When you first meet Malic, you’ll feel intimated and just a bit fearful because he is big and tough. He is an embodiment of a true and proud Muslim warrior. Add to that the stories of his “exploits” when he was still young, idealistic, and living in war-ravaged Kauswagan.
However, there is another side of Honorable Malic Macabato, Municipal Councilor of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte that we at Agricultural Training Institute came to know. An act of kindness can easily make him teary-eyed. I first saw him battling tears during the turn-over of the water system to his barangay by the Asisi Development Foundation. He was then the barangay captain of Barangay Tingintingin. I realized then that the persona he projects hid a soft heart. This was proven many times when we came to know him as a partner of the “From Arms to Farm” Program.
Malic’s transformation from a lowly farmer to become one of ATI’s most active partners is guided by his genuine love for others. His farm was one of the first among the Commanders accredited by the ATI as a Learning Site. His 1.7-hectare farm that used to be planted with only coconut, corn, peanut, and upland rice has evolved into a productive integrated diversified organic farm with additional farm components such as vegetable production of lettuce, cauliflower, eggplant, bellpepper, cucumber, zucchini, tomato, fruit trees, dragon fruit, fishpond, livestock, and poultry including goats, carabao, cow, chicken, ducks, and guinea fowl, among others. He is also known as the single biggest producer of organically grown upland rice in the locality.
When Malic started the development of his farm, he was reproached by ATI and the Municipal Agriculture Office since he just gave out his produce and tilapia fingerlings to relatives, friends, and neighbors for free. He said that he is not used to selling his produce. Later, after much prodding to treat his farming as a business, and his participation to trainings such as Farm Business School exposures to “earning” farms in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, Malic learned to sell his produce and slowly earned income. As a concession, he said, if a neighbor or a friend needs fingerlings, he gives it for free if it is below 50 pieces. More than that, he let them only pay 50% of the cost.
Malic fondly relates that buyers now go to their farm to buy in bulk. Others in the downtown area text him for orders. He also credits social media as an effective marketing tool. The social media component is handled by his children, most notably his eldest son, Cairoding Macabato. Malic not only influenced his son to love farming but also taught his son his love of service as Cairoding succeeded his father as Barangay Captain. His wife, Tata is also busy helping in the farm by taking care of the vegetable produce. Their eight children also help out in any way they could.
He has now expanded his farm in Tingintingin from 1.7 hectares to 4 hectares to accommodate the expanded farm components that he added after it became an ATI-accredited Learning Site. He has also developed another 8-hectare farm in the neighboring municipality of Poona Piagapo. There, he expanded his upland rice production, specifically, the dinorado variety.
Malic’s big heart is now channeled in a wider scale. He is presently the Committee Chair for Agriculture in their Municipal Council. He advocates for organic farming, diversified farming and has zealously promoted the planting of fruit trees, abaca and dragon fruit.
As a Learning Site, he happily shares the technologies that he uses in the farm to visitors. He learned these technologies from the trainings conducted by the Municipal Agriculture Office, ATI, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and other partners. His network is slowly getting bigger and he attributes the “From Arms to Farm” program as the catalyst.
Malic’s dream is for his constituents to succeed in their farming. He said if it would mean partial subsidy (like the 50% discount for his fingerlings) from him, he will do it. If they want to learn, he is more than willing to teach them. Malic is willing to go the extra mile. Truly, this gentle giant has proven time and again that there is still hope for a better future.