Manong Leonardo Cacap
Manong = the first born, the big brother
He goes by Narding.
Gayang, his home town, is in the mountains—a small village without…
any education that would make a difference
“I dreamt of being a boxer, you know, like Manny Pacquiao”
Manny Pacquiao, a kid from a poor Filipino village just like him.
A kid who fought his way up from poverty to the cover of Time Magazine.
A kid who had to drop out of high school because he couldn’t afford it.
A kid who is now talking about a movie with Silvester Stalone.
Manny Pacquiao was someone like him…once.
20 years old and not even enough money to buy a bus ticket.
He took his chance one day and jumped on a bus—stole a ride to Baguio City. The big city—one more kid from the country trying to make it.
He joined a pro-boxing club and stood for seven fights.
A KO took him down.
One win in the bantam featherweight class, wasn’t much to talk about.
1-7 = dreams dashed
“I like boxing, but boxing doesn’t like me,” he said with a faraway look in his eyes.
He took odd jobs—farming, gardening work—stuff he knew from his roots, but there wasn’t much in it.
He fell in with the wrong crowd and they stuck up some travelers. He did it twice but his conscience came down hard on him. When the gang started to plan a bank robbery it was too much.
“I asked myself, if I wanted to live a life of crime. I could not, I just could not.”
Defeated, body and soul, Narding went back home.
That was 20 years ago. He settled down. Married a home town girl named Augustina. Had four kids from 6 to 13.
Lots of mouths to feed and they didn’t have much—a small tenant farm leased from a rich man.
“At times, we experience eating very little food,” Nading said, “whenever one of my children got sick, I would ask for loans from whoever was willing.”
He felt that same old desperation that drove him to hop a bus for the city; that drove him to hold up travelers in his youth.
“At one time, I almost joined the New People’s Army and rebel against the government.”
But Narding is a family man. He could’t leave and join the revolution. He just had to make due, get by with whatever farming work he could get during the planting and harvest season.
Things began to change two years ago—he got a break he didn’t expect.
Narding heard that a group called Heifer Internationl were coming to his village and they were giving away animals for free. All you had to do to get an animal was join a group of other farmers and go through training. “At first, I had my doubts,” he said, skeptical of a group that would give away animals most farmers couldn’t afford.
But what did he have to lose?
Narding joined a group of farmers, mostly women, that Heifer organized into a “Self-Help Group.” It was through the group that they would learn together, save together, and eventually receive animals together.
As his group was trained not only in animal care, but also in self-respect and community development, Narding began to see the point of it all. He began to learn the values and practices that would lead his family out of a rut; out of a tenant farming life.
“I learned to build hope again,” Narding said.
He’s building it one piece at a time.
Nading was selected by his Heifer self-help group to go to the local university to become trained in veterinary skills. Now he’s a Hayop na Doktor (animal doctor), helping his community keep its animals healthy.
After his training Heifer gave Narding and Augustina a boar, ducks, garden seeds, fruit and forest tree seedlings.
The garden is growing bountifully under Augustina’s watch.
The ducks are the children’s responsibility.
And Narding takes care of the boar—an important animal since he is the breeding boar for the whole community, responsible for inseminating everyone’s sows.
Narding no longer wonders where his family will get its next meal.
There’s even enough money to send his kids to school now.
When he begins to talk about Heifer, he has to pause, a little choked up.
“Please excuse me if I cry,” he says, “these are tears of joy and thankfulness.”
He wipes his eyes with his shirt sleeves.
“Poverty had almost driven me crazy,” he said reflectively, “Thanks a lot to Heifer International for helping us value life.”
Narding has plans for the future. He wants to build his veterinary skills, learn artificial insemination and provide boar service not only to his community, but the whole town of Sabangan.
He is also working with his Self-Help Group to work on building a meat processing center in their village.
“We have to roll with the punches of life,” the old boxer says, “and this time I won’t get knocked out.”
Thanks to William Azucena, Heifer International Philippines, for help with the reporting of this story.