Friday, February 6, 2009

SUCCESS IN ANGELES CITY: Angie Dayon: From Housemaid to Kangkong Queen

For many years, starting in 1980, Angeles Dayon, 54, used to be a housemaid of an American couple at Clark Field in Pampanga. Aside from doing the household chores, she also used to go to Divisoria to buy fruits and vegetables for her lady boss who had a business of supplying food items to clients in the American base.

Perhaps it was her experience in purchasing vegetables that influenced her to go into vegetable production after her bosses left the country after the termination of the US-Philippine bases agreement and hastened by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo in 1991.

Today, the former housemaid is more popularly known as the “Kangkong Queen.”
That’s because she has been the biggest grower of Chinese kangkong, also called upland kangkong, in Angeles City. For more than 10 years now, she has been planting mostly kangkong on four hectares that used to be a garbage dump in Brgy. Anonas, Angeles City. Almost everyday, during peak months, she would deliver a jeepload of kangkong and her other vegetables to customers in Arranque market in Manila. Each jeepload of her harvest could be worth P15,000 or even more.

Lucky in a Way

In a way, Angie who is a native of Ormoc City, has been very lucky because she was able to purchase for ₱5,000 the “rights” for a small lot from the original occupant of the public land that used to be a garbage dump. That’s where she started growing vegetables. Her first crop was bunching onion because a friend had supplied her with a sackful of planting materials at a cost of ₱1,000. She grew the bunching onion into a beautiful crop but the fellow who supplied her the planting materials bought back the crop at only ₱5 per kilo.

She knew that the buyer had put one over her. Nevertheless, she did not complain. Instead, she looked for other vegetables to grow and then also looked for her own market. While most of the other growers disposed their harvests in Divisoria, she chose Arranque market for herself.

It did not take long for Angie to learn the rudiments of growing vegetables and marketing them. Her project grew and grew, and soon the original occupant of the place sold her additional space. She paid ₱50,000 for a space that was almost a hectare. She was then able to grow more vegetables and soon discovered that upland kangkong was most profitable to grow. A few years later, she was able to pay for the four hectares from her income from growing and selling vegetables, particularly kangkong.

Farm Is Spic and Span

Today, the four-hectare property is spic and span. It is level and the vegetable plots are neatly arranged. The soil is friable which is very ideal for growing vegetables. Nine workers are helping Angie produce kangkong and a few other varieties throughout the year.

Upland kangkong offers a number of advantages as a money crop. For one, it is easy to grow from seed. In just 25 to 30 days, the plants are ready for harvesting. The vegetable is also very saleable, especially in Manila. Angie wholesales her harvest at only ₱10 per kilo, yet the profit margin is still significant because the production cost is not much. She pays just ₱170 per kilo of seeds if she gets the seeds from the seed producer; ₱250 per kilo if she buys them from the provincial distributor.

She buys her seeds not just by a few kilos. When we visited her early July (2007), she just ordered 100 kilos of kangkong seeds from the representative of East-West Seed Company. She plants on a staggered basis so that her harvest is continuous.

Although production is continuous, the plants are robust. She says she incorporates a lot of chicken manure in the soil and applies nitrogenous fertilizer, too. Her kangkong plots are narrower than most garden plots, just about 18 inches wide. She likes it that way because the plants are watered manually by means of a sprinkler. The narrow plots ensure that all the plants are adequately watered with just one passing.

Women Harvesters

Aside from providing employment to the gardeners and her driver, Angie also provides work for women in harvesting her kangkong and other vegetables. The kangkong plants are uprooted, cleaned with water and then packed in plastic bags. The harvesters are paid ₱2 per kilo they harvested and packed. Her women harvesters are either Visayans or Ilocanos. She said women from Pampanga don’t seem to like soiling their hands.

She remembers the years 1997 up to a few years later as the glorious years of her kangkong business. There were few growers of upland kangkong then and she could sell virtually any quantity. She could deliver a jeepload everyday and this would not be even enough to meet the demand.

Today, there are probably 30 big suppliers of kangkong and competition is getting more stiff. That is why she has been diversifying so she can be more competitive. Today, she is growing more bunching onion and chives which sell for ₱40 per kilo. Another money maker is Pak Choy, a Chinese pechay, which sells from ₱40 to ₱60 per kilo, depending on the season. Chinese kale is another new money-maker for Angie. Then there is coriander which fetches ₱100 per kilo. She is also trying some varieties of spinach.

Helping Her Relatives

Angie has really gone a long way from her days as a housemaid. Besides giving employment to townmates and other workers, she has been helping in the schooling of her nieces and nephews. Two of them have graduated from college, one a teacher and the other an accountant, who are now gainfully employed. Two others are currently enrolled in college.

She is a hands-on vegetable grower. If she is not delivering her merchandise, she is on her farm observing her plants and supervising the activities of the workers. (Agriculture Magazine, August 2007)☻

No comments:

Post a Comment