Manila Bulletin


When upland farmers take center stage


I had been to Agusan del Sur at least two times already – that was when I still worked for a nongovernmental organization. Then this year, my good friend, Dr. Johnvie B. Goloran, invited me to attend the Naliyagan Festival, now in its 31st year.

I had heard about it before. Naliyagan, which literally means “the chosen one” in Manobo, is a week-long celebration that showcases the indigenous people’s culture through music and dance, native products, ethnic games, and a host of sporting tournaments and special events.

I was hesitant to go. After all, I have seen so many festivals, including the Kadayawan sa Dabaw, touted to be the mother of all festivals in Mindanao. But it all changed when I learned that there was an exclusive day for farmers, which happened on the fourth day of the festivity.

There was also a competition that would put into limelight farmers who “have potential and remarkable talents but are only deprived of the opportunities and windows to show or share it.”

I left Davao City at around 11 in the morning. Since I took the bus, it took us seven hours to reach San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. A staff member from the Provincial Office fetched us at the bus terminal and brought us to the hotel where we were billeted.


Since it was still too early to eat our dinner at the hotel, we decided to go to the town of Prosperidad, about a 30-minute travel from San Francisco. Our guide brought us to the Naliyagan Cultural Center Grounds at the Gov. D.O. Plaza Government Center, where a trade fair displayed the province’s cottage industries and agricultural products.

Agusan del Sur has a total land area of 8,966 square kilometers. The towns of Loreto, La Paz, Esperanza, and San Luis are the four largest municipalities in land area, comprising almost 60% of the province’s total land area. Santa Josefa and Talacogon, both river towns, have the smallest land area.

Actually, there are 13 towns. Those that are not mentioned above are Bunawan, Rosario, Sibagat, Trento, and Veruela. Agusan del Sur has one component city: Bayugan, considered the cutflower capital of the province.

All of them have impressive booths with creative facades. Since I had nothing to do, I decided to visit all 14 booths and stayed at least five minutes in each one. Vegetables were well represented: ampalaya, cucumbers, eggplants, tomatoes, gingers, squash, upo, okra, sweet peppers, string beans, cabbage, carrots, mushrooms, and lettuce.

Fruits were also plentiful: banana, avocado, santol, dragon fruits, watermelon, mangoes, papaya, and jackfruits. There were also root crops like cassava, taro, and sweet potatoes. Corn and rice were also displayed. There were different colors of rice: white, red, black and yellow.

Yes, the yellow rice is the golden rice (now called malusog rice). I had been writing about golden rice even before it was approved for commercialization. Now, it was here that I finally saw the golden rice. In fact, I had the opportunity of talking with Franklin L. Ebardo, who plants golden rice in his farm in Bucac, Bayugan City.


About 697 people attended the USAD Farmers’ Day. USAD, which literally means “headway” or “moving,” is an acronym for Upland Sustainable Agri-forestry Development (USAD) Convergence Program. It is the centerpiece program of the provincial government of Agusan del Sur whose objective is to uplift the standard of living of farmers living in upland areas.





Manila Bulletin Publishing Corp