By JAMES TABABA
Bernard Restificar always wanted a farm for his retirement. After visiting hundreds of properties, he finally found the right place that spoke to his heart.
Restificar is a graduate of Business Management in University of the Philippines in Cebu. He worked in a bank for 12 years before operating a TESDA registered technical vocational school and a DepEd registered vocational high school with his wife Myrma for two decades. In 2021, they started developing Oikos Orchard and Farms.
Oikos Orchard and Farm produces thousands of fruit and forest tree seedlings; grows fruits and vegetables; raises native pigs, chickens, and goats; and offers accommodations and glamping activities.
Choosing the right property to purchase wasn’t easy for Restificar. For many years, he searched many locations to find the perfect place for his retirement farm until he came across land in Sibunga, located along the vegetable highway in the middle of South Cebu. The highway is a tabuan, a Cebuano word for farmer’s market. Every Tuesday, people converge in front of the area to bring their goods for trading. There’s a tabay or well where people go when they run out of water. A community of coconut farmers making copra are occasionally seen near the area. At times, children go there to fly kites, roam around, and play. Seeing that the area is at the heart of a community, Restificar believed that this was the right place to put up his farm.
The land was purchased on September 1, 2021. Coincidentally, this day was also the World Day of Prayer for Creation, so Restificars’s wife decided to name the farm ‘Oikos,” a Greek word used in the Bible that means “household.” It also refers to the Restificars’ concept of the family, the family’s property, and the community. The word Oikos embodies the vision for the farm: to build a house and family inside a community.
A unique farm with a cause
Restificar spent his years as an educator and a businessman helping people become financially independent. It has always been in his heart to help his fellowmen. That is why he always makes sure that his business always carries a social responsibility. His first business was building a technical vocational course to train caregivers, hospital aides, hospital assistants, nursing assistants, barangay health workers, paramedics, first aid responders, therapists, domestic workers, and more to acquire the necessary skills needed for them to be employed.
Even after his retirement, Restificar still wanted to continue to help people. He wanted his farm to be sustainable in generating jobs and to be a place where people can go visit, enjoy, relax, and bring their families together.
For Oikos to be different from other farms, Restificar thought of dividing the farm into different portions—a vegetable area, an espalier orchard, an arboretum of native trees, and a glamping site.
Production of fruits and vegetables
For the farm to lessen its expenses, they built nurseries so they can grow crops from seeds. Restificar was able to produce watermelon, tomato, squash, eggplant, ampalaya, long chili, and hot pepper from seeds.
“Last year alone, we were able to produce more than 13 thousand kilos of fruits and vegetables from the farm. Although it may not be enough to support the cost of operations of the farm, I am happy that in the first year of operation that’s a lot already,” Restificar said.
The espalier orchard
An orchard refers to a garden or land area dedicated to growing fruit and nut trees. Inspired by their fruit picking experience in Maryland, USA, Restificar is planning on building an espalier orchard, which is a special type of orchard where the trees are pruned and trained into a specific shape and size.
“Hopefully, it’s going to be the first in the Philippines… To be able to successfully train the fruit bearing trees into a two dimensional orchard. Meaning, we only allow the fruit bearing trees to grow left and right without branches in the back at a certain height so when they grow and bear fruits we will have fruit picking,” Restificar said. He is hoping to bring the happy experience of picking fruits to Filipino families.
Rerstificar sourced hundreds of different kinds of fruit bearing trees which includes mangosteen, rambutan, lychee lanzones, avocado, lemons, mangoes. Luckily, he was able to obtain them grafted.
“I want grafted [tree stock] so I don’t have to wait for ten years. Grafted seedlings can bear fruits in the next three to five years. Some are already flowering and giving out fruits,” he said.
Restificar joined a group called Visayas Native Tree Enthusiasts, which made him appreciate the native trees in the Philippines. So he added native trees to his arboretum (a botanical garden dedicated to trees).
“I was able to acquire more than a hundred different kinds of native trees. I am planting them in one portion of the property. I planted more than a thousand different kinds of native trees – from large, medium, to small. Many of them are already critically endangered, threatened and vulnerable,” Restificar said.
“The native tree, Magkuno… I have heard of that all my life for over 50 years and I have only seen it two years ago. I was very emotional when I held the seedling in my hands,” he added.
The farm is already registered at the Department of Agriculture – Bureau of Plant Industry and is in the process of being recognized by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as a nursery for native trees.
Raising livestock and poultry
Restificar bought black native pigs, native chickens, native goats, and even hybrid goats like boer and anglo-nubian to integrate in the farm. The manure from the livestock and poultry are used as fertilizer in the farm.
Camping and glamping site
The farm offers accommodations for those people who want to relax. “We want to share the view. We want to share the place with people. It’s really nice. It’s breathtaking. When you are along the road, you won’t be able to see and appreciate it. But when you go inside the property, there is an element of surprise. Because when you reach the top of the property, that is when you realize that there’s a very good view from the vantage point,” Restificar said.
At the moment, they prefer exclusive visits for overnight glamping. Tents, kitchens, comfort rooms and showers are all available, but visitors can bring their own tents.
Rebuilding the farm after a storm
On December 16, 2021, the farm was struck by the category 5 typhoon Odette (international name Super Typhoon Rai). The eye of the typhoon struck Sibunga. Restificar said the Cebuanos did not expect the strength of the typhoon to be so devastating.
Out of more than 800 banana plants in the farm, none of them survived. There were 75 coconut trees before the typhoon struck, but only 15 were left standing. Restificar was devastated by the unfortunate event.
Many nearby farmers asked for Restificar’s help. His daughter organized a fundraising activity and they were able to distribute food packs and help repair damaged roofs. Restificar even took in seven farmers who asked for work as temporary employees because all of their crops were totally destroyed.
But sometimes, opportunity can rise from tragedy. Restificar took the chance to lay out his farm properly after the typhoon toppled all of his crops. Now, there are 2000 banana plants planted on his farm.
Restificar wanted his place to be a destination for everybody to enjoy. In the following years, he plans to include an herbarium, orchidarium, training centers, and stations of the cross.
“At the moment, I’m giving myself three to five years to develop the area. We are still at 25% of the development because we still have plans of putting up an art gallery and museum,” Restificar said.
“If you would like to know more about fruit bearing and native trees, we encourage everybody to visit the farm. I don’t keep trade secrets in farming because it is for everybody. God will be happy that we will be able to share and protect the environment,” he added.
In the next article, Restificar will share his five recommended native trees to plant and why it is important to plant more native trees.
For more inquiries about the farm and the native trees, check out their Facebook page Oikos Orchard and Farm
Photo courtesy of Oikos Orchard and Farm