Father Franco is now Padre Ninno

THE AUTHOR at lunch with Father Franco in his farm

After a not-so-good experience of dealing with a copycat who copied his name, Father Franco had another name reserved for the products he made—PADRE NINNO. “After all, that is my name, too” he says. “My nickname is Ninno. Like a ‘baby’ in Italian,” says the Naples native who has been here in the Philippines for “350 years” he jokingly says.

Father Franco made “PADRE NINNO” his product label or trade name while he kept his original name for his official documents. Now, he cooks, costs and packages a range of homemade products: Tuna Pate, Ricotta-Tuna, 3-in-1 appetizer, sundried tomatoes in olive oil and even duck liver pate. But, you can only buy them in his Bosco Food Facility in Davao, along the Bukidnon-Davao Road, 95 kilometers from Davao City. Unless he likes you, it is a feat to convince him to resell his prized creations. And I hope he liked us, as he took to Sarah Claudio, who now distributes his products in Davao through her newly opened ECHOstore .


THE BESTSELLING duck liver pate comes from the rice-duck farms.

His duck pate was first introduced to us by a common friend, a social development volunteer Sef Carandang. So we started to sell it in ECHOstore Serendra. The ducks come from the PARFUND organic rice farm, which is then sent to Father Franco and instead of just selling ducks for P80 per kilo, the carcass can be made into duck spread, the liver into pate and so the value-adding goes. Did you know ducks are good for Organic rice farming? They eat the pests and give the growing grain some peace and quiet to grow without the use of pesticides.

But there is more to him than just the products he has lovingly developed. He is like an engineer with product costing done to a T, making sure he can sell consistent products at reasonable prices whilst maintaining his profits to be able to sustain the business. He showed us his notebook with the costs and all his Research and Development trials.


We advised him we would come for lunch and he served us an Italian feast: Insalata Mista (mixed Green salad), Freshly-baked pizza, Bruschetta with his pate, Penne with tomato sauce and a mean tomato puree soup that you can also pour on the pasta. To cap the lunch, he served homemade gelato or ice cream with some dried local fruits and nuts. Then, espresso or hot fresh ginger tea. Lunches can range from P400-P700 per head but it is worth every cent because of its freshness and its being authentic Italian. You cannot go any cheaper for freshly made food served by the priest himself, too.

More than the lunch and his products, there is more to the man besides his hefty size and cheerful ways. Father Franco really wants to leave a legacy among the Matigsalog tribe in Davao. The tribe members are nomads, wanderers and when they are trained in organic farming, they leave for other places, maybe they find work,  and never come back. That is, sadly, his frustration. So we told him to tweak his mission: to help them learn skills but to keep an open mind about their future plans.

FR. FRANCO talks about his mission to teach the Matigsalog IP community.

He teaches them Organic farming and has hired some of them to cook, bake bread and serve in his 20-seater café of sorts. But he really dreams of a Boarding Center or School for those 18 and above who are still unmarried. He will teach them to become trainors for the whole community. Sadly, at 12 years old, some of them already marry and girls become pregnant at a young age, without learning any new skills.

He hopes to still create change in this IP community.  He first established a training center with tools and equipment as Don Bosco always does. When he got to this town, the people did not know anything that he could use the equipment for. So he went back to basics: plant your own food.

As they planted with him, he started to add value to their produce. And these products were born: Sundried tomatoes in olive oil, and the host of other products he now sells. They come from original home recipes from his native Naples in Italy. He has adjusted them in such a way that you can “extend” the use of the contents of each jar or bottle because he does not scrimp on the use of quality ingredients. We actually followed his instructions to even put some of the tomato soup in the pasta and it tasted good. We also were taught that the pate or the spreads could be used for cooking other dishes. That’s the innovative Italian in Father Franco. You just have to believe what he says.

Father Franco admits that it is a long, hard climb to transform a whole community of IPs in his village. But he still hopes that some donors will hear of his mission. Or that customers continue to come to his place to order lunch. Or if the drive is too far for many, you can of course buy any of his products from his distributors ..and this will help him sustain his farming activities in this 17 hectare area. Giving jobs to the Matigsalogs. And teaching them to “fish” which is actually “growing food organically” on the fertile soils of Davao.

You can reach Father Franco at 0927-7521546. Do not bother to e-mail as  telco signal in the mountains can be unreliable .


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