Did you know that there are 20,000 species of bees in the world but only seven can produce honey? Since it’s “more fun in the Philippines”, all seven species can be found in the Philippines. However, the Philippines is lagging behind in terms of honey production and the beekeeping industry. Why? According to Gary A. Ayuste, Founder of Beengo Farms, it’s because the industry is not given enough attention.
Before Mr. Ayuste found his passion in beekeeping, he worked as an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia for seven years. During those years, he had to return to the Philippines to visit his sick mother. On the day he was supposed to return to Saudi Arabia, he missed his flight not just once but twice, so his father told him that there is a special reason for him to stay in the Philippines. So, he followed his father’s advice and decided to not return to Saudi. Three days later, his mother passed away. It was the most devastating part of his life and depression started to hit him. Fortunately, he remembered that his mother loves gardening and so to feel her presence, he started gardening as a hobby. This ignited his passion for beekeeping.
In 2017, Mr. Ayuste founded Beengo Farm – a 400-square meter bee and mango farm located in San Vicente, Tunga, Leyte. Often mistaken for a restaurant, the bee sanctuary is 35-kilometers away from Tacloban City and is situated beside Naliwatan River, one of the cleanest rivers in the province. Since it was opened to the public, many local and foreign tourists have visited the farm to eat, relax, and learn about the wonders of beekeeping. All the food offered in Beengo farm is organically-grown. They have tea made from freshly picked herbs and flowers, blue rice, and linupak – a traditional Filipino snack made from smashed banana, young coconut meat, and sugar. In Beengo Farm, Mr. Ayuste also gives free honey tasting, honey analysis and lectures about identifying authentic honey from adulterated honey.
As Beengo Farm became more popular, Mr. Ayuste formed the Empowered Farmers Association of San Vicente. The association is comprised of 22 housewives who supply native vegetables and free-range chicken to the farm. According to Mr. Ayuste, he is honoured to have formed a group of housewives who can raise funds through their own hard work.
Beengo Farm has been recognized by the Agricultural Training Institute in Eastern Visayas as an accredited learning site that provides training on basic beekeeping. As an advocate of community service and the beekeeping industry, Mr. Ayuste also helps schools become bee-friendly campuses. He donates bee colonies to schools and educates students on the importance of bees in the environment. Last year, The Banawang Elementary School in Tunga, Leyte became the first bee-friendly school with the help of Mr. Ayuste.
He also provides workshops and seminars to farmers on how to harvest honey from the wild properly and makes them understand the significance of bees as an effective pollinator for their crops. Recently, he launched various projects such as a river clean-up drive, tree planting, and an awareness run the promoted the importance of bees to humanity.
In 2018, Mr. Ayuste became a certified beekeeper by taking an intensive beekeeping course at the University of the Philippines – Los Baños. Today, he continues to share his knowledge to tourists, students, and farmers on why he considers bees as the lifeblood of the food chain. Beengo Farm continues to improve and create sustainable beekeeping communities.
Mr. Ayuste’s commendable contribution in the beekeeping industry of the Philippines is similar to how Ramon V. del Rosario influenced Filipinos to follow his vision and advocacies. Being able to influence others on giving importance to bees is Mr. Ayuste’s measurement of success. His passion for the environment and the beekeeping industry lives in the mind of everyone he has and will inspire.