Merco Obas is from the hills of San Carlos, Negros Occidental. He belongs to the Bukidnon Organic Farmers Association and the Iliran Tribal Council. Both groups till the soil of the same mountaintop.
In 2015, a year before we met him, Merco’s house, and everything it, burned to the ground. Merco was left homeless with just P50 to his name. Thankfully, the farmers’ group he belongs to came to his aid. They let him and his family live in their training center while he was getting back on his feet. Merco also received assistance from the local government as well as from some of his regular customers.
There was just enough to replenish his family’s clothes and purchase basic farming supplies. Merco put his last few pesos and all his hopes into a crop of squash. He hoped to rebuild his life from the harvest.
The Start of Something Good
Harvest day came and Merco’s crop was beautiful! The yield was good and Merco excitedly anticipated his expected gains. Alas, he had no buyers! Frustrated, Merco considered leaving for Manila to try his luck there.
But things were about to change for the better! Around that time, NVC Foundation received an order for dehydrated vegetables from Stop Hunger Now. One thing they asked for was squash. Though we had to source several tons of it, we had no idea who to turn to.
It was the late Marivic Rio who acted as a bridge between NVC and Merco. Noting Merco’s despair, she told him to pray to God for His love never fails. Soon after, we called Marivic and begged her to help us find a squash supplier. God had answered Merco’s call right away and ours as well!
Thanks to Marivic, Merco never left for Manila. He soon began regularly supplying us with squash and the rest is history.
The House that Squash Built
Merco and his group of 60 Indigenous Peoples farming their ancestral domain in the mountains are now among the NVC production plant’s most reliable suppliers. Business was thriving and in 2016, Merco was able to build a cozy blue house with his earnings from squash farming.
Left: bearing his crop, Merco stands in front of the training center that temporarily housed his family
Right: The House that Squash Built
Bigger and Better Blessings
The blue house is certainly a blessing, but this is not the end of Merco’s story! A bigger cement structure, with a provision for a second floor, is now under construction right across from the little blue house. And this house is being built with Merco’s earnings not just from squash, but a variety of other vegetables he’s been cultivating. The new house is being built slowly, a portion at a time. Someday, the man who was once homeless will call this structure his home.
During our last visit, Merco proudly pointed to structure and exclaimed, “That is because of NVC!” While it would be nice to take all the credit, we certainly cannot claim this achievement! We are happy to have been part of this journey, but so many others were part of it, too.
We would like to acknowledge Stop Hunger Now for supporting local farmers like Merco. They could have easily imported vegetables but they chose to buy Filipino. We also send our thanks to OurFood for training these farmers to grow crops naturally. They are the first small farmers group in the Philippines to receive accreditation for Good Farming Practices. Thank you as well to the hundreds of donors who support TheFeedingForce project by sponsoring mealbags and veggie bags. These contain produce from Merco and his fellow farmers. And of course, our sincere thanks go out to the countless sponsors of millions of Mingo Meals which also contain the farmers’ produce.
Ultimately, the credit should go to Merco for his hard work and dedication, and to God who always helps those who help themselves. Marivic Rio is probably smiling from up above, watching over Merco and his squash plants in his field of dreams. One last thank you to her for introducing Merco to NVC.