By Zac B. Sarian

It is taking two brave medical doctors to develop a challenging mountain farmland in Talugtog, Talavera, Nueva Ecija. Challenging because it is up there in the uplands where water is available in some parts only during the rainy season. During the dry months, the area is really dry and the cogon grass is a constant possible cause of forest fire.

The two medical doctors are Dr. Roberto Maliwat, an opthalmologist, and his wife Eva Lisa, an anesthesiologist at a well-known medical center. It helps that they are still young (less than 50) and they have the financial capability to introduce interventions that could transform the place into a mountain paradise not only for their own enjoyment but also for all their children, grandchildren, and generations that will follow.

The land is a 20-hectare property consisting of rolling and sloping terrain with some flat areas. It was the original idea of Dr. Robert to buy a farm he could develop because he has always loved farming. His father, also a medical doctor and a former mayor of Talavera, usually brought his sons to the farm when they were young. Robert is lucky that his wife readily approved of the purchase of the mountain property, which was not yet accessible to vehicles in 2009.

Dr. Roberto Maliwat feeding his turkeys.

Dr. Robert did not tarry in working on the land. He worked on the access road so the property could be reached by car or pickup truck. He also put up two windmills to provide some water. The water is not yet sufficient so last April, he installed 12 solar panels to draw more water for the farm.

Earlier, before putting up the solar pump, he came up with livestock raising projects like native chicken, ducks, goat, native pigs, cattle, and turkey. Dr. Robert is most excited about his turkeys. He only started with a dozen females and two males in 2016, and today he has over a thousand birds of various ages. And the turkeys continue to multiply. Dr. Robert is upgrading his older stocks, including the acquisition of a breeder of a broiler type. The broiler breed really grows fast, he said. In six months, the turkey which he bought when it was three weeks old had grown to 18 kilos.

His farm animals are very saleable but he thinks some traders are taking advantage. They offer very low prices, yet if one is insistent on a price that is more reasonable, the trader will come back. For instance, he said that when he sold his 40 native pigs to a Bicolano trader, he was insistent on his price of P3,500 a head, take it or leave it. The trader had been bargaining for P3,000 per piece and threatened to buy native pigs somewhere else. Not long after, however, the trader went back and paid the amount Dr. Maliwat had set.

The same was true when a buyer was offering a low price for his cattle. The good doctor stood his ground and did not give in to the price set by the trader.

Dr. Robert admits he had made some mistakes but he takes them matter-of-factly, telling himself that they are part of the learning process. His big mistake, he said, was planting young grafted fruit trees in many parts of the farm. Many of them perished due to lack of water. Most of the plants that survived are some mangoes and guyabano. Next time, he said he will plant only bigger fruit trees so they have a better chance of survival.

In the meantime, he plans to put up a showcase of superior exotic fruits grown in rubberized containers around the solar water pump. Trees in containers require less water and they can be managed more easily than those planted in the ground away from the source of water.

There are many exotic fruit trees that can be grown successfully in containers, like pomelos, imported makopa, chico, calamansi, small citrus, and even mangoes. In between the fruit trees in container, he can grow various vegetables, also in containers. He and his wife are excited about the possibilities. They can start in a small area and expand when they feel it is the right time.

This appeared in Agriculture Monthly’s May 2018 issue.