MISAMIS ORIENAL -- A long line of customers savor the sweet, mouth-watering smell of roasted chicken, cooked to tenderness by Sr. Pedro?s helpers, as they wait for their order along a busy road in Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City. That chicken, the prodigious lechon manok (roasted chicken) that captured the Pinoy palate by storm, is most sought by average people who, as one of its loyal patrons says, just want to get a taste of Sr. Pedro?s blessing.
Now with 250 outlets scattered around Metro Manila and key cities nationwide, Ang Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro has taken a giant stride to culinary fame and fortune.
Peter Unabia, founder of Anakciano Inc. that owns Sr. Pedro, talks of their next project after 16 years of enjoying phenomenal success -- to return the blessings they have received. This, Peter, or Pedro to his friends, has been doing, along with his 10 other siblings, for the past four years.
?We organized a foundation, called the Anaktering Foundation, in honor of my mother Tering who was very religious. Through this foundation, we found ways of sharing our blessings. And we chose to help the small farmers of Misamis Oriental,? says Peter who now sits as provincial board member in the 2nd district of Misamis Oriental.
The foundation aims to provide a livelihood opportunity for small farmers. This is done by contracting the farmers as suppliers of chicken broilers.
?We contract the farmers to supply the chicken. We give them series of trainings on how to breed broilers. These trainings are given for free. We also provide the chicks, feeds, even the medicines and vaccines. All the farmer has to do is build a cage that will pass our standards, and take care of the chicken until its ready,? explains Peter.
Presently, backyard contract growing by the marginalized farmers accounts for 10 percent of the total chicken supply of Anakciano Inc. The other 90 percent is supplied by commercial contract growers. In sum, the annual output from the contract growers has reached a whopping 11 million birds. Of these, 10 million are processed as ready-to-roast chicken delivered to all Ang Lechon Manok ni Sr. Pedro outlets around the country, while the others are sold as dressed chickens.
Peter the farmer
The Unabia family traces its roots to Malaybalay, Bukidnon, as hired hands who plowed large tracts of fields owned by big hacenderos. The family patriarch, Daciano, leased a small piece of land, and, like other small farmers in Mindanao, had to contend with middlemen, creditors and traders to get by with a few earnings from his harvest.
?I grew up knowing how difficult life is for a small farmer. We were poor and we were not given any opportunity to rise up from our miserable situation,? says Peter.
Hard work and enough will to get ahead in life eventually took the Unabia family to better times. Daciano and Tering were able to send their children to school. But the eldest in the brood, Peter, had set his eyes on the chicken business.
In 1992, Peter sought the help of his brothers to put up a small road-side roasted chicken outlet. Banking on his brother?s prowess in cooking and his own talent in management, Peter persevered in making that small chicken stand his ladder to success.
?We didn?t give up despite the many challenges. It helps to know that if you succeed, many others will benefit, like my family, and yes, my kin, the farmers,? says Peter.
What is the right way to help the farmers, Peter asks himself. The answer he gives is based on his own experiences as a poor farmer?to give them the opportunity to prosper, to free them from the bondage of credit and to develop in them a sense of ownership and trust.
?Instead of giving the farmers fish, we teach them how to fish. This is our thrust in the foundation. It should not be dole-out, otherwise, the farmers will not prosper,? says Peter.
Presently, the foundation is directly dealing with 1,624 farmers from Balingasag, Talisayan and other remote towns in the province who were contracted as backyard growers. While most of the farmers reported a P3,000 to P5,000 additional income from the project, there are some who were not able to sustain it.
Peter is shaking his head as he explained the difficulty of managing the project. ?Some of our beneficiaries had problems taking care of the chicken. Some sold them to earn quick cash, some ate the chicken for lack of anything else to eat.?
But, Peter says, they were persevering. They have, after all, chosen to deal with more than a thousand farmers, instead of dealing with a few large commercial growers, to distribute income. The 200 chicks that the foundation provides the farmers are translated to P11,200-investment per farmer.
?It is a big amount to invest, but we get consolation from knowing that some of the farmers that we help eventually prosper,? says Peter. Some farmers soon expanded to become commercial growers themselves.
Just recently, the Anaktering Foundation and the Anakciano Inc. have ventured into a goat-dispersal project aimed at teaching farmers shared responsibility. Still in an experimental stage, the initial 20 recipients were given five female and one male goats for dispersal. As soon as the female goats breed, the recipients will have to give the first breed to a new recipient.
The biggest venture so far that the foundation has initiated is its corn production. With 140 marginalized farmers benefiting from the project, the foundation has invested P22,800 per hectare of corn. The farmer?s counterpart is the land. Labor is paid for by the company at P5,000 per hectare, as well as all farm inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer.
Children of poor farmers have also benefited from the ?Hustong Pagkain Program? of the foundation. It is a feeding program for malnourished children in rural areas of Misamis Oriental. Thrice a week, foundation volunteers go to the rural areas to give out milk and chicken to children beneficiaries. A total of 318 malnourished children have graduated from the feeding program.
Peter has some things in mind to sustain the livelihood opportunities given to farmers. The key, he says, is local government unit support that is not paltry but should be consistent in helping the farmers. Another is the delivery of programs by the Department of Agriculture which should be appropriate to the needs of the farmers.
?The framework should be toward quality not quantity. The programs should be sustainable and not just dole-out,? Peter reiterates.
As a public official though, Peter knows there?s more work to be done in terms of re-orienting programs for marginalized farmers. ?But I?m not stopping,? he counters.