Coffee farming as a tradition for Silang, Cavite family
() - October 29, 2007 - 12:00am

Apolonio Belamide of Silang, Cavite has planted and traded Robusta coffee for more than 30 years. Like most of his relatives and neighbors in Barangay Pook, Belamide is a second-generation coffee farmer and has been one all throughout his adult life.

On an average year, his farm, combined with seven of his siblings’, produces 300 metric tons of green coffee beans (GCB), making it the top coffee producer of the province if not of Luzon. His combined family coffee farm spanning over a hundred hectares employs over 1,000 workers in their barangay. Neighboring farmers and small farm owners look up to his family for coffee farming and trading advice, and at times, to loan production capital. In fact, Belamide is one of the reasons why few of these farmers still keep their coffee farms.

“The temptation for these farmers to sell their farm lots to rich families in Manila looking for a vacation home is really great,” says Belamide in vernacular. “So we do whatever it takes to keep them farming, even if it means granting them loans without interest or profit.”

The farmers of Pook have no cooperative; they also get little support from any government group.

“It’s good that Nestle is always there to support us, giving free trainings and seminars on coffee farming,” says Belamide, who has been selling to Nestle, the producer of the country’s number one instant soluble coffee, since 1978.

Belamide stresses, however, that Nestle’s most important contribution to the Filipino farmers is its world market pricing and eight (8) hour payment after delivery.

Richer through coffee

Belamide and his siblings grew up working in a small coffee farm started by their father from his earnings in transporting coconuts with carabao carts. In 1974, Belamide, the fourth of the siblings, finished B.S. Commerce in Manila but opted to settle back in Silang. He married a coffee farmer’s daughter and they started a coffee farm of their own.

Twenty-nine years of hard work has helped the Belamides purchase a house and vehicles as well as put up two coffee mills and warehouses. It has also enabled them send two of their four children to study in the United States.

Belamide reveals that although the soil is not that fertile as before and that there are occasional pest problems in Silang, there is never a better time to plant coffee than today.

“Yes, there are problems in planting coffee but there’s always a solution,” says Belamide. “In fact, I am talking to the head of Nestle’s agricultural department now for assistance in the rejuvenation of our coffee trees and producing organic fertilizer.”

Belamide reveals that her youngest daughter, who is still in high school, has taken interest in the family farm and hints that she may take up agriculture instead of medicine after all.

The good news is she doesn’t have to ride a carabao cart to the farm: it’s a choice between their two-year-old pick-up or an SUV.

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