She’s not your average Jane. When I first met her in her cozy home, she was about to attend a community meeting along with her husband. This ambush interview wasn’t part of the plan.
Known by her moniker as ‘‘Paping”, Felipa I. Pontillas (74) is a retired BIR employee who worked as a Collection Agent. After we exchanged pleasantries, she casually asked, “How are you related to Atty. Felino Palarca? He used to be my colleague when our office was at Trinidad Building in Cagayan de Oro.” I told her he’s my father. Her face lit up and gushed over about their yesteryears of being government employees.
Paping is currently undergoing chemo therapy and flies to Cebu City every 21 days to have her thyroid checked. She has been in therapy for a year already through immunotherapy (a process intending to repair and boost the immune system) which is a study trial by American drug company giant Merrick. It is an all-expense paid treatment sans the plane fare.
Married to Leo M. Pontillas (72) who is a lung cancer-survivor himself, the couple owns two hectares of residential farm located at Barangay 26, Purok 2 in Gingoog City. The area happens to be an integrated and diversified farm which included a rice field and an orchard teeming with fruit trees and other high value crops such as coffee, cacao and mahogany managed by a stay-out farm worker. Also in the vicinity is their livestock area populated by pigs, cow, sheep, goat and ducks.
“I have high hopes for my farming venture”, Paping shared as she pointed out to me her Rice-Duck Technology area which is a pilot farm of an NGO entity PARFAND. “Although my three kids are practically all professionals now, it is my farming activity that keeps me and Leo preoccupied since all of them have already lives of their own.”
Her farming venture indeed shows strong promise since Paping profits from her home-made salted eggs, rice harvest every three months with which she earns 60 thousand pesos, five to eight thousand pesos from coconut (whole nut) yield in every two months along with dried coffee bean produce which she sells for 80 to 90 pesos per kilo to food and beverage giant Nestle.
“I’m still able you know, it’s not that I’m very sick to go around and do house chores and be involved with the community. In fact, my last seminar attended sponsored by ATI was with this burly man but I forgot his name.” She chuckled while apologizing.
Seeing her beaming at her husband, I am at loss of words how Paping stays positive and optimistic despite dealing with her malady. “Shall we go?” her well-plucked eyebrows rose as she motioned to her husband she’s good to go. I suddenly remembered they’re running late for their meeting. I thanked Paping and Leo for the time. Gathering my pen and paper, something tells me I will be coming here again very soon.