Ed’s true love
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) - August 13, 2019 - 12:00am

When I was putting together the biography of lawyer Edgardo Escasa Tarriela, he told me when the time came, he would like to retire not just as a remembered respected attorney, but as one leaving a legacy, in, of all things – farming.

Yet Ed, 77, has spent more than 50 years in the practice of law, during which time he made a dint in the profession. Next week, on Aug. 23-24, he will receive the 2019 UPAA (University of the Philippines) Distinguished Alumni Award in Public Service and Good Governance. Notification from the UPAA board of directors says, “We are immensely proud of UP alumni like you, and are bestowing this award in recognition of your leadership, achievements and contributions in your field of endeavor.” It adds, “All these activities have benefited not only yourself and your profession, but also the University and the community you have chosen to serve.”

Ed finished law at the University of the Philippines in 1961, and a master’s in comparative law at George Washington University in the United States in 1973.

After graduation he worked as legal researcher and assistant for law offices, then associate lawyer for the Abraham F. Sarmiento Law Office, followed by junior partner to senior partner of the Quasha Asperilla Ancheta & Peña Law Offices, then name partner of Puruganan Chato Chato Tarriela & Tan Law Offices; Yulo Torres Tarriela & Bello Law Offices, then managing partner of his own Tarriela Tagao Ona & Associates up to the present.

He has served as lecturer at the Philippine Women’s University, UP Schools of Economics and Business Administration and Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law where he also served as dean of the Graduate School of Law.

His UPAA award certainly recognizes his active involvement in Lawasia, an international organization of lawyers, judges, justices, law professors, law societies and bar associations around the Asia-Pacific region. He is president of Lawasia Philippines, an affiliate of Lawasia.

Lawasia was formed at the Canberra (Australia) conference on Aug. 10, 1966 upon the initiation of lawyers representing 18 countries in the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East (ECAFE). It has currently 40 member countries including Australia, China, Japan, India, Korea and others which hold regular conferences on rotated venues. In March last year, Lawasia Philippines and IBP with support from the Asian Development Bank sponsored a Lawasia Business Conference at the UP-BGC premises in Taguig City, attended by some 130 participants including foreign speakers and moderators.

The conference theme, “Keeping Abreast with Asian Business Development,” dealt with such topics as climate change, data privacy, cross border business, arbitration, franchising, one belt one road, taxation and others.

Ed also sits as a member of the Lawasia Council, representing the Philippines for more than a decade, and was recently elected as an ExCom member of the council consisting of six members elected at large.

Soft-spoken in the manner of a gentleman, his influence on local and international colleagues is remarkable. Yet it is in another unrelated field that he wants to leave his legacy, as I mentioned at the first part of this column.

In 2014, the ED Tarriela Learning Center and Farm was established in Sitio Tanza, Barangay San Jose, Antipolo City. The center cum farm sits on a five-hectare property devoted to orchard tree propagation, mainly mango, pomelo and guyabano and vegetable gardening with plants like lettuce, tomatoes, eggplants among others. It also raises poultry and hogs, using organic methods of farming.  

Ed says the project’s primary purpose is to establish a learning center that will promote educational and technical vocational training in programs that will help generate employment opportunities to the community, particularly out-of-school youths in the areas surrounding the center in Antipolo.

The trainees attend seminars and apply what they learn in planting vegetables and raising hogs with the use of organic fertilizer and pesticides they make themselves. Seeds and planting materials (and snacks to boot) are provided by the center for free. No tuition required – only willingness to learn and earn from what they plant.

Owing to its compliance with several requirements by TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority), Ed’s project was approved as a learning center on the second half of 2017. TESDA offers scholarship grants to youths training in ED’s training center.

Last year, the center graduated 75 trainees and currently, 75 are undergoing training. This year more than 100 will receive their attendance certification. Ed says the trainees return to their areas, do farming, as well as share their acquired knowledge. 

Among the trainees are katutubos, mainly Dumagats and Mangyans living in the Antipolo area.

ED’s (note the capitalized letters) project has a good partner – Flor’s Garden, a neighboring farm which raises herbal plants and holds seminars on organic planting and hog raising. Flor’s Garden, which is managed by Flor Tarriela and co-managed by husband Ed, was established years earlier, has been the venue of seminars and meetings conducted by the Agricultural Training Institute and the Department of Tourism to which it is both accredited.

As if establishing the learning center were not enough, Ed’s company, Tarriela Management Inc. (where Ed sits as president), plans to establish a farm school in Looc, Lubang Island, Occidental Mindoro. The farm school will provide a skills training program under the auspices of TESDA. It will be open to high school graduates and deserving applicants who cannot afford to pursue a college education outside the island municipality. Discussions with Looc Mayor Benjamin Tria and local government representatives are ongoing.

Ed’s academic training is in law, but farming is a first love. He was born on Oct, 17, 1940 in Manjuyod, Negros Oriental, but grew up in Siocon, Zamboanga where his father, a school teacher, had a homestead grant of 24 hectares.     

As a young boy of 8, Ed quickly adapted to the farm environment. The air was fresh, the food good, and he learned to swim in the river and sea. His appetite was whet up, making the once frail lad gain weight. And he was a bright kid, it turned out. From the tail end of his class, he rose to be one of the top students in the local high school, his graduating as salutatorian was his passport to admission in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, after graduation. “I learned to be more self-reliant, and my parents trained me to work hard. I learned, and liked, doing farm work like plowing and harvesting rice. I also tended carabaos and had fun dousing them in the river and mud holes. I learned that carabaos cannot stand continuous exposure to hot sun because they do not have skin pores except in their noses.”

These days, the lawyer/gentleman farmer spends most of his free time in his Learning Center and Farm. He is visibly happy as he moves around the place, supervising the construction of seminar structures, conferring with agriculture scientists in helping develop the training curricula, and actually digging his hands into the soil to drop seeds, along with trainees in the garden plots. He is sometimes seen chewing leaves of bright and healthy greens blooming in the grounds. Asked if he is excited about the future of his endeavor, he says without blinking, “Yes, I am excited.” By training out-of-school youths, he is living his dreamed-of legacy.

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Erratum: In my Aug. 1, 2019 column on a gifted Filipino film writer in the US I misspelled the name of Luigi Gonzalez as Louie Gonzales. Luigi is based in Los Angeles and went to the New York Film Academy (NYFA) branch in Los Angeles. His talent is predictable, coming as it does from his grandmother, scientist Nelia Gonzalez, and grandfather NVM Gonzalez, Filipino novelist, short story writer, essayist and poet.

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Email: dominitorrevillas@gmail.com

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