BY VINA MEDENILLA 

Living in a foreign country is a different experience for everyone. For Christian Facun, 41, and his wife Marilou Santos-Facun, 37, living in Rome, Italy have made them experience celebrating special occasions alone due to clashing work schedules. 

Sometimes, they would accidentally meet in the streets when one of them is off to work while the other is just about to go home. The couple also faced discrimination several times in those 13 years of working overseas. 

Deciding to go back to the Philippines for good was a turning point in their life. “We want to build a family together. We want to do what we love, and our dream is to live on a farm.”

The husband and wife headed back to the Philippines in 2018. Since then, they have devoted their time to develop a portion of Christian’s family-owned property into a farm.

Christian and Marilou (in the photo) are very hands-on when it comes to running the farm.

Living beyond the farming dream 

Tingtano Integrated Farm is a five-hectare agricultural land in Barangay Burgos, San Jose, Tarlac. The farm’s name was a combination of the proprietors’ nicknames: Marilou as “Ting” and Christian as “Tano”. 

After a year of working on their farm, they received a certification as an agritourism site from the Department of Tourism and as a Learning Site for Agriculture (LSA) from the Agricultural Training Institute Central Luzon.

The couple established the Tingtano Integrated Farm School Inc., a TESDA-accredited farm school, last March 12, 2020. They also opened a farm store, Tingtano enterprises, where they offer their fresh produce and other value-added goods like chili paste. They also serve farm-to-table meals to farm guests.

Tingtano Integrated Farm School Inc. offers a program on the production of high-quality inbred rice, seed certification, and farm mechanization. Amid the pandemic, they invite local farmers to watch online webinars that they play on a projector.

Everything natural

The Facuns solely dedicated their land to natural farming. Not only does this allow them to produce safe and healthy food for their family, but also creates a safe place for everyone, including their farmhands and guests.

They do not use any harmful and synthetic chemicals to keep the area’s biodiversity and enhance soil fertility. 

“We produce our own organic fertilizers (compost and vermicast) and organic concoctions and extracts. We make our own carbonized rice hull. We practice intercropping, companion planting, crop rotation, among others. We use green manures and mulch (shredded dried leaves) for our plants. We have flowering plants as pollinator attractants and insect repellants.” 

Naturally-grown lettuce that is ready to harvest.

The five-hectare land is composed of fruit trees (papaya, banana, mango, avocado, jackfruit, duhat, balimbing, cashew, guava, calamansi), herbs (basil, tarragon, chives, Italian oregano, celery, lemongrass, mint), spices (chili, ginger, turmeric), root crops (cassava, sweet potato), vegetables (eggplant, tomato, pechay, lettuce, sitaw, ampalaya, cucumber, okra, beans, mongo, squash, sigarilyas, sili panigang, and upland kangkong), and mushrooms (oyster and straw varieties.)

Marilou “Ting” and Christian “Tano” Facun, farm owners, with their harvested straw mushrooms (Volvariella Volvacea).

Native pigs, chickens, goats, and ducks also found a home on the farm. They are provided with rice bran, farm forages, fruits, and vegetables every day. 

Obstacles in farming

The major challenge for them is water supply. Their electricity consumption is high due to the use of a deep well water pump. They also spend a lot on diesel for their shallow tube well pump. 

“We need additional capital in investing in a drip irrigation system or solar-powered fertigation system.” In the meantime, they have been harvesting rainwater, planting cover crops, and mulching to help with their expenses and ease their farm operations. 

Community involvement

To give back to the community, Tingtano Integrated Farm helps a group of farmers from San Jose, Tarlac, called the Rice and Vegetable Farmers Association (RAVFA). The farm assists the local farmers in availing government programs, attending government training sessions and seminars, and selling their produce. 

A photo of Rice and Vegetable Farmers Association (RAVFA) members that the farm supports in their farming endeavors.

The journey wasn’t easy for the couple. But after long, tough years abroad, they believe that God has placed them in this industry for a bigger purpose. 

Tingtano Integrated Farm is a five-hectare farm in San Jose, Tarlac built by these partners in life who are returning OFWs from Rome, Italy.

Farming does not only allow them to produce safe food, but also to have quality time with each other and with their family—something hard to acquire when they’re still OFWs. 

Photos from TingTano Integrated Farm.

For more information, visit TingTano Integrated Farm.