IT WAS good agricultural practice that allowed Davao del Sur farmers to dominate the Top 12 of the Arabica Category of the Philippine Coffee Quality Competition (PCQC) 2023.

On June 4, 2023, it was revealed during the PCQC 2023 at the World Trade Center in Metro Manila that seven of the Top 12 were coffee farmers from Davao del Sur. The PCQC was among the highlights of the Philippine Coffee Expo 2023.

The highest placement was Jhon Lawrence dela Cerna of the Balutakay Coffee Farmers Association (Bacofa) in Davao del Sur. He placed Top 2 for his natural-processed coffee beans. With a cupping score of 85.75, his coffee had notes of pineapple, mango, black currant, and honey.

Dione F. Ellaga of Don's Ka Farm placed third with his natural-processed beans which earned him a cupping score of 85.41. When brewed, his coffee had notes of orange, dried fruits, apricots, and chocolate.

On the fifth spot is Rogelio Gonzales of Bacofa. He used the natural processing method for his beans.

With a cupping score of 85, the coffee had notes of tropical fruits, raisins, berries, and lemon.

Also part of the Top 12 is Cecilia G. Cavalida (Top 8), Cherry Gil Cabanday (Top 10), Roquita dela Cerna (Top 11), and Lendilou F. Loon (Top 12). Loon was also awarded for having the best honey processing method.

Gonzales, whose family has been farming coffee since the late 1970s, said it was good agricultural practices and the right knowledge that allowed him to produce quality coffee beans.

"Sa una wala gyud mi natun-an. Igo ra mu-harvest, igo ra mubaligya sa kape sa lokal. Karon kaning mga intervention sa NGOs (non-government organizations) ug sa government agencies like DA (Department of Agriculture) and DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) murag na-elevate pud ang atoang kahibalo unsaon paghimo sa kalidad na kape sa Bansalan (Before we have limited knowledge about coffee. We simply harvest and sell. But with the interventions of NGOs and government agencies like DA and DTI, they were able to elevate our knowledge on coffee farming and were able to produce quality coffee in Bansalan)," he said.

One of the NGOs that have been helping farmers in Bansalan, Davao del Sur is ACDI/VOCA. The organization has been helping farmers through the Philippine Coffee Advancement and Farm Enterprise (PhilCAFE), which is being funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Meanwhile, DA has been helping coffee farmers through its High Value Crops Development Program and the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP). The PRDP is being funded by the World Bank with additional funding from the European Union for the Mindanao regions.

The assistance given to the farmers covers knowledge enhancement, pre-harvest, processing, and post-harvest.

Cabanday said this year's competition was more competitive than the previous years because most of the Arabica beans this year have been classified as "specialty."

This year's Top 1 spot was given to Manolito Garces of Finca de Garces in Bukidnon. His coffee beans earned a cupping score of 86. The coffee was described to be floral with notes of pineapple, cherries, and chocolate. Garces was also awarded Best Natural Process.

Data presented by the PCQC technical working group showed that there were a total of 43 entries in the Arabica Category this year. Of this number, 93 percent or 40 were classified as "specialty." Two were classified as "premium" and one as "non-specialty."

"We ensure the quality by following good practices para ma-ensure quality and specialty coffee among maproduce this year (We followed good [agricultural] practices to ensure the quality and produce specialty coffee this year)," Cabanday said.

Cabanday, who gained interest in coffee farming during the height of the pandemic, said they are still happy to place in the Top 10 this year. In 2022, Cabanday placed second.

"Fulfilling kasi (because) our hard work paid off. It is not just me, it is a family effort. It is something we look forward to every year. Very thankful and very happy for the result," she said.

Cabanday is a second-generation coffee farmer. Her family has been farming coffee since 1987.

Gonzales and Cabanday said they will continue to strive hard to produce quality arabica coffee in the coming years with the hope of getting a higher placement in the succeeding years.

"Para sa akoa this is the top [award] pero next year, naga-aim gyud kami na makuha namo ang Top 1 sa PCQC Arabica Category (This award is already a top award but for next year we aim to place first in the same category)," Gonzales said.

"Amoa pa jud paningkuhaon nga maka-produce pa mi og mastaas pa na grado na kape or mas gwapo pa na specialty coffee for next year's competition (We will continue to work hard to produce higher grade specialty coffee for next year's competition)," Cabanday said.

Coffee beans from Davao del Sur have consistently placed in the Top 12 of the Arabica Category since 2018. In the past couple of years, the top spots of PCQC were dominated by farmers from Davao del Sur.

In 2021 the Top 3 spots were dominated by the Davao del Sur farmers. Marites Arellano's natural processed coffee beans, which are of the catimor varietal, scored an average score of 85.86, placing first in the Arabica category.

Loon came in second in the same year with her natural-processed coffee beans which garnered a cupping score of 85.07. In third place was Jastine Mae Dubria's natural processed coffee beans scored an average of 84.71.

In 2022, the Top 2 spots were also dominated by Davao del Sur farmers. Marifel del Cerna came in first with her natural-processed catimor which earned her a cupping score of 84.79. Cabanday was in second place in the same year with her natural-processed catimor that gained a score of 84.46.