She is often the most soft-spoken and understated person in the room. She isn’t given to grand entrances or large entourages like the majority of politicians in the Philippines. She is ma’am, lawmaker, tita, mom , wife and agriculture advocate rolled into one feisty petite dynamo called Cynthia Villar.
Her own family has long been steeped in public service and politics, with both her parents serving as mayor and congresswoman of Las Pinas in the 60s. Cynthia, it would seem was the one least inclined to public life…a reluctant politician but the one with the most capability I would dare to say.
A graduate of Business Administration from UP ( where she met her husband Manny), she proceeded to finish her Masters at New York University and then plunged into the corporate world as financial analyst for Philippine Shares Corporation. She was also a professor at Far Eastern University and then eventually helped her husband build the Villar conglomerate that they have today. She also co-founded the Villar SIPAG foundation and sits as managing director.
As long as I’ve known her , even when she wasn’t in public service, Cynthia always had a soft spot for the agricultural sector…after all, she relates “ our farmers have fed us all these years but they are the largest sector living in poverty”.
Cynthia laments that our farmers earn a paltry Php150 a day or Php4,500 a month, much lower than the poverty threshold of Php5,000 a month. “ I have always believed that our farmers and fisherfolk are the primary players in our bid to sustain food security. We should do everything we can to improve their living conditions.”
Early last year she witnessed the graduation of the first batch of trainees on vegetable production under the Urban Gardening for Food Security , a joint project of the Villar SIPAG Foundation ( Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) and Macondray Plastics Products Inc. Participants were composed of 100 farmer trainees from all over the country. They all converged at the 4 hectar Villar SIPAG farm school in Kaypian, San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. The farm school has facilities for vermin-composting, kitchen waste composting, a greenhouse, a well as equipment to start native livestock ( chicken and swine) and aquaculture of red tilapia.
She also spearheaded the launching of the Agriculture Training Institution (ATI) and Climate Smart Farms Business School module, a curriculum promoted and endorsed by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The modules aim to improve the agri sector and boost the inclusive growth of farmers by teaching and training them to operate their family farms as business enterprises to increase their income potential.
Imagine Cynthia’s surprise when , at a recent Harvest Fair sponsored by the DA ( Department of Agriculture) at Central Square in BGC, Raffy Teraoca Dacones of Teraoka Family Farms proudly told her that he was a graduate of her 12 week agricultural training program.
The young Raffy came home in 2015 from Tokyo where he worked as an interior designer. He admits to being inspired by the senator as well as learning so much about farming from her. Teraoka is a 100% organic farm run by Raffy and his siblings. “ We need more young people like him to take up the cudgels for farming.”, said Cynthia. We teased the senator that she is bringing the “sexy” back to farming. And that is definitely a good thing!
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I’ve been gone for a while from this space…my apologies dear readers and to our publisher. With much trepidation and happiness, my family and I are going through (and approaching) some major milestones that have taken up much of my time and energy. I hope to share some them with you all in next few months. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I’d love to hear from you…email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow me on Instagram @lemonadeideas .