‘Dragon Fruit Lady’ soars high, inspires others to success
Defying cancer, 71 year-old Edita Aguinaldo-Dacuycuy continues to soar high as she inspires others to success.
Known as a “dragon fruit lady” of northern Philippines for having popularized the cultivation of this high value crop in various parts of the country and the United States, Dacuycuy’s passion to share the technology and being innovative in coming out with some value-adding products out of dragon fruit earned her title as one of the world’s female innovation leaders.
Bearing a child afflicted with cerebral palsy, Nanay Edita only wants the best for her daughter, Kaye. And in her search for things to ease her daughter’s pain and suffering, she discovered a little known fruit from the cactus family called a pitaya or dragon fruit. It maybe recalled that a friend from Macau recommended to Dacuycuy to try dragon fruit to help relieve her daughter’s frequent constipation, which is common among cerebral palsy patients. After witnessing positive results, the close-knit family decided to grow the fruit in their backyard. That decision has been turned into a modern-day success story.
Last March 31, Dacuycuy was in Malacanang again to join the latest batch of inspiring Filipina entrepreneurs 2017. President Rodrigo Roa Duterte personally extended his admiration to them in time for the culmination program of Women’s Month Celebration for exemplifying inclusive business models, helping low-income families and uplifting the lives of farmers.
Initiated by Go Negosyo, a non-stock, non-profit organization that advocates positive and enterprising attitude among Filipinos, the leading women Filipina entrepreneurs today, including Dacuycuy, were recognized for empowering fellow women entrepreneurs, sharing their best practices so that others will survive the challenging business world.
Dacuycuy received her presidential award as most outstanding high-value commercial crop farmer in May 23, 2011. The award came with PHP100,000 prize. Other awards followed after which she claims “all these came unexpected as blessings from above. Just do the mission and commission will follow.”
“We only thought of the benefit of the dragon fruit, which we have proven effective to our daughter Kaye,” said the former manager of an insurance company and a graduate of Psychology at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City.
After seeing the dragon fruit doing wonders for Kaye’s bowel movement problems, the Dacuycuy family planted the vine cactus in their backyard in Poblacion 2, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte.
She recalled that when asked by neighbors what they were doing, they never told them they were planting dragon fruit.
“We were not sure then if what we were planting would really bear fruit,” Dacuycuy said.
“Others may laugh at us once they know that what we were doing is simply a trial and error.”
The internet served as Dacuycuy’s research center. She learned that the exotic dragon fruit is rich in fiber that helps in the elimination of wastes. It contains high levels of vitamin C, calcium and phosphorous, including other nutritional benefits such as high levels of antioxidants that can help prevent cancer, high blood pressure, rheumatism and urinary tract infection.
She then sent her daughter to meet with international dragon fruit growers in Thailand to learn how to cultivate dragon fruit. Dragon fruit is popularly known in South America. It is also being cultivated in Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan.
It gave the whole family so much joy when the cactus vine started flowering and bearing fruits. It inspired them to plant more dragon fruits.
But before they went large-scale, they first consulted agriculture experts from the Department of Agriculture and other government research agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology and the state-run Mariano Marcos State University.
Now, the Dacuycuy-owned REFMAD Farms in Barangay Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, the first organic dragon fruit plantation in Region 1, has expanded to about 13 hectares and is still expanding.
In 2015, REFMAD Farms celebrated its 10th year in business, selling fresh fruits and planting materials to interested growers, processed food products such as dragon fruit ice cream, tea, sandwich, shanghai, macaroons, cookies, red wine, vinegar, jam, cake, burger patties, etc.
Dacuycuy is also into organic fertilizer production.
At the farm, the hands-on dragon lady farmer observes zero-waste management farming. She makes sure that all farm wastes are turned into organic fertilizer. This is done with vermiculture technology in which she maintains a more than 30-kilo African night crawler to produce organic fertilizer that ensures sustainable growth of the dragon fruit cactus.
To maximize the potentials of dragon fruit as the vine of life, Dacuycuy shares her ultimate vision to build a dragon fruit winery which would require about 50 or more hectares of dragon fruit plantation.(PNA)