His mother only reached Grade 1 and his father, Grade 2 in school. So, for Atty. Dionisio Balite, the way to give back for all the blessings he received is to make sure many of his town mates would get to college. The best gift he got from his folks was a good education. He finished Law and went on to get a doctorate. Today, he gives back by extending tuition fee discounts
in his Bohol Technical Institute and International Center (BTI).
But to do one better, he teamed up with another coffee-advocate Ed Luardo, an OFW retiree, to create a program for parents whose main challenge is tuition fees. “Plant coffee,” they both preach. Coffee can be your key to your children’s education, says the two.
Ed Luardo was an OFW in the 1980’s, doing development economics research for many multi-lateral institutions. He would regularly send money home to his parents who moved from Cebu to Bohol, and his father would buy a hectare here and there with the excess or surplus money he sent their way. When his father asked him to come to Bohol some years back, Luardo did not realize his father had saved and bought for him 120 hectares. Yes, 120 hectares of farmland in the beautiful countryside of Bohol.
“My father said, ‘The gold you are looking for abroad is not the real gold.
The gold is here in the country, in the blades of rice stalks and the palay that sways with the wind. That is the REAL gold,’ the old man continued,” Ed relayed to us. True enough, Ed realized that his savings from his OFW job bought him real gold.
Ed Luardo and Atty. Balite created many programs such as involving out-of-school youth in their coffee projects. They can earn when they do farm work such as staking and counting seedlings, etc.
They also involved high school students who are saving for the much-awaited junior-senior prom. They can earn extra money by sowing coffee seedlings. The parents of these children belong to what we call
“The New Coffee Movement,” a revolutionary way of encouraging parents, children and out of school youth to contribute to the coffee industry by being an actor in the development of coffee in the province.
To encourage additional enrollees in the Agriculture program, Atty. Balite who now has five campuses around Bohol and one in Siquijor that offers discounts to students wishing to pursue Agriculture as a course. He also offers free scholarships to the brightest community leaders so they can pursue a career in Law just like him.
We visited a far flung community in Bohol where a barangay captain who graduated from Atty. Balite’s school, and who remembers his parents sending him to school from coffee earnings. He is now one of the “pay back” heroes who will contribute his time, money and passion to growing coffee. If coffee sent him to school, so will his 300 plus constituents in the village.
The Bohol Coffee and Cacao Growers Marketing Cooperative (BCCGMC) founded by Balite and Luardo started with 18 members, but now has over a hundred with a simple qualification: Ownership of at least half a hectare of farm planted to coffee and/or cacao. Together, they plan to process and market their coffee and cacao products, encourage new plantings, and provide seedlings, training and marketing support.
The cooperative now has a Training Center, a nursery and a future mill within their reach. They have also invited a coffee shop owner who will soon acquire a coffee farm to showcase “farm to cup” practice in vertical integration.
These active Boholanos are a good replicable example of The New Coffee Movement. Starting with people with the same advocacy, “paying back” for their blessings in life or paying forward to those blessed by generosity of other people in their lives.
They are of varying ages, some retirees from abroad, some are simple advocates who lend their time to share knowledge and experience, but all with one brewing and burning desire: to start a Bohol coffee movement.
You can hear from them at the 6th National Coffee Summit on October 23 at the Landbank Plaza, Malate, Manila. Coffee stakeholders will attend this annual forum to listen to best practices, and to create the next year’s focus for the coffee industry.
* * *
Enderun Coffee Seminar is on October 19 while the 6th National Coffee Summit is on October 23. Farm tour on October 26 in Cavite, and finally October 10 to 22 is Coffee Origins in Greenbelt 5. Free coffee all day!
Email email@example.com or go to www.philcoffeeboard.com to reserve seats.
* * *
Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates, youth and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.