BAGABAG, Nueva Vizcaya—Leaving cycling for a moment to focus on fish farming has its ups and downs for former cycling champ Lupo Alava of Barangay Poblacion here.
But for Alava, 56, agriculture proved to be a good business, and perhaps a good path for retirement.
“I started this venture because it is more profitable than ordinary farming,” said the veteran of the Philippine cycling tours in the 1980s.
Alava, however, did not totally abandon his two-wheeled vocation. In fact, he put up a bike shop named after him in Diadi town.
Venturing into fishpond farming, he said, was not a walk in the park either. He experienced fish kill due to overstocking, forcing him to attend seminars and training held by local fishery experts.
His first harvest convinced him to concentrate on the business. Slowly, he developed his main fish farm from another lot he inherited from his grandparents in 2003 in Barangay Villa Coloma in Bagabag town.
The five-hectare, irrigation-fed fish farm also has a small impounding area that served nearby rice fields owned by other villagers. It has eight ponds, each 23,350 square meters in size.
Alava harvests fish in four to five months. At most, his yield is eight tons per pond, and sells the fish, mostly tilapia, at a farmgate price of P58 a kilo.
“Fish farming is good. I even spend more hours here that in my bicycle center business. My full attention is here,” he said.
Being the largest producer of tilapia in the province, Alava is now developing a fish hatchery. Most fish farmers get their fish supply from the Science City of Muñoz in Nueva Ecija and in Isabela, he noted.
Alava has outlets for his fish products in Villaverde, Solano, Bayombong, Bambang and his hometown Bagabag in Nueva Vizcaya, Lamut town in Ifugao, and Santiago in Isabela.
Many people want to go into fish farming but big capital is needed since it entails expenses for pond preparation and management, he said.
Depending on the size of the ponds, a farmer uses at least eight bags of feeds per 1,000 fingerlings for the whole season. Alava said he was spending P5,000 daily for feeds. He employs six workers and hires seven others for distribution.
Officials of the provincial agriculture office said Alava’s fish products have improved the local fish sufficiency level by 15 percent.
Last year, Alava was named outstanding fisherman (fish category) by the Gawad-Saka Awards search for outstanding agricultural achievers.
He also got recognition and awards from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Cagayan Valley.
A graduate of an agricultural course, Alava did not have the fish farming business in mind at first owing to his passion for cycling, which earned him many trophies and victories during the peak of his sporting career.
He was named Rookie of the Year in the 1980 Marlboro Tour ng Pilipinas, and participated in the annual cycling series from 1980 to 1985, gaining popularity nationwide.
In 1985, Alava left the rigorous cycling event, got married and decided to develop a 1,000-sq. m. lot at Sitio Balete in Barangay Namamparan, Diadi, on his wife’s advice. The couple has three children.
Alava said his love for cycling remains, as every weekend, he spends time on the road from Bagabag town in Nueva Vizcaya to Lagawe town in Ifugao, or to Santiago City in Isabela.
He founded cycling and mountain biking clubs in Diadi to help and support local enthusiasts along with other cycling veterans Domingo Quilban (now a retired police officer), Ariel Maraña (now based in the United States) and Carlo Guieb (manager of a jeepney business).