Vicky “VK” Purisima is a multi-awarded farmer, proud owner of VK’s Farm in Tigaon, Brgy. Tinawagan, Camarines Sur, and the chieftain of the Agta Tabangnon, an indigenous peoples’ (IP) group of 310 families in the area.
She actively serves her community not only as leader of her tribe, but also as the Regional Agri Fishery Council (RAFC) sectoral chair, voicing out her peoples’ struggles to the DA and government to help affect change in the area.
“Naiboses ko po sa kanila ang mga paghihirap namin bilang magsasaka. Kapag mura ang presyo sa market, lugi kami” she recounts. “Kapag bininibista ang Bicol region ng bagyo, yan halos mangiyak-ngiyak kami kung paano kami makabangon.”
Bridging the gap
Vicky remembers how politics would interfere with the accessibility of programs for farmers, especially for IPs like her. “Noong hindi pa ako kilala sa RAFC, ramdam po ang diskriminasyon sa amin, dahil hindi nakakarating sa amin ang mga programa para sa agri. ‘Yung boses ko po ay isang pamamaraan para po makakuha kami ng iba’t ibang programang direkta para sa amin,” she says.
Due to her strong advocacy and dedication, she was able to bridge the gap between her tribe and the government’s various programs.
“Nagpapasalamat ako sa DA, dahil dinala nila dito sa aking training hall ang mga programs at projects ng Gender and Development (GAD).” Through the DA Region 5’s GAD programs, Vicky and her tribe were able to avail of post-harvest facility, seeds, training and seminars to improve their agri ventures, and the DA also sponsored their participation in trade fairs to market and promote their products.
Aside from her lettuce, tomato, pinakbet vegetables, chili, and fruit bearing trees, Vicky’s farm has a training hall and processing facility, which she uses to further train and employ her fellow farmers, especially the women.
“Sinusuportahan ko talaga sila. Mahiyain ang mga kapwa babae ko dito sa tribo, kaya hinihikayat ko sila para makapag-avail ng mga training, at sinasama ko sila sa mga trade fair ng DA para may dagdag kita sila.”
Vicky was part of the first batch of beneficiaries of the Agricultural Credit Policy Council’s (DA-ACPC) Financial Assistance for Women in Agriculture (AgriPinay) program in Bicol. Under the program, she was able to avail of a P100,000 loan with no interest and no collateral, which she says was a stark contrast to her and her fellow farmers’ experience with informal lenders.
“Sa apat na buwan, halos 50% ang patong nila sa aming utang,” she recounts. “Ibang-iba sa AgriPinay. Ito ay laking tulong talaga sa aming crop production, natutunan ko pa kung paano magsavings para sa mga due na bayaran sa aking loan.”
She explained how the financial literacy programs of the DA and ACPC helped her learn how to manage her finances and savings, not only as a farmer but also as a mother and agripreneur.
“Naka-save na po yung sa loan payment, yung sa pagpapaaral sa aking mga anak, yung sa pagkain—lahat po yan binabadyet ko.”
Vicky says she makes advance payments as she targets to fully repay the loan in 5 years, “Para kung sakali pwede pa akong makapag-avail ulit at makapag-invest ako ulit sa aking crop production.”
She also passes on her positive financial and entrepreneurial mindset to her tribe members, and encourages them to avail of opportunities and manage their finances wisely.
VK’s Farm, which Vicky originally obtained through the Department of Agrarian Reform’s (DAR) Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), is now Organic and Good Agricultural Practices (GAP)-certified, as well as an Agricultural Training Institute (ATI)-accredited learning site.
VK’s Farm products are well-known in the Bicol region for their quality, and Vicky herself has been recognized through various awards, including the Outstanding Rural Woman award in 2017.
“Hindi po ako nagsasawang mag-encourage ng mga kababaihan,” says Vicky. “Yung DA pa mismo ang nagsabi sa akin, ‘Tutulungan ka namin. Wag kang mahiya dahil may kakayahan ka.’”
“Hindi siguro ako mapaparangalan nang ganito kung hindi ako naging magsasaka. Sa aking kapwa magsasaka, mahalin po natin ang pagsasaka. Ang sabi nga po nila, ‘no farmer, no food.’”
Even Vicky’s daughters are inspired by her and her advocacy, as one is taking up Agriculture in college, and both of them contribute to the farm and assist her during trade fairs. “Nagpapasalamat ako sa Diyos dahil mayroong susunod sa aking yapak.”
“Ang pangarap ko, hindi lamang para sa aking pamilya,” she explains. “Ang prinsipyo ko po, kung ano ang meron ako, meron din yung kasama ko sa tribo.”
As Vicky continues to expand and improve her farm for her family and daughters’ futures, she also continues to encourage her fellow women farmers to grow and become successful agripreneurs, and to advocate for better services and programs for her tribe and its future generations—for a lasting legacy for the Agta Tabangnon.