The Philippine Air Force (PAF), the City of David Bacoor Parish, and the Little Heroes Children’s Charity-UK spearheaded a malunggay livelihood program on March 4 and 5 in the Aeta community of Sito Bethel, Capaz, Tarlac.

The Aetas planted a total of 100 malunggay cuttings, amounting to four pesos each, in the vicinity of Sitio Bethel. The organizations also bought the other crops harvested by the Aetas, such as puso ng saging and and ginger harvested by the Aetas during the main even.

Every month in a span of two years, the organizations involved in the program will set a specific day in purchasing the malunggay yield the Aetas have gathered. Meanwhile, in the three-month period of waiting before harvest, the existing fresh malunggay leaves within the vicinity will serve as the initial crops that the Aetas can sell.

“Magse-set up po tayo ng araw na kahit hindi galing sa mga tinanim natin ‘yung dahon, bibilhin na rin namin para meron kaagad [na] kita,” said Ssg. Joel Macasaet of 790th Crow Valley Military Air Force group.

“Bibilhin muna namin sa [kanila] nang sariwa. Pero habang tumatagal, ituturo namin sa [kanila] ‘yung proseso ng pagtuyo, kasi ‘pag tuyo na, nasa isang daan na ang bilihan per kilo,” he added.

The forerunners of the program oriented the Aetas about the high export demand for locally-produced malunggay; making this plant a highly profitable source of income today, especially for the Aetas who own enough land area for crop plantation.

Pastor Dennis of the City of David Parish mission team led the orientation seminar. He explained how popular malunggay has now become in Japan, Korea, and in selected places in America where this miracle plant is unavailable.

“Kanilang napag-alaman na ang malunggay pala ay sobrang ganda sa kalusugan. Kaya gusto nila, dito sa Pilipinas bibili ng malunggay. Kaya lang, ang problema, kulang ‘yung supply ng malunggay kahit marami ‘yan sa tabi-tabi kasi wala pa masyadong mga farmers. Wala pang magsasaka na talagang nagtatanim ng malunggay na maramihan,” he explained.

Ssg. Macasaet emphasized the need for a new and lucrative livelihood for the Aetas. “Kailangan huwag natin na hayaan na maging lagi na lang silang dumidepende sa nagbibigay. Kailangan turuan natin sila kung paano patakbuhin ang buhay nila sa pamamagitan ng pagtatanim, paraan ng pagtatanim at kalakal,” he noted.

Having been given their own land to cultivate, the organizations assured the Aeta community that they will indeed benefit from malunggay as their new source of livelihood, which will not only augment their daily income, but also be an avenue to provide sufficiently for the basic needs of their family.

The Aeta community, headed by their Chieftain Eric Cosme, expressed their gratitude as the program concluded. “Excited po kami. Masaya po kami at meron na pong gustong tumulong po dito sa amin,” Cosme said.

By:  Kinessa Chispa