How Agriculture Saved Me

This article was originally published in x.rappler.com.

This is a story of how I went to the mountains of Mindanao to spread the word of organic agriculture and the resulting journey into the provincial culture of the Philippines.

IMG_3036

***

It all started when I came to the Philippines for Balikatan Exercises in 2011. I was a military policeman in the US Air Force back then. I had finished my service in 2013 and returned here to stay permanently. Coming out of the military I had many issues adapting to the “culture” of Manila. I also had severe drinking and depression issues and was extremely over weight. I was a toxic person to be around and really hated myself and the world that was around me. One day I just asked myself what am I doing here and I just had basically hit rock bottom I wanted to die. It got to the point where I would just lock up I couldn’t really function around people, my alcoholism was that bad. So I tried one final time. So I dried out. No more alcohol, cigarettes, fast food, soft drinks, or anything like that. Around a year later I had lost 120 pounds by going to the gym everyday and eating a healthy natural diet, something I still practice now. I still had issues dealing with people in Manila so I took a sabbatical and came to Mindanao. I had enough of the city life.

In July 2015, my journey had taken me to Davao and I had received my NC-2 (national certification 2) in organic agriculture. While I was learning, I was wondering what I could do with this knowledge to make the biggest impact that I possibly could. My NC-2 classmates kept calling me hybrid because of the fact that a white farmer was not a common thing specially in Mindanao, or so they told me. Near the end of the course, I had an idea to take what I learned and help those that needed it the most because to me it would be the best way to practice what I had learned. I am from the midwest area of America and I had been exposed to agriculture in some way, shape, or form my whole life but I was never involved with it near to the extent that I am now. I came back to Ozamiz city and had initially worked with private families to help them harness the potential of their land. Hybrid was never about money, I never got paid for what I did. I set out to prove that one man can make a difference. I am not an NGO or a missionary, just someone who was sick of seeing all the negative in the world.

I had found myself in the mountains in a baranggay called Guingona and, as fate would have it, the principal of the elementary there is a family friend and a natural farming supporter. I made a proposition to the barangay that I would help them set up a feeding garden at the school as well as the means to sustain it. This area is inhabited by the Subanon tribe who are known farmers so it was natural that I learn what I could with them, while also sharing what I knew. I started immersing and living up in the mountains with them in October. I work when they do, I do not receive special treatment when they fetch water or fire wood so do I.

In 17 days, I stood up a compost pile, taught multiple classes on applied organic farming technologies, taught the school children classes in English and math when time permitted, as well as planting the school’s feeding gardens. I wanted to understand how the people that suffer the most can consistently have the best attitudes towards life and how they see the world. In essence, I wanted to empathize as much as I could with them. I really believe that I found my humanity when I gave up the conveniences of modern life for the time that I was there. I see people who have nothing in terms of material wealth yet they are the happiest people I have ever seen. It is truly amazing. I endeavor to tell their stories in the most non-biased, true-to-what-I-see manner.

I also post the practical organic agriculture information on my page for anyone to see because it is a huge part of my advocacy to empower those that want the information. It is all there, free of charge.

For those that wish to follow my advocacy you can visit the page at www.facebook.com/hybridagri.