San Beda Law graduate Michelle Hatol did not have second thoughts when her father asked her to take on the family business New Isabela Grains Milling, a supplier and advocate of local rice since 1982. Hatol is currently #BrigadangAyalaKaakay’s supplier for its 12-week food distribution program to 10,000 families in Metro Manila.
“Farming is deeply rooted in me since I grew up in Isabela. Bata pa lang ako, nagtitimbang na ako ng palay. Every summer, ang aking vacation is to work with the farmers,” the 36-year-old lawyer said.
Hatol is currently in charge of the company’s sales, marketing, and business development in Manila, while her two brothers oversee their operations in Isabela and Mountain Province. Currently, they have around 200 staff working with over 500 farmers across the region.
“We were given an opportunity to import rice—a lot of times, actually. But we always declined. Because if we do that, we will no longer be able to help our farmers. Karamihan sakanila have been with us since 1982,” she added. “Ang priority talaganamin ay local rice.” Apart from buying rice directly from the farmers, they also provide holistic support programs, including giving out short-term loans and introducing modern farming techniques.
“Madalas binabagyo sa Isabela. Minsan inaabot talaga ng Signal No. 5. And lately, because of tree cutting activities, talagang binabaha iyong mga palayan. Unprecedented ‘yong lalim ng baha,” Hatol said. “Talagang nalulugi ang mga magsasaka. Kailangan, tulong-tulong talaga ang community para makabangon,.” Hatol eventually recruited her college buddy Sandra Aquino to join the family business. Together, they set up an R&D division that reinvents rice. They’re now producing rice flour, bread, and cookies. This, according to Hatol, increases the value of rice and helps farmers find an alternative source of income during typhoon season.
“Ang gusto naminay umangat ang morale ng mga farmers — kaya nilang lumevel sa mga professional. Kapag kinausap mo sila, hindi nila sasabihin na ‘farmer lang ‘yong tatay ko.’ Gusto ko proud sila because what they do is very essential to our daily lives,” Aquino said.
On Monday, BPI President & CEO TG Limcaoco led the distribution of food packs to over 200 families in Navotas. This is part of the #BrigadangAyalaKaakay food distribution program scheduled weekly from November 2021 to February 2022. A total of 10,000 heads of families will receive 12-week’s supply of rice, fresh vegetables, canned goods, and bread that will cover four square meals for a family of five.
“Being able to help feed badly affected families in Metro Manila and at the same time, support local food suppliers and farmers from the provinces is truly a blessing,” said Limcaoco. “At BPI, we look forward to collaborating with the rest of the Ayala group for more meaningful Kaakay projects.” BPI Foundation, the social development arm of BPI also donated 6 wheelchairs, adult diapers, alcohol, and wipes for 11 abandoned elderlies housed in the compound of Tulay ng Kabataan.
According to Limcaoco, BPI has always been supportive of the underserved communities, including the farming community. BPI Foundation’s “Farm to Table” program aims to help increase local farmers’ produce through the latest climate-adaptive technologies to uplift and advance the country’s agricultural sector. Since its launch in 2019, the Farm to Table program has already provided positive impact to over 2,600 farming families with around 13,500 members.
As a rice supplier for Kaakay, Hatol said they now buy over 12,000 sacks of palay from Isabela farmers. “We accept even ‘yong mga naka-motor, naka-tricycle, naka-kuliglig lang na pumupunta sa amin para ibenta ‘yong mga palay nila. Tinatanggap naming kahit 5 or 10 sacks lang. We don’t discriminate,” she said.
“Kaakay has not only helped the marginalized communities, but also those who are currently working perohirap pa rin dahil nabawasan ang work week nila. To me, it’s a very good program because it also supports the local farmers by buying local produce. Double whammy ‘yon ‘di ba?” she added.
#BrigadangAyala serves as the banner under which social development and corporate social responsibility initiatives across the Ayala Group of Companies are implemented. The initiatives covered under #BrigadangAyala range from disaster relief and response, assistance for public education, championing of social enterprises, and public health advocacy, among others.