#DTIMalasakit Story from DTI-Region 10 (Bukidnon)

Poverty and inequality remain a challenge in the country. Despite the seemingly increasing number of families who rose up above the official family threshold as seen in the past four (4) decades, these challenges are still seen in the remote areas where underserved and underprivileged people are found – the Indigenous Peoples.

Bukidnon houses the 7 tribes known widely in upholding their indigenous traditions and practices. But the greatest hurdle they experience lies not in sustaining their culture, but merely providing the basic needs of their families. They defy the economic boom claimed by the economists of the country due to the lack of jobs, and livelihood activities.

Inspired by these facts and seeing their community members’ pressing need, 25-year old entrepreneur Rezia “Izzy” Rogue took the challenge of managing the family’s business, Atugan Nature Farm located in the municipality of Impasugong.

Izzy’s parents, Mrs. Dawn M. Roque (2nd from left) and Councilor Rory P. Roque (3rd from right) wore their smiles during a client visit at their farm.

The business started out 3 years ago with selling as the main activity. “Hinabol” was the main product then, a handwoven cloth derived from premium abaca fibers. They also sold “binaki” a local snack delicacy made from sweet corn, ground and baked.

My family started out this business so that we could provide more jobs to the lumads in the community through agriculture, increase their awareness, assist them in promoting their local culture and indigenous practices,” young entrepreneur Izzy claimed in an interview.

In hopes of giving more job opportunities to the locals, Izzy and her family decided to expand their business venture in 2017 by developing their piece of land into an agri-tourism site to attract tourist, thereby providing more income to the business which will then trickle down to their vision of helping the community through jobs generation.

The previously stand-alone “hablanan” (weaving tool) became 4 units, and they have added more women weavers from the IP community that they are assisting. They also continually develop their site to become more attractive to the tourist by adding tour sites and developing tour packages which they offered to their prospected customers. They also started offering Farm Stays (Tents), and accommodated Farm Visits.

Slowly, Atugan Nature Farm (ANF) gained momentum in their business operations. However, insufficient experience and knowledge in business management hurdled Izzy in most cases. “I am not a graduate of business course,” said Izzy who is a graduate of Bachelor of Science in Medical Technology.

Despite the fact that I don’t have enough technical knowledge in managing the business, I took it because I really am inspired to help people just like what my parents have taught us upon growing up,” Izzy further added.

In her own efforts as the Farm Manager and Co-owner of the farm business, Izzy grabbed the assistance provided by the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) through its provincial office in Bukidnon. Since then, ANF started joining in Trade Fairs after walking in their business permits and registrations.

Living by the wisdom her parents endowed to her, that everything they have now was a product of their workers’ hard work and provision of their farm, Izzy gained eagerness in strengthening their business.

I never know where to ask for help before except my parents, not until Negosyo Center – Impasugong came in the way,” Izzy told DTI emphasizing how DTI and Negosyo Center helped her spot the learning opportunity that she was able to grab.

A complete list of activities featured by Atugan Nature Farm (ANF) that tourists can do while inside the agri-farm.

Through NC Impasugong, with its business counselor John Beryl Gamil, Izzy was able to join the Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program launching back in 2017, but not as a mentee. She was one of the invited participants to witness how the program could help micro entrepreneurs.

From a known fact that she was not a business course graduate, she admittedly narrated that handling finances, people (human resource) and managing operations were some of the few aspects in business she’s having hard time dealing with.

When I joined that [KMME] launching, I was really interested and wanted to know how to become a chosen mentee from among the DTI-assisted entrepreneurs in the province,” she said.

Early in 2018, Izzy was considered as one of the 24 chosen mentees to become part of the 3rd KMME Batch of DTI-Bukidnon who graduated last June 2018.

Bukidnon’s 3rd Batch of Kapatid Mentor ME (KMME) Program where Izzy was one of the graduates.

Izzy excitedly shared her experience with the KMME modules and stated that her favorite among all the activities conducted was the presentation of the business improvement plan before the panel of mentors.

It was an uplifting experience because the mentors’ encouragements and advices pushed me hard and gave me a clear perspective toward the continual success of our farm,” she further shared.

After joining KMME, Izzy was able to manage the business’ cash flow effectively, and she started applying the learnings she got in Human Resource especially in handling the lumads, which composed the greater number of their employees.

Since the start of the KMME program, Izzy was keen enough in applying her learning and got significant increase in their sales, built a highway site through which buyers (travelers) could easily access their products, as well as increasing their marketing strategies through increased promotion and advertisement of their farm.♦

Published in Pilipino Mirror on 2 October 2019.