Retiree takes silk road to prosperity, Silkworm farming turns into a money spinner
Jun Elias (The Philippine Star) - April 2, 2016 - 10:00am

 BALAOAN, La Union, Philippines – Silkworms are not just ordinary insects because they provide income to those who care for them and they make cloth for world-class fashion.

This is true to Roberto Ancheta or Mang Bert who after retiring as employee for 35 years of the Rural Bank of Bacnotan, La Union in 2010 ventured into vegetable farming including the planting of mulberry trees  around his family’s five hectare farm in Bgy. Calungbuyan here.

 Mulberry leaf is an exclusive food for silkworms to produce cocoons which will be converted into fine expensive fabric.

Mang Bert was encouraged to go into silk production after attending a seminar conducted by the Sericulture Research and Development Institute (SRDI) of the Don Mariano Marcos Memorial State University (DMMMSU).

 “After my retirement, I concentrated on farming and I was encouraged to go into this  (silk farming) because it’s an easy job and provides us additional income. It’s also fun picking these gentle worms and the cocoons,” Mang Bert said.

 Conchita Almojuela, SRDI personnel in charge of assisting Mang Bert in the project, explained that it takes only 45 days to make a cocoon. 

“We have a breeding area of silkworm eggs at SRDI and the eggs will transform into adult worm after 25 days. Each worm can lay 400 to 600 eggs,” Almojuela said. 

She said that after 25 days, the adult worms would be distributed to farmers for 12-15 days feeding of mulberry leaves. The leaves will be scattered in cradles with plastic screen mats placed inside a warehouse. The worms will be distributed in each cradle with a bed-size of two feet by five feet.

 After feasting on the leaves, the worms will be transferred into another row of clean cradles for six days of producing cocoons. During the whole six days, worms will spew out fine white fiber which will form into an egg-shaped cocoon. 

“The cocoons will be gathered and brought to SRDI for processing and marketing. It will be dried first so we can get the raw silk fiber. The fiber will be processed into textile which can be made into various clothing like barong,” Almojuela said. 

A kilo of cocoon is worth P160 while a meter-long silk cloth costs around P1,000.

 Almojuela said most of the orders for silk cloth are from fashion designers, politicians and office workers.

 Clothes made from silk are popular abroad. Other products made from silk include wedding gowns, sweaters, scarves, seat covers, handbags, baskets and tablemats.  

While Mang Bert’s  harvest last March yielded only 100 kilos of cocoon,  he was already happy about it and onsidered it a big blessing. He is the first and  only silkworm farmer in this town.

 He has been recognized by DMMMSU as the top producer of cocoon in northern Luzon for three years now.

 Mang Bert said he would further expand the business by planting more mulberry trees to increase production. He only spends for the labor of two helpers while SRDI shoulders the construction of the warehouse and materials needed in the production.

 “This (silkworm farming) has been rewarding for me. We just gather leaves when the worms are ready to eat and we only wait for them to finish eating until they produce cocoons. That’s it. It’s like an additional hobby while we are doing other farming activities,” he said.

 Mang Bert and his wife Melinda, are both officers of the Iglesia Ni Cristo  in Balaoan while their son Rommel and daughter Rhea, worked in Canada for several years.

 Aside from being an income generating business, silkworm production is regarded as an environmentally friendly method of farming, said Gemma Arellano of SRDI.

Mulberry trees absorb air pollutants while silkworm wastes and residues during the production period can be converted into organic fertilizer.

 Arellano said cocoon wastes can also be made into various materials like bags and souvenir items.  

 

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