A ‘dragon’ lady soars high

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LAOAG CITY — As a trailblazer in the Philippines’ dragon fruit industry, multi-awarded farmer-entrepreneur Edita Dacuycuy is unstoppable even at 73 years old.

Just when everybody is already asleep, this hardworking widow and mom of four may be up thinking or experimenting on something. Dacuycuy knows what she wants and she works hard to make it happen. She never quits even when others did not believe in her idea at first.

A jack-of-all-trades — a psychologist, manager, architect, engineer, farmer, scientist, and a great cook rolled into one — Nanay Edita continues to defy the odds and win.

Three of her children with the late Rodolfo Dacuycuy are now successful professionals — a physical therapist based in the United States, a pediatrician with a private clinic in Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte, and a communications and arts expert who helps her manage the business. The fourth, Kaye, was born with cerebral palsy.

As a mom, she only wants the best for her children. In her search for things to ease her special daughter’s pain and suffering, she discovered a little known fruit from the cactus family called “pitaya” or dragon fruit.

As a mom, she only wants the best for her children. In her search for things to ease her special daughter’s pain and suffering, she discovered a little known fruit from the cactus family called “pitaya” or dragon fruit.

She shared that a friend from Macau recommended dragon fruit to Nanay Edita to help relieve her daughter’s frequent constipation, which is common among cerebral palsy patients.

After witnessing its positive effect on her daughter’s condition, the Dacuycuy family decided to grow the fruit in their backyard in Poblacion 2, Pasuquin, Ilocos Norte back in 2005.

She recalled that when neighbors asked them 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 was simply trial and error.”

Early beginnings

Dacuycuy’s quest to try something new led her to use the Internet to discover more about the dragon fruit and establish linkage with experts here and abroad. She even sent her daughter to meet with dragon fruit growers in Thailand to learn how to cultivate the fruit.

Dragon fruit is popularly known in South America and is also 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 experts of the Department of Agriculture and other government research agencies, such as the Department of Science and Technology and the Mariano Marcos State University.

Farm tourism, education site

Now, the Dacuycuy-owned REFMAD Farms in Barangay Paayas, Burgos, Ilocos Norte, the first organic dragon fruit plantation in the northern Philippines, has expanded to about 13 hectares and continues to expand.

The dragon fruit farm is one of the leading farm tourism and education sites in northern Philippines as it continues to develop more product lines out of the fruit.

Hundreds of tourists and plant enthusiasts visit the farm to enjoy their best-selling products, such as dragon fruit ice cream, tea, sandwich, shanghai, macaroons, cookies, jam, vinegar and at least four variants of fruit wine. Coffee lovers can also have a sip of their exotic dragon fruit coffee, which comes in strong, mild and mocha flavors.

After reaping numerous local, national and international awards, REFMAD Farms continues to lead the way as a science-and-technology-based farm, where new innovations, such as zero-waste management practices, are shared to other farmers.

To maximize the potentials of dragon fruit, which she calls the “vine of life,” Dacuycuy envisions building a dragon fruit winery in Luzon, which would require about 50 or more hectares of dragon fruit plantation.

Asked what drives her passion in the industry, she beamed and said, “Loving what you do and sharing what you have, give you the greatest pleasure and meaning in life.”

“Failures in the course of our endeavors serve as our stimulus to work deeper on ideas and skills putting all together for an efficient, workable and adoptable process. These are innovations that cater to our needs and can be enjoyed by most — something that can be applied in our everyday lives, irrespective of our status, gender and religion, and it would certainly bring about a brighter future both for our family and our country,” she added.

Aside from the insurance firm that Nanay Edita has been managing for a long time, the Dacuycuy family used to venture in the garlic trade and all other crops known in Ilocos Norte.

“They are (a) humble and hardworking people. They tried everything in business and it was only dragon fruit that made very successful,” a family friend shared.

Dacuycuy’s desire to share the technology to others did not only increase her net worth, but it also gave employment opportunities to rural families who helped her and other farmers whom she inspired to dream big and soar high — like a dragon.

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