Robert “Bobby” Lim Joseph is known in the business and social spheres as a staunch tourism advocate, and rightly so.
With his experience as a diplomat and as an airline executive, Bobby has developed the awareness of the ins and outs of the industry, the know-how of addressing the issues and improving the current condition, and—perhaps, the most important of all—the genuine concern to aid and uplift the marginalized communities.
Although considered one of the top agri-tourism destinations, the farmers in the Philippines are one of the lowest paid citizens in the country. Tending the field under the heat of the sun all day, a farmer earns an income of around P100,000 a year, which is below the poverty line of P108,800 in 2015.
As the government pushes for the development of farm tourism, which will not only boost farmers’ income but will also make them entrepreneurs, Bobby invests in Paraiso Village Farm in San Jose, Batangas.
Love for the land
Paraiso Village Farm, a project established by Gawad Kalinga founder Tony Meloto, aims to improve the lives of farmers by providing them residence, livelihood, and sustainable source of income. The farmers plant fruits and vegetables in the huge area, and they get a portion of the total harvest. They also raise livestock and tend to farm animals such as ostrich, carabaos, and chickens.
“What we do in Paraiso is investors invest in a small land occupied by the farmers. The farmers who live in that land will plant fruits and vegetables agreed with the investor. Come harvest time, the farmer, who is also a co-owner of the land, will get 30 percent share of the harvest on top of the P3,000 salary they receive every month,” explained Bobby, who is one of the social village’s investors.
He added, “We also give the families free housing, water, and electricity. They can do whatever they want with their harvest, they can use it for their daily meals or sell it in the market.”
Visitors at Paraiso can camp out and enjoy farm-fresh dishes made by the women in the village as well as take home fresh produce for a minimal price. The place can also host functions, weddings, baptismal, birthday receptions, corporate events, and other special occasions.
“They can spend a weekend there and the families will gladly accommodate them for a small price,” Bobby said, adding, “The fact that you just go there and rent a space, you are already contributing to their livelihood.”
He revealed one of the investors is planning to put a swimming pool and a farm animal zoo in the area, thereby offering more fun activities to visitors, especially to kids.
Recently, a multi-purpose hall was built to serve as a venue for their seminars on livelihood and other income opportunities.
“We teach them values, skills, and opportunities. We invite businessmen to invest and to help the farmers and their families. Everyone is helping each other. The multi-purpose building is built to conduct livelihood trainings for the families so that we can create a better value chain,” shared the Commodore of Manila Yacht Club.
Love for a son
When his son Richard, who was a Gawad Kalinga volunteer, passed away in 2017, Bobby built a chapel dedicated to him.
“As part of our grief and mourning, I donated a chapel under the name of my son Richard. He died at the age of 28 and we found out that he was helping street children,” related Bobby.
He also shared that in celebration of Richard’s birthday in May, they hosted a small luncheon for the Paraiso Village’s farmers and their families.
During the said luncheon, Bobby shared, the farmers and their families started setting tables and created flower arrangements for a competition. It was a celebration filled with fun in honor of Richard.
“It’s a complete paradise. The chapel is for faith, we have the farm and the food, and when the swimming pool is built—we have fun. We call it rich for all. And if other towns and provinces can also replicate this and use it as a model, then we would greatly improve the lives of the farmers,” enthused Bobby.
Truly a loving father, he and other kind-hearted members of the Rotary Club of Manila also donate money for the school allowance and transportation of the farmers’ children.
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