Rowena Mendez- Manalo and Jun Manalo

Relationship Goals: Love in the farm, Loving the Farm

Rowena grew up in a family of farmers in San Ildefonso, Bulacan. At a young age, she and her siblings were already trained how to do farm work.

As she reached adulthood, she worked as a “biyahera” of the vegetable harvests. As a “biyahera,” she transports the bundled produce from the farm to the market, specifically in the “bagsakan” which is the Balintawak Market in Quezon City. 

Such was her simple life until she fell in love and married Jun, also a farmer, when they were both 21. 

Inspired by the success of other farmers, Rowena and Jun decided to have their own piece of land where they could also plant vegetables as their means of livelihood.

Like other start-up farmers, the young couple rented out a half-hectare farmland and with a very small capital of P5,000 which they borrowed, they bought ampalaya and sitaw seeds and went straight ahead with planting these in their small farm lot.

But their journey was not easy.

“Lagi kaming umiiyak noon. Kasi tuwing dumadaan kami sa mga taniman, nilalait, iniinsulto at pinagtatawanan kami ng mga beterano ng magsasaka at sinasabi nila na ano ba ang alam namin sa pagsasaka. Hindi sila naniniwala na kaya naming palaguin ang aming sakahan,” Rowena said as she started to tear up.

(We cried a lot. When experienced farmers see us, they would insult us and laugh at us and say we didn't know anything about farming. They didn't believe that we could make our farm grow.)

But her husband Jun would always tell her: “Bayaan mo, pagdating ng araw, atin lahat ang lupang ito.” (Don't worry, someday, we will own all this land.)

 
Her husband’s words proved to be prophetic as the couple now owns seven hectares of land, two tractors for rent, a grocery and agriculture store, a water refilling station and their own lovely house. 

Their two children- Jean Rose and Jeremy- were able to complete their studies and have their own families now. Jean Rose is a nurse while Jeremy is a seaman. 

Rowena attributes their success to three things:  their faith in God, the love in their marriage that never wavered and their love for the farm and hard work. 

Rowena shared that during those times when she was feeling hopeless in their future as farmers, Jun would always be her strong support and would always assure her that things will be better. They would frequently go to church to seek for peace, guidance and help. But they also did their share. 

“Araw-araw kaming magkasamang nagtatanim, walang tigil, sa init man ng araw o sa gitna ng bagyo, mula noon hanggang ngayon,” Rowena said.


(Everyday, we plant and go to the farm together, non-stop, rain or shine, from then until now.)

It was at the initial stages of their life as a farmer couple that they discovered East-West Seed and started to try out their products.

“Nagsimula kami sa binhi ng East-West Seed na sitaw at ampalaya at nagulat kami dahil mas naging mabunga at maganda ang quality ng aming mga ani. Sinundan namin ito ng talong at mais,”  Rowena said, recalling their “breakthrough” moment. 

(We started with East-West Seed's yardlong bean and bittergourd varieties. We were surprised to see that our yield improved a lot and the fruits had very good quality. After this, we also tried eggplant and corn.)

By using the seeds of East-West, Rowena adds that their income soared to close to 200% more. 

When the price of the vegetables in the market is good, the couple can enjoy around PhP 300,000- 400,000 income from their farm land. Rowena also shared that last 2015, they hit their first million through an abundant yield of high-quality "Sweet Grande" corn. 

“Dalawang araw namin inani. Hindi talaga ako natutulog dahil kailangan kong bilangin ang mga mais na inani. Sampung piso kada mais at P150,000 kada truck na ibabiyahe. Sa pagtatapos ng dalawang araw, isang milyon! Noon lang ako nakahawak ng isang milyon kaya ang saya-saya namin!,” she beamed. 

(We harvested for two days. I didn't sleep because I had to count the corns! We sold each corn for PhP 10, and earned around PhP 150,000 per truck. After two days, we earned a million! That's the first time I experienced handling a million pesos and we were very happy!)

At the time of the interview with Rowena, they just finished harvesting eggplants. To their delight, using East-West seeds, their farmland literally turned purple with their high yield of eggplants. 

Rowena said they love their farm and it loves them back. 

“Kaya nga sinabi namin sa mga anak ko na pag wala na kami, mahalin nila ang ang sakahan at huwag nilang ibenta ang lupa dahil hangga’t masipag ka at mayroon kang pananampalataya, ang pagtatanim ng gulay ang magbibigay sa inyo ng magandang buhay,” Rowena said.

(We tell our children to love the farm and not to sell it even when we're gone. As long as you're hardworking and you have faith in God, vegetable farming will give you a good life.)