A Passionate Farmer-Entrepreneur with a Heart

Mr. Perlito Montañez, Brgy. Adlay, Carrascal, Surigao del Sur

“There is no other sustainable job except farming”- This is what Mr. Perlito Montañez uttered during his interview.

“Mang Pepe”, as what his neighbors call him is one of the Learning Site Cooperators of the Agricultural Training Institute- Regional Training Center (ATI-RTC) 13. His farm was categorized as Integrated Diversified Organic Farming System (IDOFS). Aside from livestock, poultry and organic fertilizer production, he also planted organic vegetables in his farm located at Brgy. Adlay, Carrascal, Surigao del Sur.

A 58-year old Mang Pepe first received assistance from ATI on 2016 when he became a Learning Site Cooperator on the said year. “I am so blessed and thankful to have staff from ATI Caraga who have helped me and gave advice on what to do particularly on feed formulation even beyond office hours. Without their assistance I may not be successful in my endeavor as LS cooperator.” He professes.

There was a time, when he was requested by the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist in Surigao del Sur in Tandag City to act as Resource Speaker in one of their training wherein he will talk about his own technology applied in raising livestock and poultry.

He was then surprised and shocked, actually a mixed of emotions when he found out that the event that he will be attending to is the ‘Surigao del Sur Entrepreneurship Summit’. Since it would be his first time to act as a Resource Person, he really doesn’t know what to do and seems uneasy thinking what will happen next. He said that he was really challenged by the participants who are all graduates in Agriculture course from different Colleges and prestigious Universities.

In fact, his confidence helped him a lot. “In consolation, I just whispered to myself that ‘I can make it’ because I’m also a college graduate,” Mang Pepe proudly said. This courageous statement made him a stronger one.

When he meets ATI
Mang Pepe met ATI by coincidence. There was a time when the demand for organic fertilizer increased and chicken dung is not enough to supply the rising demand. He seeks assistance from the Provincial Agriculture Office of Surigao del Sur and planned to make his own.

“The Provincial Agriculture Office through Sir Bert Pedalezo referred me then to ATI-RTC 13 based at Los Angeles, Butuan City. I went to Celebes, a private company in Butuan City for that purpose and I dropped by ATI for the first time without any idea. I just asked about feed formulation or anything that they could offer and I was in the right tract.” Mang Pepe surprisingly stated.

From that moment, the bond and linkage between him and ATI got stronger and closer. Mang Pepe attended various trainings conducted by ATI to name a few, organic fertilizer production, feed milling, and farm machinery related topics. ATI Caraga offered him more and more trainings and he never refused any of these such as the training on feed milling held at the ATI- International Training Center on Pig Husbandry (ATI-ITCPH), Lipa, Batangas and so on and so forth. It only shows his willingness and passion to such tasks and allot a room for improvement within him. He never settles for less. For him, every training is an opportunity, a blessing because what he had learned is another application of technology to his own farm that is worth it to be shared to others.

His farm passed as Learning Site during the evaluation made by the Technical Working Group (TWG) comprising ATI Caraga personnel. He continually treads on his journey as LS Cooperator until his farm became a School for Practical Agriculture just last year accredited by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). This was what he dreamed of.

There was this second instance when the local government of Carrascal requested him to supply organic fertilizer with these compositions: OHN =60L, FPJ= 60L, and FFJ 60L. Though he was challenged of any proof confirming him being an organic practitioner. He had no documents such as certificates of training on any organic agriculture-related topics to show that he is credible to produce such. So, he called back ATI for that matter. The recent OIC-Director Samuel L. Calonzo asked him if ever he is interested to attend the training on Organic Agriculture with NC II.

“I was very happy then that I was included in the list of the participants along with the Agricultural Extension Workers (AEWs) in the region. The National Competency (NC II) assessment was held in Lanao del Norte in 2017,” Mang Pepe said.

“I am so blessed by God that I was given a chance to be one of the participants that time which I felt impossible to happen but with Him nothing is impossible,” he added.

A lifelong learner
“I’m so fortunate that I got a College Scholarship from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). They gave opportunities to all private employees who are below 40 years old to go to college way back 1996.” Mang Pepe recalled.

For him, age doesn’t matter. This was clearly proved by the college degree he earned at the age of 36 while he worked at night and went to school at day. He took his course within four years from 1996 -2002.

“Being a working student is not easy. I worked in a private feeds company in Cantilan, Surigao del Sur at nighttime and went to school at daytime,” he added.
In 2002, he graduated with a degree of Bachelor of Science in Education at Surigao del Sur Institute of Technology now known as Surigao del Sur State University (SDSSU) Cantilan Campus.

“I never expected that I made it to the top amidst the hardships I encountered those time, I even brought my son to school when nobody baby-sit him,” tearfully Mang Pepe recollects.

“Planning to have a business, I’m always curious on feed formulation and I have in mind to formulate my own someday,” Mang Pepe professes. He even searched in the internet and get ideas from somebody regarding feed formulation. “At first, I have existing formulation but I still have additional formula to make so I tried to consult Sir Samuel Calonzo about it.” He added.

With an Entrepreneurial Heart
“I want to experience how it feels being rich, that’s why I never refused any opportunities to venture into business,” Mang Pepe smilingly said.

He is full of optimism in life. The eagerness within his heart illuminates the things he did on his farm. As LS Cooperator, he wants to prove to his constituents that he is worthy to such title by being a model farmer and an entrepreneur rolled into one.

“I believed not to rely only in one source of income instead we must diversify and integrate farm activities,” advised Mang Pepe.

Mang Pepe observed that it would be better to formulate and produce his own feeds for his pigs and chickens than to purchase outside because he can save a certain peso in every kilo.

In 2016 he ventured on feed milling business. Mang Pepe said that due to financial constraint for the startup, he borrowed money from a private lending firm in their province. “I paid it for 18 months and today, I thanked God for the profits, He really blessed my business,” he added.

He delivered his produced feeds and organic fertilizer to the mining companies in their province with a minimum of 100 sacks per month. Using the feed mill, Mang Pepe will have savings of P1,000.00 per day. In his egg production alone, he can have a net income of P1,500 per day in addition to P25,000.00 per month from his chicken dung as organic fertilizer. According to him, there is really money in poultry.

He believed in a Pipeline strategy wherein he didn’t rely on only one source of income (pipeline) and never scattered those sources, it must be in one related line.

“The feed mixer that I received from ATI helped me in producing instantly minimum sacks of feeds in a day not only for my own consumption but to others who need it most. All these achievements I have right now were realized through the help of the ATI.” Mang Pepe uttered.

“ATI Caraga is blessed through the leadership of Director Calonzo along with the staff and personnel who are always there to assist me,” he added.

Mang Pepe show to us the raw materials he used as composition of the feeds he formulated. These are yellow corn, rice bran, soybean meal, copra meal, fish meal, meat and bone, shell powder, limestone, lysine and methionine.

As an Influencer
Being a ‘Barangay Kagawad’ for 5 years exposed him on agriculture-related activities when he was assigned as the chairman in agriculture committee.

“I observed that today’s generation must appreciate agriculture, let them know that there is money in farming, it only needs our ‘diskarte’ how to do it, let us innovate.” Urged Mang Pepe.

Being a college graduate helped him gained confidence especially in convincing and inspiring people. He inspired his co-participants both professionals and non-professionals to practice what they learned from the series of training conducted by the ATI.

A certified winner
“Sometimes, you will be tested towards reaching your goal but challenges in farming is only in the beginning,” stated Montanez.

In spite of the challenges and discouragements hurdled by others in farming, he really pursued his passion and proved them that they were wrong. Even when he was still an employee of a private feeds company before, he already loved raising livestock. He said that raising livestock, poultry and planting crops helped him send his children to school. “My monthly salary alone cannot compensate the family’s basic needs that’s why I never settled being a mere employee though I was offered to become a Senior High School teacher, I just loved farming. What we need is just around the corner.

Mang Pepe strongly believed in time management as key to success. “(Ang pagpanarbaho dili sa padagkuay sa sweldo, ang importante kahibalo ka mogamit sa imong sweldo ug kahibalo ka mogamit sa imong oras human sa trabaho), In working as an employee it doesn’t measure of how big is your monthly pay, what’s important is you know how to use it as well as to utilize your time after work.” He added.
As a risk-taker, he accepts every opportunity that knocks his door. “When I have the chance to venture on a certain thing, I risk it all but I just prepare my heart whatever its outcome.” Professed Montañez.

Owning hectares of farmlands is just only his imagination many years back. “We have no owned farm at first but I declare our neighbor’s land that someday it will be mine with prayers, now God surprisingly gave it to me because this is what my heart’s greatest desire.” Mang Pepe affirmed.

“An enthusiastic Mang Pepe continue to encourage everyone specifically the young ones to go on farming because here we get our food particularly in today’s increasing demand. True enough, that in farming there is food and money. He proves it and is worthy to be emulated.