FULFILLING DREAM. Jie Anne Villacrusis beams with pride showing her farmland awarded to her by the Department of Agrarian Reform. With her knowledge as an agriculture graduate, she vows to help, not only her family, but other farmers as well.  (Photo courtesy of DAR)

MANILA — An agriculture graduate finally fulfilled her dream of having a college diploma, but her blessings came abundantly after receiving a parcel of farmland under her name from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).
Twenty-four-year-old Jie Anne Villacrusis of Barangay Alcate, Oriental Mindoro could not contain her emotion as she recalled how her father endured tilling and cultivating other people’s farmland just to bring food to their table.
“I have seen my father’s backbreaking work on leased farmland yet, we were still poor since he couldn’t take home all the farm yields’ earnings because he needed to pay for the rentals and other farm expenses,” she said. 
When she was seven, Villacrusis said she started dreaming of having a land of her own. 
Villacrusis already bore life’s hardships at a tender age as she helped her father work in the farm together with her five siblings to make ends meet.
Helping her father in the day-to-day maintenance of the farm made her body get used to toiling the lands, doing the fences, and tending to the upkeep of farm tools.
Because of this, Villacrusis vowed that one day, she would buy land for her father and family.
Villacrusis was given a chance to do that when she was provided the opportunity to study.
“Being the youngest, me and the fourth sibling, who’s also my only sister, were fortunate enough to continue our study. Unlike my four brothers, who were already grown-ups, they failed to finish their studies because they needed to help my father full-time and they already have families of their own,” she said.
However, she faced numerous financial struggles while pursuing her studies as her family had very limited resources.
“We lacked money for the school expenses like the tuition fee, renting of computers, school projects, and many other things. Our parents worked doubly hard and were always looking for people that would loan them the money for those expenses,” she added.
Despite the difficulties, she and her sister religiously went to school on an empty stomach to attend their classes. 
Villacrusis believes that the key to achieving all her dreams in life would start when she finished her formal education.
She graduated in 2019 from Mindoro State University (MinSU) with a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, majoring in Crop Science.
After three years, her dream of owning a piece of land finally came true after DAR awarded her a total of 8,900 square meters of agricultural land.
Through Executive Order No. 75, series of 2019, and DAR Administrative Order No.03, Series of 2020, all qualified agriculture graduate applicants could be awarded agricultural lands. 
Villacrusis was one of the 220 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in their province who received lands from the department.
With the land awarded by DAR, she said many opportunities opened up for her and her family.
DAR Secretary Conrado Estrella III believes that true social justice is to make good use of the lands given to the farmers.
Estrella vowed to continue to empower the ARBs by providing them all the necessary support services they need to ensure their success in their career as the food-provider of the country.
Villacrusis,  an active member of the Muravilla ARB and Irrigators Organization (MARBIO) of Barangay Alcate, said she would help her fellow farmers.
“Being a daughter of one, farming is so ingrained in my blood that my heart goes out to them,” she said.
“I am 100 percent sure that I will achieve all my dreams. I am an agriculture graduate, I have the total support of my family, the full support of the DAR officials and personnel, and most of all, the hope that DAR Secretary Estrella brings to small farmers like me,” Villacrusis said. (PNA)