TANAY is one of the oldest municipalities of Rizal province because Spanish colonizers initially founded it as a town in 1606, and then declared it as a municipality 288 years later. At present, Tanay is a first-class municipality comprising 10 urban and 10 rural barangay (villages), and with a population of 139, 420 of which 10 percent are Indigenous people, particularly the Dumagat and Remontado (mixed blood Dumagat). Because of its proximity to the National Capital Region or Metro Manila (only 57 kilometers east of Manila), its lush mountains, winding roads, waterfalls, camping grounds, several hotels, cozy restaurants and cafes that are overlooking Laguna de Bay, and ridges and windmills in neighboring Pililla town (also in Rizal), Tanay has become a favorite destination of many tourists, particularly bikers and hikers.
After a two-year hiatus because of Covid-19, Tanay is once again celebrating its Hane Festival on the 416th year of its founding, with an optimistic theme: “Shine and Smile: Bangon Rise/Get Up) and Sulong (Move Forward) Tanay.” The term “hane” is peculiar to the Tanayan Tagalog language because it is an expression asking for an agreement toward the end of a statement. Today is the culmination of the 11-day celebration covering numerous exciting activities that were participated in by various government agencies including the military and nongovernment and community-based organizations. These activities included sports events, barangay road beautification, cookfests, art exhibit, Filipiniana gown exhibit, job fair, beauty pageant, talent show, people’s parade, military static display, car and motor show, and agriculture trade fair and exhibit. These various events were well orchestrated by a dynamic local government unit (LGU) that is led by the indefatigable and dedicated reelected Tanay Mayor Rafael Tanjuatco.
I would, however, like to focus this Sunday’s column on the agriculture trade fair and exhibit because this activity included a series of training that was relevant to the LGUs in the South that are organizing similar undertakings. According to Tanay’s Municipal Agriculture Officer, Romeo Cruz, the prime mover of this endeavor, and whom I consider as Tanay’s living hero in the fields of agriculture, cooperatives and community organizing — this activity was started in 2007 by the Tanay Hilly Land Conservation and Farming Consortium. The partners were Tanay’s Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO), Bureau of Soil and Water Management (BSWM), University of Rizal System (URS), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and the defunct Cayabu Samahang Damayan, a community-based organization. This initial activity fostered the partners’ advocacy for natural or ecological agriculture and showcased products of farmers and fisherfolk (around Laguna Lake and other inland waters) by providing them with LGU-sponsored booths. The fair was open to the public with no entrance fee, a practice that is continued in subsequent agriculture trade fairs.
The foregoing activity has been sustained by the MAO, BSWM and URS with the objective of providing greater visibility and sustainability for farmers and fisherfolk’s organizations. This also provides these groups with an opportunity to network with other exhibitors, agribusiness companies and pertinent government agencies. Its current format is patterned after Agrilink, a national agribusiness exhibition and seminars organized annually by the Foundation for Resource Linkage and Development. The 2022 Tanay Hane Festival agriculture trade fair organizers provided booths for farmer and fisherfolk exhibitors and to agribusiness companies, and held a series of training and other related events that were inclusive. They encouraged the exhibitors, farmers and fisherfolk to sell their processed agricultural products by registering for free at e-agricom, an online shopping platform that connects buyers and sellers for agriculture and fisheries. This platform is based in Tanay and its young enthusiastic manager, Kevin Mark Reyes, said it has been operating for a year with over 1,500 members from within and outside the Philippines.
There are three Tanay organizations — Sampaloc Agrarian Reform Multi-Purpose Cooperative, Tanay Market Vendors and Community Multi-Purpose Cooperative and Balimbing Farmers — that are already selling instant ginger and turmeric tea, ginger candy, wild honey and upland rice, through two popular online platforms, Shopee and Lazada.
I observed that most of the 38 booths this year had processed and well-packaged products, which included local fruit wines, chili sauce, vinegar-spices concoctions, dried blue ternate and roselle tea, wild and cultured honey, banana fritters, ginger candy, ginger and turmeric tea. For the first time, the booth of the Cacao Growers’ Association headed by Nancy Casco has cacao tablea and cacao nibs in attractive sachets, because it recently obtained processing cacao equipment from the Department of Science and Technology.
The booth of the Samahang Nagkakaisang Nakatatandang Mamamayan Inc. (Sannamat Inc.), a 10-year-old NGO with over 70 elderly members, garnered third prize for showcasing its good quality baskets, slippers and miniature houses made from dried water lilies from Laguna de Bay. Teodoro Suarez, 79, this NGO’s president, said the products were handcrafted by the members at their homes. The Sakahang Lilok, a small organic farm at Manhain, Barangay Tandang Kutyo in Tanay, has a booth of fresh organic vegetables. According to its coordinator and missionary, Rachel Hauser, this farm offers visitors and training participants, especially from urban poor communities an opportunity to retreat and commune with God, and to learn about organic and sustainable agriculture.
The five-day training sessions that were ably facilitated by the Municipal Agriculture Office senior staff covered topics that were pertinent to Tanay’s context. The resource persons from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources presented their “Balik sa Ilog at Lawa” (Basil) program, a systematic effort to enhance breeding of endangered endemic and indigenous fishes in Laguna de Bay and inland rivers, particularly silver perch (ayungin), catfish and giant freshwater prawn (ulang). The URS resource persons shared new technologies about eggplant production, anthurium breeding, duck egg production, chicken production and composting. The Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. Program and Services resource person discussed the benefits and procedures of support from this entity. The BSWM experts demonstrated new technologies about soil testing, production and conservation. Kape Bukel’s resource person, Paula Matienzo, whose booth won first prize for her creative use of indigenous materials and compelling narrative about coffee, spoke about the high demand for coffee worldwide, including the different varieties and sources. She encouraged the participants to smell and taste the different varieties of roasted coffee that she prepared during the lecture. Because Tanay does not grow its own coffee, she enjoined the participants to plant the variety that is suitable to the municipality’s terrain.
The agriculture trade exhibits and seminars have no doubt mainstreamed new knowledge, marketing strategies and technologies that are beneficial to Tanay’s farmers and fisherfolk. This approach can be emulated by the different LGUs not only in Rizal province, but by other places in Mindanao and the Visayas.
Tanay Municipal Agricultural Officer Romeo Cruz, in his messenger chat group composed of the Hane Festival trade fair exhibitors, recognizes that the agriculture sector continues to face many challenges, particularly bad weather caused by climate change, rising prices of agricultural inputs, pests and diseases and other problems in the production process. Despite these hindering factors, he is still optimistic about the future, by flagging the following message. “With our perseverance and resilience, and most of all, our cooperation, we can all surpass these challenges, and the rainbow (with an emoji) will surely guide us toward our vision.”