Jie Anne, a petite lady with a great aspiration in life had been dreaming of having a land of her own since she was seven years old.
It is because, at her tender age, she already bore life’s hardships as she helped her father till and cultivate somebody else’s farmland in Villa Cerveza, Victoria in the province of Oriental Mindoro.
Now 24 years old, Jie Anne M. Villacrusis of Barangay Alcate, recalled that in order to survive poverty, she and her five (5) siblings had to help their father work on farmland to make ends meet.
“I was too young to be exposed to the real-life difficulties of farming where I and my siblings’ routine were to forage in the woods just to help our family source out available food for us to have something to eat,” she shared.
She revealed that sharing a piece of bread and two (2) noodles or boiled bananas was their usual meal to quench their hunger.
“I have seen my father’s backbreaking work on a leased farmland, yet we were still poor since he couldn’t take home all the farm yields’ earnings because he needs to pay for the rentals and other farm expenses,” Jie Anne said.
She added that they helped their father in the day-to-day maintenance of the farm which has made her young and lithe body get used to toiling the lands, doing the fences, and tending to the upkeep of farm tools.
Because of this, she promised herself that one day she would buy land for her father and her family. And having the opportunity to be sent to school gave her a glimpse of hope to realize this promise.
“Being the youngest, me and the 4th sibling, who’s also my only sister, were fortunate enough to continue our study. Unlike my four brothers, who were already grown-ups, they failed to finish their studies because they needed to help my father full-time and they already have families of their own,” she disclosed.
Jie Anne murmured that she had to face numerous financial struggles during those times as a student having a family with very limited resources.
“We lacked money for the school expenses like the tuition fee, renting of computers, school projects, and many other things. Our parents worked doubly hard and were always looking for people that would loan them the money for those expenses,” she said.
She revealed that she and her sister persevered and would even go to school on an empty stomach so that they could attend their classes.
“In my 4th year of college, my struggle continued but I never failed to pursue my dream of getting a degree in agriculture. I finished all my school projects including my thesis and defended it successfully amid the difficulty of having limited resources or the lack of it like books and computers,” she continued.
She acknowledged that she overcame those problems by believing that the key to achieving all her dreams in life would start when she finished her formal education.
“After those grueling experiences, I finally graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture major in Crop Science,” she exclaimed.
Jie Anne proudly said she graduated in 2019 from Mindoro State University (MinSU) and dedicated her accomplishment to her parents.
On January 17, 2022, three years after she graduated, her dreams of owning land came true after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) awarded her 8,900 square meters of agricultural land.
Through Executive Order No. 75, series of 2019, and DAR Administrative Order No.03, Series of 2020, all qualified Agriculture graduate applicants could be awarded agricultural lands. She was one among the 220 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs), in the said province, who received lands from the department, which was held in MinSU Campus Auditorium.
“There were times when we talked about the milestones of accomplishment we had as a family, we often cry especially when we remember how our family dealt with our struggles. I am forever grateful for the blessings that the DAR has given me as the lands I received open a lot of opportunities for me and my family,” she exclaimed.
DAR Secretary Conrado M. Estrella III believes that true social justice is to make good use of the lands given to the farmers.
Estrella, a former congressman, and ABONO party-list representative, for years, has already been championing the farmers’ rights prior to his appointment as the department’s secretary.
“We will continue to empower our ARBs by providing them all the necessary support services they need to ensure their success in their career as the food-provider of the country,” Estrella said.
Being a true believer in DAR’s crusade in boosting the agriculture sector, Jie Anne, now an active member of the Muravilla ARB and Irrigators Organization (MARBIO) of Barangay Alcate, said that she would help her fellow farmers. “Being a daughter of one, farming is inducted in my blood that my heart goes out to them.”
“I am 100% sure that I will achieve all my dreams. I am an Agriculture graduate, I have the total support of my family, the full support of the DAR officials and personnel such as Regional Director Marvin Bernal, Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officers Rogelio Madarcos and Isagani Placido, and most of all the hope that DAR Secretary Estrella brings to small farmers like me,” she exclaimed.