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Stopover Magazine
Volume 3. Issue 13. 2004
The Simple Life
Words: Dicay Galvez
Images: Menchit Ongpin

From the boardroom to the bee farm, Joel Magsaysay takes a leap of faith.

Only a drive of about three hours south of Manila, the nearest vacation haven for the stressed city-dweller is Tagaytay City. Know for retreat centers, gardens, café' al frescoes, and organic gardens, Tagaytay seems to have a mystical charm that draws those weary from the hassles of urban living. In other words, it offers easy escape from the city.

Little do Manilenos know that only a few more minutes off the Tagaytay rotunda is a quiet, unspoiled place, which cradles a handful of organic farms, dining places, serene bed and breakfast lodges, and reclusive spas.


Endless Possibilities

Silang, Cavite is also home to a string of successful homegrown businesses. Thanks to its fresh running water from the ground, rich land, and peaceful and wonderful surroundings, it has enabled local farmers and businessmen to grow the freshest produce on their own farms. Creating a stir in this farming enclave is Ilog Maria Honeybee Farms along Kilometer 47, Aguinaldo Highway. Behind it is the husband and wife tandem of Joel and Violaine Magsaysay.

Joel Magsaysay used to be a self-confessed weekend beach bum in his younger years. After a long week attending to their family business, he would escape with his sailboat and his truck and head down to Anilao, Batangas to hang out with windsurfers.

After a day in the water, during one of their trips, Joel nonchalantly asked a friend if the was anything they could eat to keep them energized, a constant challenge to windsurfers who had to keep the cold

 

off and battle the exhaustion resulting from their pursuits. In response, his friend told him of a honeybee farm, the mere mention of which sent Joel's head spinning with endless possibilities. Not wasting time, he met up with the honeybee farmer, who turned out to be a family friend and neighbor. From then on, Joel's interest in honeybee farming had grown immensely. It became so intense that he had to choose between getting into Harvard and following his heart and becoming a farmer. The call of a quiet farm life reverberated from within, louder than all that racket from the concrete jungle.

It was a great leap of faith for a single guy. As Joel himself put it, "No sane person would get into it. First of all, to take care of this commercially, you will have to leave the city. With no money, no electricity……I hardly had enough money, I had no market, and I knew so little about the industry. That was when I realized, this was for me!" For Joel, the challenge of starting up commercial apiculture was invigorating. "I felt like Magellan without a map. It was exciting for me!"

Short Of A Miracle

Ilog Maria came to life in 1987. After five months of drought, with the crops in the humble Magsaysay farm all dying, a miraculous shower of hail came falling on the farm after Joel's mom prayed endlessly for rain.

Now, after twenty-seven years, Ilog Maria has flourished with seventy six different products available at their store at home. Ilog Maria's bee colonies produce ripe, unfiltered honey, natural bee pollen pellets, raw propolis, and fresh royal jelly. They have expanded from health supplement products to soaps, body wash, shampoos, lotion, lip balm, beeswax candles, wax for cleaning and caring for leather products, among others.

"Its still an offshoot from the basic premise that a perfect product sells itself," says Joel. "Maintaining that premise, we create products that are good enough, safe enough. Otherwise they won't get sold here, in the middle of nowhere. Our store is filled with people on a Sunday, out of nowhere. 'Sell the sizzle, not the steak,' is a basic premise in advertising. What were really projecting is lifestyle backed up by information."

 

For a man who took the red pill twenty-seven years ago and left the Matrix for good, Joel has since lived a life rooted in simplicity. Pensively he shares his sagely words of encouragement for budding entrepreneurs, "First of all, have faith. Second, be committed to your idea and then just do it." According to Joel, It's almost always a case of analysis-paralysis for fresh entrepreneurs, when people end up thinking and planning and never get off to start their businesses. "Is that the way to live? You were meant to be more spectacular than that!" says Joel, who has made it part of his mission to encourage start-up entrepreneurs. "Quit justifying yourselves," he prods. "Everything is vanity. Stop thinking about you and your product and start thinking about them, those you want to serve and those who will benefit from your efforts. Also, follow the coincidences. You just have to be alert and see the signs because coincidences are not coincidences. That's the universe talking to you."


Family First

When asked about his sales projections for Ilog Maria, Joel serenely replies, "Twenty years ago, as long as there was enough money from sales to buy provisions from the market once a week, we were happy. That attitude hasn't changed. I'm trying not to make sales volume relevant. I don't need one million or two million pesos to have bread and cheese or coffee and corn on our table. It's not being arrogant about it. We're just consciously trying to hold on to the old spirit from the time we started. When we lose that spirit, that'll be the end of us.

The greates harvest this re-born farmer would ever want to have is a simple life with my kids and my wife. Ilog Maria is still a sanctuary. A lot of people are clamoring for us to open it up, and I'd tell them, "Wait for Marian, my youngest child, who is eight years old. While I still have her in my home, while she's entirely dependent on me, I will not withhold mysaelf from her, being to busy building my vision and mission for Ilog Maria. It shouldn't always be about me. It should be all about service."

ILOG MARIA is located at Aguinaldo Highway, Silang, Cavite, Philippines. Pleas inquire at number (046) 865-0018.