Apl.de.Ap plants a tree in Brooke's Point.

The adage “look back to where you came from and pay it forward” sums up the philosophy that international celebrity Apl.de.Ap adheres to. Recently, he has been frequently visiting Palawan with a new group of friends who share his dream of venturing into agriculture.

Growing up in Barangay Sapang Bato, Angeles City, Pampanga, Apl.de.Ap, or Alan Pineda Lindo in real life, came from a farming family. He said that farming was their livelihood during his young years, and he had always wanted to get back into farming, particularly to learn the trade of modern-day practices in agriculture.

“My first vision was flying drones to apply fertilizer,” he shared to Palawan News in an interview during his most recent visit to the province, where he also met with a group of indigenous peoples (IP) in Brooke’s Point town.

During his visit, which coincided with the Earth Day celebration, Apl.de.Ap planted coffee and interacted with the IP community in Brgy. Oring-Oring. He and a group of friends from Palawan are planning to jumpstart a project that aims to help the local tribal farming community transition to organic farming.

As additional assistance to the farming communities, he also distributed seeds of different crops donated by Rep. Sam Versoza of Tutok to Win partylist.

He said that after learning about some problems not only in Palawan but globally, such as soil shortage, he felt the need to take action.

“Since I’m a farmer, I felt like it was part of my responsibility to do something about it and spread the word,” Apl.de.Ap said.

“And so my team introduced me to some of these amazing scientists–Gero, Philipp and Peter and Arnold. They introduced me to an ancient technology, which is a regenerative soil creating ecosystem from our surroundings, and applying it into the soil to create bigger and better crops without the use of too much chemicals,” he narrated.

When he saw the amazing application and technology, he wanted to get involved and learn more about it. He also believed that the technology could help farmers in the future to plant healthier crops

The international rap sensation further stated that spreading the word about how the technology works is essential.

“It just really connected with my next goal after music which is farming so I’ve been learning about it and I’ve seen some results and now we’ve started planting here so I can’t wait for the crops to grow and see the results,” he said.

He also explained that they chose Brooke’s Point as the location for the project because the town has a large quantity of materials needed for the technology.

Retirement plans
Apl.de.Ap further stated that while he wants to work with the indigenous community on the project and commune with nature in Palawan, he also wants to influence people’s minds about the technology. This motivation is what keeps him coming back to the province.

And more importantly, he said that he found Palawan to be a paradise and expressed his desire to stay here permanently.

“To really show how it works, you know, people like to see evidence and proof to really follow so that’s why it takes more than one visit to do that,” he said.

“And maybe at some point, maybe I might live here, retire here,” he added.

Reacting to the “come back, come back”, or “kambak, kambak” syndrome of Palawan, he said the province has got everything he wanted that would make him want to stay. The phrase is a popular expression in the province. It is often used to encourage tourists or visitors to return, indicating the warmth and friendliness of the locals.

“I think that’s what it is. Everything is here, from agriculture, to water, beautiful sceneries. I really would like to be involved in the preservation of Palawan and help the community, the farmers. The farmers should be the rockstars because when something happen in agriculture, farmers are the first to be affected and we really like to help them,” he said.

“So this won’t be my last time, I’ll be going back to Palawan over and over. Let’s get all involved in protecting our soil,” he said in conclusion.

IP community beneficiaries
Lourdes Palampisi, chairwoman of the Katutubo Perlas Panglima Pisi Cooperative and Lupa Weavers (KPPPCLW), said the project will bring significant benefits to their community.

Her group is among the beneficiaries of the project, along with the association of Palaw’an tribes of Brooke’s Point and several other local farmers association.

Palampisi said they already have several projects lined up to improve the quality of crops that the IP communities are planting by avoiding synthetic fertilizers, which they cannot afford due to their high prices.

“Kaya napakalaking bagay sa amin ito at tulong na ibinibigay sa amin nila Apl, ni Gero Tan, Arnold Alagar, na makatulong sa mga katutubo na mapadali ang proseso kung paano kami magtanim na mapakinabangan naming sa lalong madaling panahon (This is a huge thing for us, and the help given to us by Apl, Gero Tan, Arnold Alagar will assist the indigenous people in simplifying the process of how we plant, so that we can benefit from it as soon as possible),” she said.

Palampisi recognized that the establishment of their cooperative almost 20 years ago has brought significant changes to the lives of the indigenous people in the area. However, more help is needed to further uplift their living conditions and alleviate them from poverty.

“Malaki ang naging pagbabago kasi actually noong una, ang mga katutubo takot pag-aralin ang mga anak nila, dala ng kahirapan. Siyempre lalakarin nila ang bundok pababa, wala man lang pamasahe, isa yun sa dahilan kung bakit hindi nakakapag-aral ang mga bata (There has been a big change because actually at first, the indigenous people were afraid to send their children to school due to poverty. Of course, they would have to walk down the mountain without any transportation fare, and that’s one of the reasons why children were unable to attend school),” Palampisi explained.

Despite this, she was able to gradually persuade them to send their children to school so that they can have a brighter future.

The tribal leader further stated that although they need assistance from the government, she also understands that there is not enough funding for them to depend on.

“Hindi pwedeng habang-buhay na lang tayo nandyan lang sa bundok paikot-ikot. Kailangan tayong matuto makisalamuha sa tao sa pamamagitan ng pag-aaral, doon natin makukuha kung paano tayo makikipag kapwa tao,” she said.

“Actually, pag may mga problema humihingi kami ng tulong sa kanila, binibigyan naman kami. Pero syempre dahil ang gobyerno ay wala rin talagang pondo para dito, limited din (Actually, when we have problems, we ask for help from them and they do give us aid. But of course, since the government doesn’t really have enough funds for this, it is also limited),” she noted.

Palampisi added that the cooperative is lucky enough that its women members are into weaving that gives them additional income to support their daily needs.

Additional source of income
Noting that the minimum wage in the province alone is not enough to support a family, she said the extra income of the women through weaving somehow eases their burden.

“[At least] meron na silang pangkonsumo, pambili ng bigas at pamasahe ng mga anak nila (they now have funds for their consumption, to buy rice, and for their children’s transportation expenses),” she said.

Government intervention
Palampisi then said that while she acknowledges the shortage of government funds, she is still hoping that they will get extra help which she said will be a big boost to their livelihood.

She also said whatever form of help would be highly appreciated.

“Kami na namumuno dito, sinseridad ang pagtulong at walang inaantay na kapalit. Yung puso, yung damdamin kung paano namin nakikita ang kabuhayan ng mga katutubo, yun ang nagdadala sa amin kung paano ka-eager na tumulong sa kanila (We who are leading here, help with sincerity and without expecting anything in return. It is the heart and the emotions of how we see the livelihood of the Indigenous Peoples that drives us to be eager to help them),” she said.

“So, kung meron pang concerned na pwedeng tumulong kahit hindi pinansyal, at least kahit anong bagay na makakatulong, napakalaking bagay (So, if there are still people concerned who can help even without financial assistance, at least anything that can help is a big thing),” she added.

Benefits from Apl.de.ap’s advocacy
Moreover, Palampisi said she is looking forward to the sustainability of the project, which Apl.de.Ap is pioneering.

She said that although they have implemented several interventions, the farmer communities of Brooke’s Point will definitely experience an improvement in their financial situation with increased income and reduced expenses.

“Mas maganda kung masustine namin itong proyekto na ito, yung pagtatanim ng gulay at pag-develop nitong organic fertilizer ay napakalaking ginhawa sa amin kasi hindi na kami bibili pa ng kung anu-ano (It would be better if we could sustain this project, the cultivation of vegetables and the development of organic fertilizer, as it would greatly alleviate our burden because we would no longer need to buy various things),” she remarked.