2014 as a young professional. At that time, he also had the chance to meet his extended family, including relatives who farm in Quezon province. “I think agriculture is deeply embedded in my blood,” Pascual said.
At the start of the pandemic, he decided to convert their family’s neglected land into an arable farm. He named it Bukid Iluminada after his late grandmother, who owned the property.
Pascual’s grandmother, Iluminada Galicia Beenken, or Luming, hoped for their land to be fruitful and capable of supporting the family. She enjoyed seeing photos of the farm’s initial harvests. Sadly, she lost her battle with cancer in 2020.
“Even so, I want to honor her wishes by ensuring that the farm is as productive as we can possibly make it,” Pascual said.
In managing the farm, Pascual is joined by his wife, Angeli Alba-Pascual, also a development worker and a communications specialist. “We are very grateful for the chance to come home and build up the farm in Sariaya, Quezon. We are still working full-time, but it’s now easier to supervise the farm when we live close to it.”
With regard to their schedule as part-time farmers, Angeli remarked, “Michael can go and visit the farm before or after work on weekdays and also during the weekends. I can assist him on weekends, particularly with marketing to institutional buyers, like online delivery services, market vendors, and restaurant owners.”
A “natural” tribute to departed loved ones
Bukid Iluminada is a 1.7 hectare land in Barangay Balubal, Sariaya, Quezon Province.
Pascual is very big on sustainable and naturally-grown food and does not use any synthetic chemicals, pesticides, fungicides, or other harmful materials. His grandparents both died from cancer. Knowing that synthetic chemicals applied to crops have a link to cancer when consumed, Pascual chooses healthier food options for his family to keep the said disease at bay.
The farm strictly implements natural methods to increase productivity and control pests and diseases.
“Our growing medium is a mixture of composted manure, carbonized rice hull, topsoil, and an application of concoctions. Since acquiring NCII organic agriculture production from TESDA in August 2022, we are producing our own concoctions, fertilizers, and feed.”
As of writing, Bukid Iluminada is planted with eggplant, papaya, coconut, saba banana, cucumber, petsay, okra, passion fruit, kamote, ube, taro, and cacao.
“Our farm maximizes non-productive spaces through multi-cropping and multi-story systems where crops and plants coexist in the same space at different heights and different stages of growth and development. We have a combination of perennial and annual plants. This way, all areas of the farm are productive all year round.”
Bukid Iluminada isn’t only growing crops; it’s also integrated with animals, such as free-range chickens (20 Rhode Island Reds, 15 Black Australorps, 10 Barred Plymouth Rocks, and 10 native chickens), black native pigs, goats, and a Brahman cow.
To further boost the productivity of crops and fruit trees, they employed 21 colonies of stingless bees.
Pascual said, “For our chickens, we are converting our feed from commercial to organic, our ruminants eat forage from the farm, and our pigs eat food [scraps] from the house and a local restaurant.”
In terms of feeding schedule, he added, “Our adult chickens forage all day and we give them normal feed twice a day while our chicks have an unlimited supply of food. Our ruminants eat all day through grazing and we feed our pigs twice a day.”
They keep animal houses clean by applying microbial spray regularly. They also improve their recordkeeping as one of their strategies for keeping the animal shelter secure and protected from predators. This also goes hand in hand with ensuring that the water and food they give to animals are safe and clean.
Family farms play a crucial function in linking generations together. It takes a lot of work and years to build a farm and a culture that works for each farming family. Those who carry on the legacy of their farmer-ancestors, including Pascual, are the ones that keep family farms, and the legacies they represent, alive.
Photos courtesy of Bukid Iluminada
For more information, visit Bukid Iluminada