A Tale of Two Farmers

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The inherent blessings of adversity is opportunity.

When the Philippine national hero was banished into exile by the Spanish colonial authorities,José Rizal lost no time in transforming sleepy town of Dapitan in the northwest corner of Mindanao Island. In the four years that he spent in Dapitan, Rizal designed a church altar, built dam and aqueduct, taught local children, cured common diseases, studied zoology and botany, and other endeavours that preoccupied him.

Jose Rizal Farm in Katipunan, Zamboanga del NorteWhat piqued my interest about this four-year Dapitan episode in the great life of Rizal was a farm that he bought and developed in what is now the town of Katipunan in Zamboanga del Norte, approximately 22 kilometers away from the village of Talisay where he briefly lived. Located on a hilly portion in the present-day Barangay Dr. José Rizal, the farm was previously owned by Calixto Carreon who was one of Rizal‘s patients. Later on, he tasked his younger sister Trinidad to administer the farm. Trinidad was also the custodian of Rizal‘s greatest poem, Huling Paalam. She transferred the stewardship of the farm to Fernando Eguia, one of Rizal‘s students and the farm caretaker. In 1949, Trinidad, as witnessed by other surviving siblings of the national hero, sold the farm to Crisostomo Eguia, Sr. provided that he maintained the farm under José Rizal‘s name.

“Filipinos don’t realize that victory is the child of struggle, that joy blossoms from suffering, and redemption is a product of sacrifice.” – Dr.José P. Rizal, Como se gobiernan las Filipinas (How one governs in the Philippines), published in La Solidaridad (15 December 1890)

The outbreak of the Second World War caused irreparable grief, untimely loss of lives, and changed the belligerents’ and casualties’ fate forever.

Our family was one of those who suffered greatly. My grandfather was captured and executed by the Japanese Imperial Army, thus he left behind his wife and two young sons, aged ten and eight. Picking themselves up from the ashes of the destructive war and the agony of their loss, the three restarted their lives from scratch. And farming was one of those that preoccupied most of their time.

Francisco Yasol BalaisAt 21, Francisco Yasol Balais began to build a family with his 17-year old wife Marcelina Alejo Asuncion. Together in the small plots of lands they toiled day and night, rain or shine, to provide for their growing brood. They farmed rice, cotton, tobacco, soy beans, vegetables, and mangoes. My father also taught himself carpentry, fishing, among other economically gainful activities. He was far from being perfect but nevertheless he was a faithful husband, a good provider for a father, and a selfless man.

10For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 11Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. – 2 Corinthians 9:10-11 NLT (BibleGateway.com)

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