By: Cesaree M. Caperare
Last June 25-26, Regional Director Emelita P. Bagsit of DOST-CALABARZON, Dr. Alexander R. Madrigal, former DOST-CALABARZON Regional Director, Ms. Vermelyn Evangelista, Technical Supervisor of Philippine Coconut Research and Development Foundation Inc. (PCRDF), and Mr. Crispin Muyrong, President of Sunlight Foods Inc., a private company in the business of fruit processing advocating on the sustainability of their partner farms, visited the Embryo Cultured Makapuno Farms in Quezon to monitor the growth of trees, inspect the farm site, and discuss the evaluation and potential business opportunities with Sunlight Foods Inc. The monitoring was organized by Mr. Aaron Joniel Carandang, DOST-CALABARZON Project Assistant III, project focal person, in cooperation with Ms. Mylene Culing, OIC-Municipal Agriculture Officer, Mr. Cleverick Pajarillo, Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Officer with the participation of Ms. Victoria Gonzalez, DTI-Negosyo Center Alabat Officer.
About four years ago, DOST-CALABARZON in collaboration with PCRDF, PCA, Department of Agriculture (DA), and Southern Luzon State University (SLSU) screened local farms through their respective Local Government Units (LGUs) to come up with a roster of qualified beneficiaries to participate in the Embryo Cultured Makapuno Project. A total of 5,700 seedlings were staggeringly distributed through the years in the towns of Alabat, Perez, and Quezon, Quezon. 5,400 seedlings were yet to be awarded to chosen farms on the island this 2022. This marks the last leg of the seedling distribution to meet the targeted 11,100 makapuno seedlings covering 111 hectares of the island. The group was also able to meet with Hon. Fernando Mesa, outgoing Municipal Mayor of Alabat and Hon. Caridad Clacio, outgoing Municipal Mayor of Quezon to express the agency's gratitude for their invaluable efforts in the deliverance of the project. Likewise, both pledged continued support for the project and its advocacy of leveraging the lives of their kababayan farmers as private individuals.
Mr. Joel Arandela, farmer and farm owner was distinctively recognized as the "Best Makapuno Farmer" by the monitoring team. His Makapuno Farm in Alabat was the first one to be awarded seedlings. To date, his farm has a 95.1% seedling survival rate with the now Makapuno Trees having a 100% flowering rate and 70% of which are already bearing fruits. Mr. Joel's trees met the standard 10-15 nuts per cluster or "kabuwig".
Considering the lead time other farms had, the Second Best Makapuno Farmer is Mr. Nelson Omila, caretaker of Hon. Clacio's farm in Quezon. The seedlings under his care have a 96.3% survival rate with four trees showing flowering while entering their year four. Hon. Clacio's farm is among the promising ones upon visit together with Mr. Maximo Hebrado Jr.'s farm also in Quezon cared for by Mr. Jovelito Basbas with a 96.9% seedling survival rate.
Tissue-cultured makapuno embryos are subjected to a firmly controlled environment to decrease the chance of plant contamination and mortality rate. The government sector rallies alongside this cause to introduce farmers to this technology and encourage them to increase the hectare of their plantations. This innovative farming mechanism is projected to cause an upward shift in the makapuno industry and the economic disposition of our farmers.