Reader’s Corner: OFWs’ plant business helped them weather the pandemic

“These are the people that we met that turned out to be our friends and families. Through plants we can create a sanctuary of friendship,” Quilarto said. (Quilarto)

Submitted by Wilbert Quilarto

It was the “unforeseen” that has drawn new light to how we create opportunities in life. The unprecedented time of pandemic was a predicament by itself, but it paved the way for greater possibilities for me. It started last July 2020 in Sta Barbara, Iloilo when I, a financially constrained nurse, met Agamer [Guevarra], a seafarer, whose work was put on hold for two years at the peak of the travel ban.

As lockdowns halted social and work routines, I found my comfort and an additional means of income in collecting and selling plants, as it became a household trend. It was our loans and bills on top of other bills that pushed us to risk ourselves in this new venture.

Agamer was my client and it was in good faith that we’ve fostered a genuine friendship over our love and passion for plants. Since then, we have never stopped hunting for varieties of anthuriums and philodendrons all throughout Panay island.

Quilarto and Guevarra’s anthurium and philodendron selling business helped them weather the pandemic. (Quilarto)

As determined as we are, we’ve bought plant varieties ranging from 1k to 20k and have decided to propagate them in our newly built garden. We have a vacant lot and we use a portion of it to put up the garden.

Soon after, we tried doing liveselling on our Facebook page despite being novices in this field. We even took our chance to market our wares in plazas and plant fairs. We realized that hard work really does produce delights; we began earning anywhere from P10,000 to 100k back when ornamental plants were still in demand in the market. Since then, our enthusiasm has been furthered by our desire to focus on agribusiness.

“These are the people that we met that turned out to be our friends and families. Through plants we can create a sanctuary of friendship,” Quilarto said. (Quilarto)

At present, I am working in Northern Ireland as a nurse whilst Agamer is now back sailing the European peninsula. All these great comebacks wouldn’t be possible without the fruits of our labor that has sustained us through the difficult times.

Agamer’s first love is calatheas and he has almost a complete variety of this plant. Now we still continue to buy collectible philodendrons and anthuriums. What we like most about gardening and farming is that we’ve met a lot of people that turned out to be our found family; we’ve learned techniques and styles from them that we’ve applied to our own gardens.

Farming and gardening releases all the stress and negativity in this world. It makes us happy and helps us appreciate the gifts of God. We are looking forward to more great opportunities and projects soon. We believe in this Bible verse: So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. (1 Corinthians 3:7)

Photos courtesy of Wilbert Quilarto

This article appeared in Agriculture Magazine’s November 2022 issue.

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