Thinker, sailor, soldier, farmer | The Manila Times
Navy captain swaps white duck for farmer’s coverall
“Sabi ko why not start farming early when you have the agility and the strength, and all the energy to be passionate about it and tweak the business model. Instead of keeping the techniques to myself, I wanted to share it.”
SO goes the roll of professions in a British counting rhyme — “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Sailor …” The chant designates the “it” of a game. This article tweaks it to reflect the everyman in Navy Capt. Troy Bumagat.
He was destined to be an agricultural engineer. It was almost genetic. Both his parents are agriculturists and research academics from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños (UPLB).
Bumagat followed the succession for a year, but his precocious 16-year-old independent mind then had some questions.
“I was not quite sold on the discipline,” he recalled. “Maybe [being] rebellious? Because my parents graduated from there, and sabi ko, anong gagawin ko? Will I be following in their footsteps? Magtuturo din ba ako?”
He could have been discounting all that internalized agriculture. The taxonomy of cash crops and household vegetables, for a childhood spent in a university town (Los Baños), could have been his own counting rhyme.
He was near the earth, despite temporarily abandoning its tilling. Taking the longer route to his current success, Bumagat set off for the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) in Baguio. He was pulsing with options at his youth. It had taken nothing more than peer pressure and “the void that I felt” for him to submit to the rigorous entrance examinations.
He was called to report to the AFP Medical Center for a medical checkup in 1991. He decided to abandon agricultural engineering, which he was studying in UPLB. He couldn’t have held out for long.
Troy Bumagat’s scientific approach to building his farm turned him into a foot soldier of the best agricultural practices and
innovation. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS
Thus, he donned the uniform of another calling. “Technical din naman ang PMA,” he affirmed. And in the academy, he got his training in planning, intelligence and business.
The rise up in the ranks in the Philippine Navy, the constancy, snappy will and self-sacrificing courage that entailed, did not plug the void indefinitely. In the end, he knew how much his three growing daughters were suffering as he roved the country following the call of duty.
Seventy percent of the time he was thrown into the waters. The free minded captain had dropped anchor on the Kalayaan Island Group. He paid his dues in conflict areas, even during President Joseph Estrada’s all-out war in the south. Then he took up posts at the desk, as an administrative officer for the Department of National Defense under Secretary Gilberto “Gibo” Teodoro Jr.’s first stint.
Between all this, he would make the trip back to his daughters in the province. He would fly into Tacloban and negotiate the homestretch by two-hour land trips.
He retired from the service at 38 years old. Retirement to most sounds like an end game. For the country’s uniformed personnel, it’s a well-deserved cradle of stability and contentment. Captain Bumagat, on the other hand, had merely reached land.
The land, incidentally, was a farm property of his in-laws.
“It occurred to me that this property could be an avenue for a fresh start with my family. Something deep inside was burning to start a passion project with [them],” he said. The introspective episode brought up the rhymes of his childhood. His affinity for farming could be plumbed back into his childhood days among rice fields and familiar vegetables.
He wanted his daughters to get to know the same kicking up and rummaging through dirt that was food production. “It was a bonding avenue, a place for the weekends,” Bumagat concluded. “We were apart, but in time, we will become a family again.”
So he bought them tools and trays. It was child’s play for a natural farmer like the captain. But at the root, he took on an earnest seriousness, of the kind that obsesses plans in toolsheds. The “reams of bond paper” it took to plan his first building for growing poultry were shed according to the whirring of his technical and inquisitive mind.
“I read a lot, I experimented a lot on the farm on projects, applying what I had read about the night before,” he explained. One could imagine his initial training as an agricultural engineer being wheeled back into the core competencies hardened into him by military school.
Perhaps it was the discipline of the academy. The captain navigated his farm venture with an unflinching compass — thorough research aligned with the clear outline of his short-, mid- and long-term goals.
So much so that the plaudits flowed shortly after he struck the first nail. He had the foresight to go into his own production of organic fertilizers and vermiculture prior to building his poultry farm.
“There will come a time I will be producing lots and lots of organic waste,” he thought aloud, “and if I don’t put a solution on this, I will be left damaging the environment, creating pollution and causing troubles with the neighbor.”
The scientific method brought him commercial-level production within a year. His farm was churning 2,000 kilos of compost every month, “and at the time, wala pa akong assistance from the Department of Agriculture!” he added.
It could have been hard to look past his speedy success, and the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) took notice. He was invited to the Vermiculture Congress conducted by the agency to present his farm practices. Ten minutes after wrapping up his last slide, he was elected president of the federation composed of beneficiaries of BSWM’s facilities for rapid composting techniques.
Soldier of innovation
Ever the civil servant at his still young age, Bumagat’s scientific approach to building his farm turned him into a foot soldier of the best agricultural practices and innovation for the government.
“Sabi ko why not start farming early when you have the agility and the strength, and all the energy to be passionate about it and tweak the business model,” he said. “Instead of keeping the techniques to myself, I wanted to share it.”
He volunteers his time to knowledge-sharing at every turn. He considers himself strategically placed to speak about the microclimate in Tacloban and the other agricultural particularities of Region 8 (Eastern Visayas).
In 2017, GoNegosyo’s Ginggay Hontiveros-Malvar invited him to be a focal person in the Kapatid AgriMentor Me Camp of the Philippine Center for Entrepreneurship.
His first building devoted to poultry rose up in 2008. Since then, he has notched successes in poultry farming that caught more attention from the government. He had landed a contract with a big integrator, and he found his farm, Trophy Farms, figuring in the top ranks of producers based on performance.
“You’re playing by the rules of integrators. You kind of give yourself the chance to define the priority, which factors in poultry farming [to focus on], what would be the maximum effects of the intervention,” he explained.
And if playing by the rules served him in good stead in the navy, he followed his own as a farmer-entrepreneur. Bumagat might have built his previous career around regimens, but he plots his moves around his farm as a master tactician with his own mind. To the effect that his farm became a breeding ground of innovation.
The preparation expedited the payoff. Two years before he retired from the military, he was already studying climate-controlled systems. He buttonholed friends who were structural engineers, mulled the materials and building types suitable to the climate of Region 8, turned over ad infinitum feasibilities and pitfalls in his head.
Nothing passed him by. He was dissatisfied with the quality of day-old chicks arriving in his farm. So he intercepted the cause: rundown delivery trucks. He promptly asked the integrator if he could invest in a fleet of high-quality trucks.
“I was methodical! Nilista ko eight or nine factors of poultry farming affecting productivity and efficiency. And I was able to apply proper interventions,” he shared.
His farm innovations ranged from a UV (ultraviolet) light filtration system guaranteeing the quality of drinking water for the chicks to a biomass setup that slashed dependence on LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) for heating by about 60 percent.
His brand of innovation thereafter did not go unnoticed. In 2016, he was handpicked by the Department of Science and Technology (DoST) as “Best DoST Setup Adaptor,” and it wasn’t an award he was even conscious of qualifying for. He merely did the needful in his farm — from introducing innovative interventions and relentlessly improving efficiency to generating jobs through steady enterprise expansion.
His farm had succumbed to the ravages of the notorious Super Typhoon “Yolanda.” For a while, Captain Bumagat exited the drawing board and plied the ground to rally for his farm’s survival.
Electricity had to be restored; he needed financial aid to rehabilitate his farm. But farms weren’t a priority for first responses.
In a sense, Bumagat experienced the plight of many Filipino farmers following natural disasters.
That was when DoST stepped in and lent him P1 million to be part of the adopter Setup (for Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program), which assists MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) in boosting their technical capacities.
While most beneficiaries of Setup invest in processing machines, Bumagat thinks “sticking to grassroots issues” in his farm and adopting innovations to address such made him stand out from 400 regional winners.
He didn’t need the award to be a full-fledged farmer. There was something else moving him to go beyond poultry farming and expand the scope of his farm into a fully integrated one, with native hogs, mushrooms, camote, yellow corn and hydroponically grown vegetables.
Trophy Farms has now gone into purple yams (ube).
“‘Nung bata kami, ‘yung lolo and auntie ko during Christmas, gagawa kami ng halaya. It was the men, the boys! Parang rite of passage ‘yan. Magmula sa pag-boil, sa pag-knead, sa pag grate, sa paggiling, sa paghalo ng halaya, hanggang bisperas ng pasko. It’s the boys of the family saka ‘yung uncles namin ang nagtuturo sa amin ng halaya,” he recalled fondly.
This time, affect and not the hard sciences, added the farming plume on the everyman’s cap.
What makes you angry?
Wastages, inefficiency, unproductive farmlands, not being able to give feedback.
What motivates you to work hard?
I experienced a life earlier with nothing. So I clawed my way to have an education first at UP and then at PMA, and when I was raising my family, I got inspired of the thought to provide my family the comfort that I didn’t have when I was small, and now the freedom of having options and choices, and that dictating principle to earn an honest days from honesty and hard work.
What makes you laugh the most?
Reminiscing academy days and how we get close of getting caught and “taking life.”
What did you want to be when you were small?
I can vividly recall when I was small, I used to draw battleships, boats and the sketch of what I thought of Gen. Douglas MacArthur with his pipe, so when I was growing up I kinda followed that thought which became a dream. But guess I drew a lot of farms and animals, too, don’t you think? Because I’m a farmer now.
What would you do if you won the lotto?
Build a road, a church and a happy place. I guess the best things that happen is when we travel, when we are in solitude and when we have the fleeting moment inside.
If you could share a meal with any individual, living or dead, who would they be?
Either of my grandfather whom I didn’t spend much time with as an adult. I would want to know the way their lives were raising the family, pursuing career/farming and why the Philippines was different in that era.
What’s the most daring thing you’ve ever done?
I invested my life for the service of the Filipino people when I decided to join the military … Then I invested my whole pension to recover and rebuild our farm from the damages of Super Typhoon “Yolanda.”
What was the last book you read?
“Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
What celebrity would you like to meet for a cup of coffee?
Denzel Washington. He is just an astonishing person. I’m amazed by his philosophies.
What is one thing you will never do again?
Become plebe again in PMA.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
About passing on the leadership of our corporation to one of our children and preparing to retire, and enjoy life and travel.