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Friendship and Faith: IDC Support’s Higalaay Festival 2019

September 2, 2019

Higalaay Festival is the annual fiesta celebration of Cagayan de Oro commemorating the feast day of St. Augustine who is the patron of the city and is a month-long celebration from the first day of August up until the end of the month. In this year's event, IDC participated as a major sponsor during the Higalaay Festival in the person of Mr. Giovanni Gusella, IDC's Senior PR Manager Mr. Gusella was invited to be one of the judges during the festival's parade last August 27, 2019. "It was my first time to participate at The Higalaay Street Parade and Floats, and I was quite impressed to see how well organized was the parade with 138 contingents participating among which city's educational institutions, civic groups, fraternities and sororities, establishments and more," said Mr. Giovanni Gusella, IDC Senior PR Manager. From the Bisayan word “higala”, “Higalaay” actually means “friendship”. Thus, Higalaay Festival implies “Friendship Festival, true to being “The City of Golden Friendship”. Higalaay Festival was formerly known as Kagay-an Festival until the year 2014 when the city administration was modified. Italpinas had been partnering with the City Government of Cagayan de Oro since the commencement of its first development the Primavera Residences. It has been IDC's long-standing tradition to support the city in all ways possible.  "It is my pleasure and honor to be a member of the board of jurors, given the unique opportunity of judging the best 3 floats, among the 8 competing floats in this years competition.  The floats were artistically done. All of them tell the story of the rich heritage of the city. I was learning more about the culture of Cagayan de Oro while judging, it was such a unique and enjoyable experience" he added. The “Giant Motorela” Uni Writing Instrument won the grand prize. Motorela came from the word “Caretella” which is one of the most common vehicles right now in Cagayan de Oro now became the face of transport in the city. The Motorela is an iconic Kagay-anon vehicle, invented by Rafael D. Floirendo, Sr . The Motorela roamed the streets of Cagayan de Oro since the 60’s and has became a favorite icon of the city. The second place of the Higalaay float parade is from Support Zebra on their "Giant Oro Fish". While the 3rd place won by the Del Monte Philippines Inc. with their Del Monte’s Pineapple Cannery design.

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(Conclusion) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

August 26, 2019

SUKAILANG, Surigao City—A strong desire to live a healthy lifestyle led the Escobal couple, Engr.  Woodrow Escobal Jr. and Dr. Bessie Escobal, to turn a barren and degraded land into a world-class sustainable integrated organic farm.       By their examples, they have helped countless others to turn their lives around for the better. And in so doing, the Escobals have inspired and are inspiring more and more people to lead a healthy and sustainable future, through their integrated organic farm.      Engr. Jun is happy to share his knowledge and experience to those who wish to learn about integrated and sustainable organic farming and farm tourism.       He jokingly said that before he was just a simple chemical engineer. But when he was able to transform a wasteland into a wonderland by becoming a fulltime “farmer”, he also became a speaker, a teacher and now a tour operator and a tour guide.      Thanks to the Agriculture Training Institute (ATI) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) for making JB Nature Farm and Resort as an accredited private extension service provider in 2016. Then in 2018, the Department of Education (DepEd) made the Escobal’s farm as an accredited School for Practical Agriculture. In the same year, the farm also became an accredited Farm Tourism partner of the Department of Tourism (DOT). Very recently, the farm had secured an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).      Engr. Jun said that he wants his farm to also help the environment and help minimize the negative impacts of climate change on their health and community. This is the key principle by which he worked with, which explains he and his wife’s adamant insistence on going the natural and organic way.      While not their main objective when they established the farm, climate change mitigation is an added and welcomed side effect of the farm resort. Going the organic and natural way brought back the biodiversity and the fertility of the soil on their area.      According to the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), also known as Organics International, “organic farming offers a system that can reduce environmental impacts compared to conventional farming. Climate change mitigation is not (and should not be) the primary objective of organic farming, but increased conversion to organic agriculture can contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while also bringing important benefits, such as improved system resilience to the effects of climate change, maintaining or improving biodiversity on farmland, conserving soil fertility, reducing eutrophication and water pollution, and improving food security and farmers’ sovereignty.”      Aside from applying the principles of permaculture to regenerate his degraded and barren land, Engr. Jun also applied the principles of regenerative agriculture on his land.       “Regenerative agriculture,” according to http://www.regenerativeagriculturedefinition.com/ “is a system of farming principles and practices that increases biodiversity, enriches soils, improves watersheds, and enhances ecosystem services. It aims to capture carbon in soil and aboveground biomass to combat climate change while at the same time increased yields, resilience to climate instability, and higher health and vitality for communities.”      If the Escobal couple was able to literally turned a wasteland into a wonderland even with their very limited knowledge and without any experience about sustainable integrated organic farming, Engr. Jun is very positive that anyone can do it.      “Just be patient. And learn,” he said as he explained that for anyone to be able to make any degraded land fertile again, he/she must first make him/herself fertile to learn from others.       (Ed’s Note: Bong Fabe is with the WWF Philippines as integrated communications manager for its SMILE Project in Siargao and Dinagat Islands, an EU-funded project being undertaken in partnership with the UP-AIT and AIEC ILAW.)

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(Part 4) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

August 21, 2019

(Fourth of a Series)   SUKAILANG, Surigao City—In this era of climate change, exacerbated by the wasteful practice of the present consumption and production economy, many have realized that the human race has to step on the brakes and stop the continued decline of the human and environmental health and step on the accelerator of ethical agricultural practices.        Thanks to such organic agricultural and social design techniques such as permaculture, regenerative agriculture and natural farming, ethics is beginning to make a comeback in natural mass food production. And here in Surigao City, Engr. Woodrow Escobal Jr. is the trailblazer in this race.      Knowing that self-learning is always lacking, Engr. Jun enrolled in a one-week intensive live-in seminar at the Costales Farm in Laguna to learn about natural farming. By this time, he had already quit his regular job at the DTI to focus on transforming his barren and degraded land into a sustainable integrated organic farm.      And his efforts paid off: the natural trees and grass that used to grow in the area before the heyday of the loggers and miners started to grow again, helped by the compost the Escobals dumped through the years on their land; compost made from the waste resources found on their own premises.      “Now, we can find wild animals here such as snakes, monkeys and various birds,” he said, adding: “There are even tarsiers here now.”      When a former SUNGCOD colleague, who was then working at the Provincial Agriculture Office in Surigao del Norte learned of what the Escobals have done, he referred them to the Caraga regional office of the Department of Agriculture in Butuan City (DA-13).      It was very timely since the DA was then looking for cooperators for the organic agriculture program that was being aggressively pushed by President Aquino through Sec. Proseso Alcala.      After several validation visits by personnel from the DA-13 and Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), the Escobal farm was certified and accredited as a Learning Site for Agriculture in 2016.      This accreditation and certification paved the way for others to learn about the Escobal’s success in turning a barren and degraded land into a productive farm naturally and sustainably. It also became a vehicle for their desire to “share to others how we did it to help popularize organic farming here.”      Unknown to the Escobals, the DA-ATI accreditation and certification was just the beginning of other partnership that helped spread the word about them far and wide.      In 2018, the Department of Education (DepEd) partnered with them and accredited JB Nature Farm as a School for Practical Agriculture “where senior high school students come and stay for their immersion program.”       “Their exposure here instilled in them the realization that farming is really a noble and good profession. They learned to appreciate farming as a way of life,” he said.       Also in 2018, the Department of Tourism (DOT) officially made JB Nature Farm and Resort it’s Farm Tourism partner, the very first farm tourism site in Surigao City. (To be continued)      (Ed’s Note: Bong Fabe is with the WWF Philippines as integrated communications manager for its SMILE Project in Siargao and Dinagat Islands, an EU-funded project being undertaken in partnership with the UP-AIT and AIEC ILAW.)

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Holcim expects sustained growth in Mindanao cement demand

August 20, 2019

DAVAO City — Holcim Philippines, Inc., which has just completed the expansion of its plant here, is preparing to start similar improvements in its Lugait Cement Plant in Misamis Oriental as it expects continued growth in Mindanao demand.      William C. Sumalinog, Holcim Philippines senior vice-president for sales, said the demand growth comes from both private sector and the government’s Build, Build, Build program.      “For so long, Visayas demand has always been bigger than Mindanao’s. But for the last three years, we are now bigger than Visayas,” Mr. Sumalinog said at the Habi at Kape media forum Wednesday.      “We (Mindanao) are now… maybe one million (cement bags) higher per month or 12 million bags more in annual consumption than Visayas,” he said.      Nationwide, Luzon accounts for about 65% of the company’s sales while the remaining 35% comes from the Visayas and Mindanao combined.      Mr. Sumalinog said the higher demand in Mindanao comes not just from the two primary cities of Davao and Cagayan de Oro, but also from Zamboanga, Dipolog, Butuan, and other secondary cities.      Philippine Statistics Authority data show that construction growth in the four regions in Mindanao from 2017 to 2018 at 18.1% in Davao, 16.4% for what is now the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, 16.3% in Northern Mindanao, and 13.6% in Soccsksargen (SouthCotabato-Cotabato-Sultan Kudarat-Sarangani-General Santos City).      Assistant Secretary Romeo Montenegro, deputy executive director of the Mindanao Development Authority, said the national government has allocated P761 billion for infrastructure projects in the southern islands for 2017-2022.      “With these figures alone, we can expect the extent of (cement demand in) Mindanao,” Mr. Montenegro said at the same forum.      Mr. Sumalinog said the rule of thumb is that between 10%-12% of the cost of construction goes to cement.      “So that’s about P80 billion (of cement demand for government projects alone),” he said, adding that Holcim hopes to avoid running out of inventory in Mindanao.      The listed cement maker spent P1.5 billion on its Davao plant expansion and has budgeted a combined $300 million for the expansion of the plants in Misamis Oriental and Bulacan. — Carmelito Q. Francisco

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(Part 3) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

August 19, 2019

(Third of a Series)   SUKAILANG, Surigao City—Armed with nothing but his resourcefulness, persistence, patience, and nature’s elements, chemical engineer Woodrow Escobal Jr. has successfully transformed a barren and degraded logged over and mined land into a sustainable integrated organic farm and resort that draws in tourists from all over the country and the world.      While trawling the internet in search of organic agricultural techniques to apply to his land, he came across the agricultural and social design principle/technique called permaculture.       Permaculture, coined by Australian agriculturists Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the 1970s from “permanent agriculture” and “permanent culture”, is the harmonious integration of landscape and people through the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems for the provision of food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs of people in a sustainable way.      “Our aim then was to make this land productive again. From the very start, we want to do it the natural and sustainable way, without any outside commercial input. We really wanted to make a Food Forest system here,” Engr. Jun said.      He later learned from his research on the internet that the viable principle/technique applicable to his land is permaculture. “This is because we want to work with nature. And permaculture teaches us to be in harmony with our natural environment.”       “Through permaculture, we learned to work with nature and the natural environment that we have here. We learned to integrate and harness the power of the elements in designing our farm so that we minimize waste and energy,” he added.      JB Nature Farm and Resort is designed by the Escobal couple themselves as they apply what they learned about their land, the natural topography, local weather and the elements.      Engr. Jun said that he and his wife consciously choose to go the organic and natural way when they decided in 2010 to develop their land in Sukailang into a full-fledged farm, especially since owners of adjacent lots started selling their abandoned lands to them.       The Escobal land, now famously known as JB Nature Farm and Resort, has now expanded into 7 hectares of rolling terrain, with various fruit trees, hardwood, vegetable patches, and areas for free range chickens and wild boar/pigs.      He explained that this is because he personally wanted to do his part in helping leave a world conducive for living to the next generations as he acknowledged that his professionhas contributed to the many problems the human race is now facing.      “I realized that my profession is guilty for what is happening now to the environment. It is time to pay back. Thus, I chose to be on the good side, environment-friendly side,” he emphasized.      Ethics. The biggest casualty of the current wasteful consumption and production economy that has gripped that world since the discovery of the steam engine.      But thanks to such agricultural principles/techniques as permaculture, ethics in food production is beginning to return to agriculture.      “Permaculture starts with ethics. It is an ethical design science and it starts with earth-care and people-care. It is a wholistic design science.It is not just about famine and gardening. It makes connections between water harvesting, soil creation, the supply of useful living resources, energy system, waste system, local economics and people systems to create a permanent culture,” stressed Geoff Lawton, a student of Bill Molisson and a revered permaculturist, during his TedTalk in Abu Dhabi, a video of which was posted in Youtube.      Lawton said that permaculture was founded as a solution to the myriads of problems in the world.       “Rather than protesting the problems, permaculture defines the solutions and directs positive actions. It is an ethical design system. It is a system that takes the knowledge of nature the knowledge of natural systems and uses the connectivity of the elements to create a system that provides the needs of humanity in a way that endlessly enriches the life on earth and the living systems,” he said.      In the nine years since going full-time as a “farmer”, Engr. Jun has learned to cultivate the most important crop farmers all over the world are cultivating since the time of Abel: patience.      “Please develop your idle lands. There is no such thing as barren or infertile soil. You only need patience. Don’t be discouraged. There is way to make the land productive,” he said. (To be continued)      (Ed’s Note: Bong Fabe is with the WWF Philippines as integrated communications manager for its SMILE Project in Siargao and Dinagat Islands, an EU-funded project being undertaken in partnership with the UP-AIT and AIEC ILAW)

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(Part 2) From Wasteland to Wonderland: Transforming a degraded, barren land into a sustainable organic farm resort

August 16, 2019

(Second of a Series)   SUKAILANG, Surigao City—Surigao del Sur may have appropriated for itself the monicker “Shangrila in the Pacific” since the late 2000s because of its many and varied tourist attractions, but just a few minutes away from this city’s población is an approximation of James Hilton’s Shangri-La.      While Hilton’s Shangri-La is just a product of his imagination which was immortalized in his seminal book Lost Horizon, the JB Nature Farm and Resort is the product of hard work, research and acted dream of Engr. Woodrow Escobal Jr. and Dr. Bessie Escobal.       Located 19.8 kilometers southeast of the city población, the former no man’s land, due to the presence of the communist rebels who made their lairs in Barangay Sukailang after loggers and miners stripped the area bare, is now lush with greenery and teeming with wildlife.      The Escobals, from Siargao, were then dreaming of living in a place away from the dictates of their busy work schedule: Engr. Jun spent 11 years in Santander, Cebu as a development worker for World Vision; he later co-founded the Surigao del Norte NGO Coalition for Development (SUNGCOD), Inc. and later transferred to the DTI here while wife Bessie is busy as an OB-Gynecologist-Sonologist-Coposcopist.      In 2003, a friend brought them to Sukailang to see the place. Aside from it being barren, the land was pockmarked with so many mine holes and boulders that only straggling grasses and wild Red Finger Fern (Lygodium circinnatum) locally known as Agsam or Nito, a large wild fern endemic to several areas in Mindanao, were growing in some patches.      But the couple fell in love with the area.  After taking possession of 1,000 square meters of land, the couple then proceeded to rehabilitate and regenerate the land. “This area was not ideal for farming due to logging and mining. So we look for ways to make the land productive naturally. Now the land has recovered,” Engr. Jun said.      The couple started building their dream house in Sukailang in 2005, which was finished three years later, in 2008. In 2006, the owners of the adjacent land sold their 3.5 hectares to the Escobals.      Amid the construction, Engr. Jun trawled the internet researching for techniques to naturally restore the land to its former glory while slowly planting bamboos, fruit trees and hardwood such as narra and mangiums seedlings on their property.      “What you see here now is a man-made forest. This tree was the very first tree we planted when we acquired this property,” he said while pointing to the Talisay tree (also known as Indian Almond; with a scientific name of Terminalia catappa) that grows between the resort’s kitchen, officially called Tessie’s Kitchen in honor of Dr. Bessie’s mother, and the resort’s conference and dining hall.      It was also during this time that he came across the agriculture principle/technique called Permaculture. “I have no formal education or training about permaculture. What I learned and applied here are all from my own research on the internet.” (To be continued)      (Ed’s note: Bong Fabe is with the WWF Philippines as integrated communications manager for its SMILE Project in Siargao and Dinagat Islands, an EU-funded project being undertaken in partnership with the UP-AIT and AIEC ILAW.")

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