May 20 is World Bee Day! Bees deserve to be recognized for how hard they work for our planet as its primary pollinator and their role in the biodiversity which humans depend on for survival.
Aside from keeping our environment alive, bees also produce plenty of products that humans enjoy, such as honey and beeswax, which can be processed into other products which are both healthy and helpful.
The rearing of bees is called apiculture, and it’s a profitable venture for plenty of farmers in the Philippines. Beekeeping can be done almost anywhere, whether it be on a farm, in one’s backyard, or even in the middle of the city.
In honor of World Bee Day, here are four beekeepers who care for and work with bees:
John Patrick Maliwat aka The Millennial Beekeeper
From a tricycle driver to a successful beekeeper, that’s the story of John Patrick Maliwat of Nagcarlan, Laguna.
From a tricycle driver to being the Millennial Beekeeper, Maliwat enjoys his beefarming career in Nagcarlan. (John Patrick Maliwat)
Maliwat had been a tricycle driver for four years before he decided he needed to find a career that could better support the needs of his family, particularly to support his father’s dialysis.
A friend encouraged him to learn beekeeping as there were many opportunities abroad to work as a beekeeper. Maliwat took his friend’s advice and spent his savings to attend multiple beekeeping training sessions to fully learn the skill.
However, his hopes to go abroad had been dashed by the arrival of the Covid-19 virus in the Philippines, and travel restrictions had been imposed. Maliwat was initially discouraged, but then thought that since he had gained the skills necessary, why not start a bee farm in Nagcarlan?
Maliwat started from a single bee colony (complete beehive), and over time, his farm has grown to have ten colonies of European honeybees and about 300 colonies of stingless bees in seven different locations in Nagcarlan. He is now a full-time bee farmer and is even a consultant to other bee farms. Maliwat is now known by many as the Millennial Beekeeper.
There are several bee by-products that Maliwat derives from bee farming – honey, bee pollen, and propolis.
Maliwat quoted Albert Einstein, saying, “If the bee disappeared off the face of the Earth, Man would only have for years left to live,” he said. “‘Not only that bee farming helps nature, but it also provides income.”
Toby Tamayo of the Lotus Valley Farm
Before establishing the Lotus Valley Farm, Toby Tamayo was already a professional beekeeper.
Tamayo revived the land of the Lotus Valley Farm to become a thriving environment not just for bees, but for all kinds of wildlife.
However, Tamayo didn’t settle being just a beekeeper. Upon seeing the poor state of the five-hectare land he acquired in 2005, Tamayo made it his goal to revive it.
Using his knowledge and experience in permaculture, Tamayo started planting native trees including fruit-bearing species on the slopes of the mountain. He also practiced assisted regeneration, which means he did not clear the existing vegetation but let it grow while intercropping proper trees and plants.
Tamayo’s efforts were not in vain because soon his land had become a thriving forest farm that was filled with different crops, wildlife that previously evacuated had returned, and it had especially become a wonderful environment for bees.
The Lotus Valley Farm employs organic and sustainable practices, and that includes how they harvest honey from their bees. Their practices had led their honey to become in demand for high-end consumers.
While he had his success as a beekeeper, it was good that Tamayo didn’t settle. His efforts have proven his appreciation for nature, he was able to revive a land while making it profitable, and has given his bees a better home to do their noble work.
Mark Anthony Moncayo of the Honey House Honeybee Farm
Bees don’t just provide honey and beeswax, but they’re also a great way to attract tourists.
That’s how the Honey House Honeybee Farm makes use of their bees. The farm was established in 2016 by Mark Anthony Moncayo and his father.
Aside from selling the bees’ by-products, they’ve also marketed their bee farm to be a tourist spot. Their farm is located in Lipa, Batangas, and is relatively close to the beaches and other tourist spots in the city.
Their farm is on a 400 sqm land just at the back of their home. Despite the small size, Moncayo realized that there were plenty of people interested in the bees, so they took the opportunity to advertise their farm to be a good place to witness the bees work. Visitors are able to drop by and take a tour of the bee farm and learn about them face-to-face.
The Honey House Honeybee Farm set up demo boxes that make it safe for people to get close and see the bees. (Mark Anthony Moncayo)
The Honey House Honeybee Farm set up demo boxes in the farm for guests to get close to the bees without the risk of being stung or bitten. They also offer free samples of their products, which are honey, honey cider vinegar, and honeycombs.
Of course, like most agribusinesses, there were a lot of challenges the Moncayo family had to overcome. But despite the ups and downs, Moncayo is proud to have been a beekeeper for the past seven years. “What’s enjoyable about beekeeping is seeing your customers happy when they see the bees, “ he said. “At the same time, they could taste our products. Then they would say that they would be back with their family to taste the honey.”
Mac Bergonio of Los Pepes Farm
After taking up BS Marine Transportation and working on a yacht for almost ten years, becoming a beekeeper was a turn of events that Mac Bergonio didn’t expect.
Mac Bergonio is a former seaman that turned to beekeeping. (Jerome Sagcal)
Bergonio aspired to be a sea captain, but his loss of hearing in one ear had unfortunately disqualified him from the position. He returned to land to start afresh and soon was introduced to stingless beekeeping from his father-in-law.
Bergonio’s father-in-law took an interest in stingless bees and hunted for them in Indang, Cavite, but by 2014 he had moved to caring for native ducks and gave the bees to Bergonio while teaching him everything necessary for their care.
He picked up on it easily, and soon Bergonio established the Los Pepes Farm, a farm that sells raw honey, pollen granules, lip balm, throat spray, and other products that could be derived from propolis.
Aside from their products, what makes the Los Pepes Farm unique are the creative structures that the bees had their home in. Bergonio had built beehives that are shaped like a ship and a minibus, while also having hives made from upcycled materials such as an old chair, an electric post, and even a school trolley.
Incorporating his past as a seaman, Bergonio built a beehive that looks like a ship. (Jerome Sagcal)
For Bergonio, bees can live anywhere and constructing beehives either through old material or natural casings allows him to care for more bees. Due to their unconventional and creative hives, visiting the Los Pepes Farm is akin to visiting a bee museum, which is a unique experience in itself.
Bees are one of the busiest workers in the world, and their work is critical for the planet’s survival. Aside from giving them their due appreciation, beekeepers who work with bees and give them the best and healthiest environment are also worth giving recognition to.
We hope your honey tastes a bit sweeter today! Happy World Bee Day!