Fresh from the Flower Fields: Stories from the Bayog florists

It was a rainy morning when Ayen and I went to the Municipal Hall for the day’s field work to barangay Bayog, Los Banos, Laguna.

It was the day I will be meeting my ‘community’, the community of florists from Bayog. We were joined by ma’am Glenda Perez, the clerk in-charge of the livelihood programs under the Municipal Social-Welfare and Development Office.

It was only a 10 to 15-minute trip from the municipal hall to the flower farm where the Bayog florists are based. Ma’am Glenda told usthat we should hurry up since Ayen and I arrived a few minutes late.

When we arrived at the neighborhood near the farm,. we asked for directions on how we are going to reach the hut where the florists are. Ma’am Glenda told us the florists are already waiting for our arrival.

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Going to the hut, we have to pass by the vast farming area. The path where we have to pass was made of soft soil. They call it pilapil. It was a bit difficult to walk through it since my shoes are slipping. I have to carefully and slowly walk otherwise, I will dive in the mud. It was also a bit embarrassing since the farmers are looking at us. Nevertheless, it was an exciting experience.

Arriving at the hut, we met the florists. They were warm and very hospitable. There were 10 of them inside, a mix of women and men. There I also met Nanay Remedios more locally known as Nanay Edios, the President of their group. She was really inspiring as she told us that even though they are busy preparing for the upcoming holidays such as All Souls Day, they had to prioritize us since they know that we are studying; that we have to finish our studies and graduate.

Before I even started talking about that day’s agenda, she introduced her fellow florists to us. In return, we also introduced ourselves to them. We chatted for a few minutes about their life, daily routines, and other similar topics. They were open in terms of telling stories of their fellow florists. It gave me a warm feeling. I just hope we also created that aura with them.

After a while, Nanay Edios already asked me about what is going to happen with the interview. Briefly, I explained to them what my outputs are. I also told them that those outputs may be published in LB Times or aired at Dito sa Laguna. They were very excited most especially with the broadcast part since they know they will be seen on TV.

Nanay Edios asked me if we can start with a prayer first before proceeding with the interview. I said it was okay. I also needed some guidance. After praying, we began with the interview.

 

Their Story

One of the notable points in the interview was the incredible bond they have for each other. Nanay Edios shared that whenever they see each other every morning they will be checking out on each other’s farms. “Kamusta ani mo?” They would always ask.

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The florists received local government fund from the Mayor to start their business. They were very thankful since the flower farm gave them a lot of benefits and experience.

The florists grew up farming. Before, their farm was for rice plantation only. They sell their rice in the market; this serves as their main livelihood source. After receiving support from the government, they formed their group of florists. The group is relatively young since it only started last April of this year. But even though that is the case, they have created a strong sense of community and bond within themselves.

Today they are selling flowers such as Azucena and Aster. These flowers are transported to Dangwa where they are sold. Dangwa is a place in Manila where flowers of different kinds are sold.

The florists shared that because of their flower business, they were able to travel to places they have never been. As most members are 50 to 65 years old, they feel a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment whenever they know they can already go for a vacation or like how they labeled it, “outing”. Before, they were not able to do that with rice farming. Now, everything has changed.

One of the problems they have in the farm is the Cocolisap, an insect which infects and eventually destroys plants and crops. It was a good thing that they have some materials to temporarily treat their problem. Unfortunately, it was not enough. Another problem is flood, they are forced to plant again whenever floods wash up their fields which is quite wasteful. But for them, “Bangon lang nang bangon matapos ang pagkakadapa.” All of the withered plants were recycled as fertilizers for the newly planted seeds.

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Their sense of community enabled them to collaboratively point out the problems in their business. Together, they look for ways on how they can address the issue. They also seek counsel from the government on how they can deal with the concerns. It is a clearly a community-feel where everyone has a responsibility towards their neighbors.

At the end of the interview/kwentuhan session, they invited us to eat lunch with them. Good thing I bought them pancit bihon for lunch as a show of courtesy. Their food is incredible. It made me miss my province in Batangas.

After eating lunch we headed home. Nanay Edios and Nanay Des went with us until we reached the streets. It was already raining. Nanay Edios lead us to her home where we can wait for the person who will fetch us.

 

Reflections

It was a different experience for me since a lot of my DevCom interviews are almost always located near or even inside the campus. As embarrassing as it sounds, it was my first time to walk through the pilapil. It was a good adventure even though I keep thinking about what to do if I fall to the mud.

During the interviews, I noticed that they are not that nervous. Maybe because it was not their first time having those kinds of visits. The presence of ma’am Glenda may also be a factor.

They were very engaged in the interview. They told us a lot about their experiences and even added a few more information connected to my questions and their stories. They even inserted humor in some of their answers which for me is helpful especially in building rapport.

In terms of participation per se, I think it was high enough. But I am not quite sure if that is participatory development journalism (PDJ). Where does my interaction stand in the spectrum of PDJ? Can i even consider it PDJ? The concept is still unclear to me.

Although it was quite reasonable for them to thank the Mayor for everything he has given, thanking him a few times more in the video is a bit “sketchy” or skeptical. This thought will never leave my mind even with the high participation. Our connection and contact with them after all went through ma’am Glenda first. She is an officer from the local government.

Nevertheless, it was quite a wonderful and warm experience to know them.

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All photos are taken by Marianne Palle.

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