PASAY CITY - Cherrie Atilano, AGREA’s Founding Farmer and President, was recognized as 2018 Ten Outstanding Young Men and Women of the Philippines (TOYM) – Honoree for Agribusiness, awarded at the GSIS Theatre, GSIS Financial Center, Pasay City on 9 April 2018. It was very relevant and inspiring to award the 2018 TOYM honorees on “Araw ng Kagitingan” or Day of Valor.
TOYM is a once in a lifetime national award and recognition for Filipinos, who have shown exceptional leadership in nation-building.
For 59 years, there are 492 TOYM honorees out of the 106 million Filipino population. Under the theme “Inspiring Lives Towards Nation Building,” this year’s crop of 11 TOYM honorees were selected from a total of 180 nominees.
Every year, the TOYM Foundation and the Junior Chamber International Philippines (JCI), seek to recognize men and women, between 18 to 40 years old, who have shown selfless commitment and contributions to their communities, and advancements in their chosen fields. And every year, they never run out of nominees. This is a manifestation that there are a lot of Filipinos who inspire, and are making an impact in building a better Philippines.
In her speech, Cherrie shared the turning points and important people in her agribusiness journey. Since the age of 12, she has made it her life’s mission to make Filipino farmers world-class, and make farming sexy. “I believe Filipino farmers are the true-blooded Filipinos and heroes; they are so connected to the land. They are the people who wake up earlier, to produce food for those who are still sleeping.”
Photo by Roma Audap
In a January 2019 statement, Cherrie said “I want to tell the Filipino youth that dreaming is very important. You need to dream for the country and for yourselves. I chose to be here in the Philippines because we need to start in our own backyard. If you want to create change, you need to start here in the Philippines.”
“We have so many problems to solve. If we just close our eyes and leave those problems, we will keep blaming our government leaders, private leaders, and at the end of the day, we will blame ourselves because we did not do anything about it.”
Cherrie’s two decades in impacting the Philippine agriculture sector is truly remarkable. She gave up the prestigious Fulbright scholarship, which could have enabled her to study in an Ivy League university. She has made this decision so that she can continue her work to provide agriculture education to farmers, ex-convicts, prisoners, and out-of-school youth. “The best teachers are those who are teaching me about life”, Cherrie shared during her speech.
The vision and mission of AGREA
In 2014, Cherrie founded the AGREA Agricultural Systems International, Inc. It is an agro-social enterprise that aims to help eradicate poverty for farming and fishing families, in order to alleviate the effects of climate change and establish food security in the Philippines. AGREA’s vision is to create a living model of a replicable one-island economy, that is zero hunger, zero waste, and zero insufficiency.
AGREA targets to help 4.5 Million smallholder farmers. The company is working with farmers through (1) Agripreneurship, teaching farmers how to be entrepreneurs, (2) Agritech, digitalizing agriculture and introducing climate change mitigated technologies for farm use, and (3) Agritourism, creating sustainable and diversified source of income for the farmers and their families. AGREA has been mobilizing communities, businesses, academia, local and national governments, and international partners to bring an “Ecology of Dignity” to farming and fishing communities on the island of Marinduque.
At present, Siargao has adopted the one-island economy model of AGREA. Together with Siargao LGU’s, AGREA envisions Siargao to be the first women-led agriculture island in the Philippines.
- Siargao's women take chances in leading agri sector
- These food gardens improve Filipino lives one community at a time
Cherrie shares her TOYM recognition to her family especially to her mother, to her pillars – Ivy Almario and Yong Nieva, the AGREA team, and to the everyday true-blooded heroes to whom her life’s mission is grounded: the Filipino farmers.
TOYM 2018 Honorees
Joining Cherrie as TOYM 2018 honorees were Dr. Nassef Manabilang Adiong for International Relations, Jamela Aisha Martinez Alindogan for International Journalism, Karl Kendrick Tiu Chua for Economic Development, Bernard Faustino La Madrid Dy for Public Service, and Rodne Rodiño Galicha for Environment Conservation & Climate Change.
Honorees also include Fatima Peñones Ibias-Lanuza for Government Service/Law Enforcement, Dr. Erika Fille Tupas Legara for Education Innovation, Dr. Katerina Tolentino Leyritana for Public Health, Dr. Mark Anthony Santiago Sandoval for Endocrinology, and Jaton Zulueta Jr. for Community Development.
TOYM 2018 is led by TOYM Foundation, and JCI Philippines.