An OFW’s Story of Becoming Porac’s Leading Cassava Farmer

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have been cited as the “new heroes”, but in the life of Roberto Lintag, he went home to pursue another heroic line of work: farming.

According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), there are 2.3 million OFWs as of 2018 and most of them perform menial jobs. The former carpenter, Roberto Lintag, might have remained an OFW had he not seen the opportunities from a piece of land he inherited from his father.

Venturing towards a different path

Lintag recalled his academic days at the former Pampanga Agricultural College (PAC). He is not intimidated disclosing his red marks during college. After spending two years as a student, Lintag decided to stop pursuing his education and practice carpentry instead. In 1982, Roberto Lintag chanced a carpentry offer in Saudi Arabia. He was compelled to seek employment abroad since most of his siblings were also on the same path. But his luck abroad was only for a while and in 1986, he finally decided to head home at the suburbs of Porac, Pampanga.

After his 4-year stint abroad, Lintag spent years experimenting on a small business in front of their house in Pio, Porac, Pampanga. He embarked on investing in bar operations which became a sustainable business for their family. However, upon Mt. Pinatubo’s eruption in 1991, bar operations weakened due to disastrous lahar. Despite the situation, Lintag’s family did not leave the town of Porac – being one of the drastically affected areas in the province of Pampanga. Instead, they moved to another small enterprise of selling rice cakes along the highway of Pio, which later on developed into an eatery.

In 2001, Lintag found out that the piece of land his father used to sow was available for leasing. The 1000 sqm land would be handed down to interested occupants. Despite having minimal experience in farming, he decided to give it a try and volunteered to replace his father.

The first years in the field brought Lintag challenges but these did not discourage the neophyte farmer from developing their farm land. He conveyed, “Kayari mung meyari keng gabun, manaya nakamu” (after preparing and seeding the soil, farmers just have to wait for the harvest). This attracted Lintag to venture into farming.

Leading the farmers in Porac

Lintag allowed himself to be active in the sector by leading the Federation of Porac Farmers before being appointed as Barangay Agricultural and Fisheries Council (BAFC) head in 2001. As a farmer, he had a progressive record as a farmer leader in Porac, Pampanga. He then vice-chaired Pio Farmers’ Association, a civic stance that led him to the wider spectrum of agriculture.

He started with cassava as his prime commodity where he gained recognition as Magsasaka Siyentista of Porac, Pampanga 2011. Given that, he was granted a Science and Technology-Based Farm (STBF) from the then proponent of the program, the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD).

The recognition that he received from PCAARRD motivated him to continue nurturing his craft. He might have failed to pursue his college education but this did not discourage him to actively participate in the seminars and trainings initiated by the country’s agricultural institutions. His eagerness to improve his craft accorded him a National Certificate III on Crop Production.

Lintag did not only work for the good of his records. He occasionally offers his own front yard as venue for farmers’ trainings. He found out that such active collaboration would motivate his fellow farmers. His advocacy towards efficient agriculture in the town of Porac grew even stronger. The neophyte farmer skillfully grew into a farmer leader who soon headed Porac’s Municipal Agriculture and Fisheries Council (MAFC) from 2012 until 2018. His leadership also led him, along with fellow active farmers in Porac, into the founding of the recently converted Porac Farmers’ Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries Cooperation. The cooperation was transformed from its association status to cooperation.

In an interview, Lintag boasts the cooperation’s processing facility. It was an area located behind their residential land. Members are welcome to process their cassava produce in the facility. Members of the impressive community–oriented cooperative commit to a certain amount of supply to meet the demands of partners such as Ralo’s, a food shop known for their delectable cassava cakes, and a private partner which supplies granulated cassava tubers to a feeds factory.

Presently, the commodity of Lintag is cassava. However, he’s experimenting on soil nutrition and moisture content in the hope of helping other root crop farmers in combatting pests such as spider mites and mealybugs. Lintag shared that the MS program allowed him to develop his own technologies that are not only beneficial to his own farm but also to his fellow farmers. He is working towards motivating them to adopt efficient and climate-smart agriculture.

Recently, the MS program, which is now under the DA–Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), provided training tools to the remaining active Magsasaka Siyentistas. Lintag is among the remaining active recruits of the province of Pampanga. With the interventions and continuing efforts of agencies such as DA – ATI, they are able to extend their drive towards progressive agriculture among their fellow farmers. Thus, the advocacy endures through their consolidated ambition towards building new farmer leaders and in raising the bar of Philippine agriculture at the grassroots level.

On being a Magsasaka Siyentista

Roberto Lintag is a father to six children. Just like modern farmer families, he has to look for a successor who’s willing to continue the operation of the farm. Unfortunately, none from among his children is interested in agriculture.

A Magsasaka Siyentista for eight years, he is among the many farmers who are redefining Philippine agriculture. On April 12, 2019, Roberto Lintag received Pampanga State Agricultural University’s (PSAU’s) Honoris Causa or the Honorary Degree for Bachelor of Science in recognition of his being a progressive and active farmer–cooperator of the said institution. (Annabelle O. Galang)