BURGOS, Ilocos Norte, Feb. 8 – While her neighbors were planting the usual Ilocano cash crops, Edita Dacuycuy was quietly cultivating an odd-looking, round-shaped fruit covered with red overlapping scales in her backyard.
In this town where the fruit became a testament of wealth, Ilocandia’s “red gold” is set on cactus-like trees plotted on farm beds that sit beside common Ilocano crops like corn, rice and garlic.
The farm plots leading to Ilocos Region’s first dragon fruit plantation are owned by locals who have started their own fruit farm following the success of this town’s most outstanding farmer, by far.
“I didn’t want my neighbors to know what I was doing until I was sure I could grow the dragon fruit,” Dacuycuy, popularly known in the community as the “Dragon Lady,” said.
She was introduced to the fruit by a friend who knew of Dacuycuy’s difficulty in finding ways to relieve her daughter Kate’s constipation problems, a condition that is common to patients with cerebral palsy. Dacuycuy found the fruit effective on her daughter and decided to cultivate it herself in 2005 upon learning how much it cost.
“The fruit looked so unfamiliar. I saw it once from a store in Manila and found that it costs P450 per kilo. That’s the equivalent of a sack of rice,” she said.
“But when I learned of the fruit’s health benefits, I just took the leap,” Dacuycuy, who used to be a division manager of an insurance firm, added.
She found more information about the fruit by surfing the internet, a task she assigned to her other daughter Mildred.
Dacuycuy took a step further sensing its business potential. She sent Mildred to Thailand where the fruit is common to learn how the family could propagate more.
From backyard planting, Dacuycuy could no longer stop growing more. She developed a fruit farm on her property and later ventured to business.
“We didn’t notice we were already expanding. The business came spontaneously,” she said.
From a small farm plot, the fruit farm now stands on a 10-hectare property which Dacuycuy personally supervises. She and her husband built a house on the property and developed other dragon fruit-based recipes and products from pastries, jam, wine and soap.
The family’s steady market include traders from neighboring provinces and Manila, Dole Philippines, which orders the fruit by tons, and local hotels in the province.
The farm, named as Rare Eagles Forest Marine and Agricultural Development or REFMAD, has become an agri-tourism site offering research and livelihood training to locals. (ANL/CCA-PIA 1 Ilocos Norte)