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  • Lucas Zarraga

SEED Sumilao Stories - Batch 1: A Testament to How Love and Caring Can Triumph Over Pandemic

In the bible, God taught us about planting a good seed that produces great fruit.

Gawad Kalinga must have had that in mind when it launched the School of Experiential and Entrepreneurial Development (SEED) in 2014. SEED has been spreading hope amongst the Filipino impoverished youth and fulfilling its vision of ending poverty through a platform where they learn to become future community leaders equipped with entrepreneurship skills.

The SEED Sumilao Journey

SEED Sumilao is the first replication of SEED Philippines located in Bukidnon, supported by San Miguel Foundation and Sumilao LGU. The school started recruiting the first batch in June-July 2019.

Out of a little over a hundred applicants, only 35 were accepted and invited to join the school. However, only 23 of them went into the program. Eventually, 19 courageous students strived and graduated as the pioneer batch of SEED Sumilao.

As their journey began in September 2019, students bonded through their highs and lows, from classroom, dorms, and to field, they experienced almost everything together. As they built deeper relationships as a family, after just the first semester of studies, the pandemic struck and challenged these students as never before.

As the lockdown began, SEED Sumilao altered its program offering to a more agriculture-focused and community-based type of learning. Thus, in June 2020, students experienced a first in the history of SEED – mentors conducting home visits to each student’s household and students being given agriculture tasks that they may do in their own backyards, with the hope of inspiring and sharing their knowledge to their fellow community members.

By the start of 2021, it was decided to implement a 3-month program for the students. Hence, the 19 scholars of SEED Sumilao batch 1 began their Organic Agriculture Production NCII training in March 2021. After finishing this one-month campus-based learning, students were then deployed back to their communities where they established their own community farms. Over the course of two months, from May to June 2021, students were able to concretely and directly apply their training learnings on-ground and experience firsthand what it means to be a young farmer in our country.

So, what happened after they graduated?

Out of the 19 graduates:

  • 4 are currently working on establishing their own community farms.

  • 8 of them have gained employment. 4 are working within the Gawad Kalinga network (2 are in Bayan-Anihan Program while the other two are engaged in an agri-tourism enterprise) while the rest are employed by companies outside of GK.

  • The remaining 6 graduates are still determining their career options.

Get to know the Batch 1 Graduates

Each of them has their own unique story. Get to know these nineteen graduates of SEED Sumilao, who believe and work together in pursuing shared dreams with their particular hopes and aspirations.

#1 MAMULA KUY (Robeniel Balatero & Jericho Liporada)

Mamula Kuy, established in SEED Sumilao campus, and each of them decided to start their own community farm in their respective communities.

"I am Robeniel Balatero, 21 years old from Barangay San Vicente, Sumilao, Bukidnon. I am the eldest among six siblings. SEED taught me to be responsible, where I built my confidence and learned to socialize with different people. This is where I experienced struggle and overcome, that made me realize what I am capable of. SEED is hope, they give hope to the hopeless and to dream."

"I am Jericho Liporada, 21 years old, from Barangay Kisolon, Sumilao, Bukidnon. My parents are both farmers, and I am the youngest child among my siblings. SEED made me experience great things, to appreciate agriculture more, to be responsible and to not easily give up. SEED is my second family. They gave me hope to dream big and to care and be cared of."

After graduating from SEED, Niel and Jay-R decided to continue to work on the farm they started in the campus of SEED Sumilao.

#2 SINLA COMMUNITY FARM (Roberto Benonsad, Dominador Ligmon, Mary Apple Sanduan, Ma. Rizza Belle Tinhay & Kenneth john Ybañes)

Sinla Community Farm established by these five graduates in barangay Kisolon, Sumilao, Bukidnon.

"I am Roberto Benonsad, 22 years old, I come from a family of farmers. SEED made me go out of my comfort zone. Since I entered SEED, I learned how to socialize and entertain successful people. I am grateful for the great values that I am able to live in my life. SEED is my second family. My mentors and friends here treat us like a family."

"I am Dominador Ligmon, 27 years old, I come from a Christian family, I am the third child among nine siblings. My father is pastor, and I am a leader in our church that brought me closer to God. SEED gave me an opportunity to pursue my study, they gave me a second home to learn many things aside from agriculture but also to help others. SEED is a family that will never leave you behind."

"I am Mary Apple Sanduan, 24 years old, I grew up in a simple family, both of my parents are farmers. SEED taught me to be more courageous and confident, it helps me to become a better person. SEED is my second family, someone who never gives up on me."

"I am Ma. Riza belle Tinhay, 20 years old, I came from a God-fearing family. I always put God at the center of everything. I am a shy type person, but SEED taught me to boost my confidence and learned organic farming and its importance. SEED is a family; this is where I found lifelong friendship and mentors that genuinely care."

"I am Kenneth John Ybañes, 22 years old, I grew up in a simple family. I am a father and a son, who once lost hope of dreaming big. SEED taught me many things, not only organic farming and academically. They also taught me to be more responsible, to believe in myself and able to dream and move forward in life. SEED is my second family who gave hope to someone like us."

Currently, they have begun their backyard piggery project in partnership with Santeh Foundation.

#3 Batan-onan Mag-uuma sa Puntian (BMP) (Josephine Bantog, Fridaylisa Bantug, Rowena Domingo, Meanny Jean Furog and Raviah Golosinda)

These five graduates established their community farm called Batan-onan Mag-uuma sa Puntian (BMP) in their community, Barangay Puntian, Sumilao, Bukidnon during their Campus-based learning.

"I am Josephine Bantog, 23 years old, I grew up without a father, but I am blessed with a strong and loving mother who taught me almost everything I know. SEED is my family, they not only taught me in class and the importance of agriculture but also made me feel important, and valued others, they taught me to dream and believe in myself."

"I am Fridaylisa Bantug, 23 years old, both of my parents are farmers and we were raised to fear and praise God. I am a shy-type person but I would do anything for my family. I experienced lots of work just to help support them like how they always supported me. SEED is one of the things that I am grateful for in life, they gave me the opportunity to pursue my study and learn to become a strong person and an opportunity seeker to help not only myself and my family but also my community."

"I am Rowena Domingo, 20 years old, I grew up in a disciplined family who have faith in God. I have two sisters that I am grateful for, despite hardship the faith and love remain. SEED made me believe in myself, taught us organic farming and great values. SEED gives hope and opportunity."

"I am Raviah Golosinda, 21 years old, I am the eldest daughter among my siblings. My parents are farmers, who always motivates me to do my passion and to always turn to God. SEED taught me to be confident and learned organic farming. SEED is family."

"I am Meanny Jean Furog, 20 years old, I grew up in a simple family. My parents are farmers, in spite of hardship I am grateful for their hard work, love and support. SEED taught me to appreciate myself and what I have, they did not only teach me the importance of agriculture but also great value. SEED is a family, who have always been there throughout my journey."

When asked “How has SEED made a difference in your life especially during the pandemic?”

Meanny has this to say, “One thing that SEED has taught me is it changed my mindset about Agriculture. Delving deeper and learning harder on this sector, I was able to apply the lessons I earned from school. During the pandemic, I did a lot of planting of vegetables and ornamentals to at least earn while in quarantine. A small amount of information can be a passage to a lifelong, learning journey.“

#4 MASARIG FARM (Algene Cantungan and Ronald Madrona)

Masarig Farm was established by these two graduates during their Campus-based learning in Barangay Poblacion, Impasugong, Sumilao, Bukidnon.

"I am Algene Cantungan, 22 years old, I am the oldest child out of four siblings. I come from a poor family who strive to reach my dream, especially to finish my studies. In SEED, I learned to help and care for others. I experience volunteering to feed kids, imparting my knowledge, and fulfillment seeing happiness in their faces. It molds me into a better version of myself. SEED is not only a school, it’s a home where you can feel your importance and sincerity of everyone. SEED did not only broaden our knowledge but also built our character and found our purpose in life."

"I am Ronald Madrona, 24 years old, I come from a poor family. I am used to working and striving for my family. I had encountered lots of challenges and experienced a variety of work, but remained strong. Throughout my journey in SEED, it helped me to build my character and enhanced my knowledge in farming. SEED is my family, who have always been patient to me and where I met my friends as important as family who treat and support me with love and care."

Right now, Gong and Algene (on the right photo) are working in procuring tons of ube supply for Bayan-Anihan. They are usually deployed in Lantapan, Bukidnon and work with different farmers and their communities.

#5 USWAG KABATAAN (Jienisha Dalahigon and Allin Rey Pontas)

Uswag Kabataan community farm in Barangay Poblacion, Sumilao, Bukidnon was established by the only two students that were accepted during the recruitment camp.

"I am Jienisha Dalahigon, 25 years old, from Barangay Poblacion, Sumilao, Bukidnon. For almost two years in SEED, I slowly learned to trust myself. I learned how to socialize and talk in front of many people. SEED is different from the other schools because they didn’t just teach us in academics but they also taught us to have great values. SEED is a family to me. Here, I met people who are true, and I am honored to consider them as my second family."

"I am Allin Rey Pontas, 24 years old, I am the eldest son of Mr. Celso Pontas and Mrs. Meraline Pontas. I currently live in Sitio San Antonio, Poblacion, Impasugong, Bukidnon. Putting God as the center of my life is one of the things I learned in SEED, for almost two years I encountered a lot of struggles but praying is one of my armors to overcome it. SEED is my family that I can lean on, especially my mentors. I could also ask any advice from them."

#6 KAGIHANG KABATAN ONAN (Shaira Lugmay, Claribille Mangga and Kimberly Sigla)

Kugihang Kabatan onan established by these three graduates in their respective community in Barangay Ocasion, Sumilao, Bukidnon.

"I am Shaira Lugmay, 21 years old, I grew up in a poor family in spite of poverty. Our family is strong enough to move forward in life. My father is a farmer; I am the one who always helps him as his “kaagapay'' on our farm. Out of all the things I experienced in SEED, I am blessed to meet different people who taught us many things. I was astonished by the story of the captain we met during our “lakbay aral”, he taught us to love and value agriculture more, despite his status in life. He still cares for the land. SEED gave me hope to dream big."

"I am Clarabille Mangga, 25 years old. I am a shy type of person, I’m not used to open a conversation. I love to do things on my own, it makes me more focused in every work I do, with all my best. SEED gave me value to care, it made me experience being taken care of and to care. Because of the activities we do, such as Kalinga Sessions, Team Building, Bayani Challenge and more. It taught me to willingly share my time and effort to the people around me and eager to do good and it's worth it to continue. SEED is a home that helps me to figure out what's best for myself. It molded me to be authentic and optimistic."

"I am Kimberly Sigla, 19 years old, I live only with my supportive and caring mother. She is my inspiration.She never dares to rest and stops believing in me despite hardship just to support me. SEED gave me hope to pursue my studies and learned about organic farming that has enhanced my knowledge in farming. SEED is my family that chose to teach people like us who want to experience and learn more. Even if I am struggling in terms of academics, they never lose hope in me. I am grateful to be part of this family, they taught me to value myself and see my worth and also value others."

Through their undeniably tough journey, students were shaped to be brave and wiser as they’ve shown their constant battle by hoping and coping for their dreams and aspirations.

The SEED Sumilao, as an institution, has impacted the community, as well.

SEED Sumilao has made organic agriculture education more attainable for the Sumilao youth. In Bukidnon, there are only 22 Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) schools offering Organic Agriculture Production but none of them is in Sumilao. SEED Sumilao is currently working on their TESDA accreditation, which will help make its operations more sustainable.

SEED Sumilao’s mission continues. Its second batch of 19 students have just completed their campus-based learning and are now in the process of establishing their community farms.

You too can be the ray of hope that will help raise the next generation of Agri-entrepreneurs, who will help uplift the dignity of the farmers and their families.

Support GK USA monthly by signing up to our Small Efforts Lead to Big Impact Monthly Giving campaign and by caring together, we can end poverty.

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