Finding Simple Joy and Therapy in the Darag Native Chicken
Such is the most appropriate description of a man, Johnny Tagamolila of Bacolod City who has become an avid raiser of the Darag, a strain of native chicken indegenous to Western Visayas. The farmer gentleman in his seventies is a retired bank manager but is still very much active in the business of money lending. But apart from this business, the Tagamolila family also owns 15 hectares(ha) of sugarland and about 3 ha of bangus fishpond located in Himamalayan, Negros Occidental. A successful family man, all his sons are already professionals, two medical doctors and one from the academe. His lovely wife takes pride in caring for him, the household and the family business.
PHYSICAL HANDICAP IS NO EXCUSE TO RAISE NATIVE CHICKEN
Tagamolila is a recent acquaintance of the Livestock Research Division team of the Los Banos-based Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD). He was introduced by the staff of the West Visayas State University (WVSU) which spearheads the native chicken R&D in the region through the S&T Anchor Program for the Philippine Native Chicken being supported by PCARRD.
Tagamolila has become an active cooperator of WVSU and the interaction with the gentleman and the short visit to his farm proved so well that even with a physical handicap due to a problem in the spinal column, raising native chicken could be very successful. He moves around with two canes assisted by a lady caregiver who helps him in his daily routine, particularly in doing monitoring visit and supervision in the farm.
To Tagamolila, just like any Ilonggo either from Iloilo or Negros Occidental, native chicken is always a special fare on the table. It’s a preferred food over the others especially when cooked as ‘tinola’ or chicken ‘inasal’. Thus when he bought a dozen Darag native chicken (10 pullets and 2 roosters) from Iloilo, his passion for this strain of native chicken started. Initially, he multiplied the chicken in his farm purposely for home consumption. Later on, the native chicken became specialty gifts for the family `amigos and parientes’ during special occasions or on special request, who also share the same liking for “manok bisaya.”
COMMERCIALIZING THE NATIVE CHICKEN
In almost two years since he started the native chicken hobby, Tagamolila already raises over 200 head of mature and seemingly “pure Darag chicken” as shown by the uniform plumage of the birds. The birds are raised only with minimal supervision by a farmhand.
Tagamolila mentioned that until recently, he never thought that one can really derive income from native chicken. But when he started receiving inquiries and orders for hardened chicks or ready-to-lay pullets, then he realized that raising native chicken can become a small or medium size business. For hacienderos it can be an alternative economic option for farm workers during off milling season when economic activity is lean. Recently, the office of the governor of Negros Occidental ordered from him several hundred native chickens for a livelihood project. However, the order was declined because he cannot supply the desired number of stocks. Another big order from Iloilo significant number was also declined for the same reason.
The old man, however, admits that his setup is still far from ideal and he still has to do improvements in his farm, particularly in keeping mortality at acceptable leveh ; and in increasing egg production and hatchability in order to increase his stocks. But his intention to go commercial is very evident in the way he asked for more information and technology to improve his production system. He is happy that WVSU is assisting him in terms of improving his farm practices and PCARRD gives him hope that his aspiration to upgrade his current level of production to commercial level is within reach.
SIMPLE JOY FROM SIMPLE THINGS
Compared to the current business the Tagamolilas are involved in like fish farming, sugarcane farming, lending, etc., the economic returns from native chicken is a mere minuscule in fact very insignificant. To this, he can only say, “At the moment at this point of my life, any small thing or any positive effect on simple intervention that I implement and would result in better survival of my Darag chicks for instance, gives me immense happiness.” And that, he said, is more important than what money can buy or even getting a good income from sugarcane and fishpond.
“The simple joys that the native chickens give me as I see them very healthy and alert, quite uniform in color, and surround me with excitement in a flurry every time I arrive in the farm and throw grains on the ground; the reputation I am getting as a source of good quality stocks for Darag, the friends from WVSU who periodically visit, the new friends I meet like the PCARRD staff, the UPV professors, and people from the local government units, are giving me the desired therapeutic effect, strength and psychological satisfaction to ease up my incapacity. For that I could not ask for more,” he added.
Johnny Tagamolila dropped us off Bacolod airport clasping with him a folded sheet of paper where Dr. Syrian Baguio indicated his recommendations hoping that it will give the old man more simple joys as he anticipates better production of the Darag chicken. The group bade goodbye to the old man hoping to see him soonest in the future.