This CEO Is Finally Living His Dream of Being a Farmer
Tres Domingo is the CEO of Ideas X Machina (IXM), which is one of the top advertising agencies in the Philippines. Recently, the company won two recognitions at the Campaign Agency of the Year Awards, besting dozens of global competitors for Best Place to Work and Talent Management Team of the Year.
Considering his streaks of successes, Domingo actually has very humble beginnings. He grew up playing inside the notorious maximum security compound of the National Bilibid Prisons, where his father worked as a prison guard. His playmates were inmates who taught him how to play chess.
Now that he’s CEO of a company he built from the ground up, Domingo is now also living his dream of being a farmer.
Tres Domingo in His Farm in Tarlac
“It’s a return to my roots kind of thing,” Domingo tells Esquire Philippines.
“I come from a family of teachers and farmers. When I was a kid, I enjoyed helping out in the rice fields of my relatives during the summer break.”
According to Domingo, agriculture offers a different kind of happiness compared to advertising.
“In farming, it’s physically demanding but mentally refreshing. You can turn it off. In advertising, it's quite the opposite: your brain is always churning. Kapag lumubog na yung araw, tigil na yung trabaho mo sa bukid. Sa advertising hindi ganun.”
(“When the sun sets, you stop working in the fields. In advertising, you keep working.”)
Domingo and the Aetas Helping Him
According to Domingo, a group of Aetas are helping him work the field when he’s busy running his company in Manila.
“I work with Jemark, Otep, Niko, Pipoy, Jords, Jerald, Dick and Danny. They are members of the Aeta community and we learn together,” says Domingo.
Domingo and the Aetas take care of the kilometer-long river running through their land, where they cultivate not only rice, but also coffee, mulberries, fruits, and vegetables.
Farming has taught Domingo many lessons in life. He established a bond with the farmers in Tarlac, and has learned how to listen to nature.
“Farming is a very purposeful way of life. You rediscover new insights and you gain a literally refreshing point of view on how to deal and take care of relationships. In farming, you learn to think in terms of days, weeks, months and years. Which is how we should plan about life, I think. It makes you humble. You learn to contend with the power of nature on a daily basis. And to harness that power as well.”
‘Pinagtawanan ako ng mga magsasaka.’
During his first attempt at farming, Domingo made quite a lot of mistakes.
“Pinagtawanan ako ng mga magsasaka,” says Domingo.
“Sa area kasi namin, ang dapat na target mo ay 100 cavans of rice per hectare of land. Kapag mas madami kang naani, very good ka na nun. Noong first harvest ko, tawang-tawa sakin yung mga magsasaka dahil 30 cavans lang ako per hectare. Tawanan sila, hindi daw ako marunong.”
(“The farmers laughed at me. In our area, you should aim to get a yield of 100 canvas of rice per hectare of land. If you harvest more than that, that’s considered very good. In my first harvest, the farmers kept laughing because I only got 30 cavans of grains.”)
Ciendasara: Domingo's 10-Hectare Farm in Capas, Tarlac
Domingo’s farm in Tarlac is 10 hectares where he cultivates rice, mangoes, and many vegetables.
“Ang tingin nila sa akin Manilenyo, advertising, maporma, like, anong ginagawa ko sa lugar nila. Pero, hindi, mababait sila, kantiyaw lang nila ‘yon. ‘Mag-advertising ka na lang!’ sasabihin nila sa akin,” says Domingo.
(“They thought of me as this flashy Manila boy from the advertising industry and wondered what the heck I was doing in a farm. They are kind, but would tease me, saying ‘Hey, go back to advertising!’”)
“Na-challenge ako doon!” Domingo recalls of his field’s dismal harvest. “Sabi ko, ‘Ah, ganon?’ Nanggigigil ako pag nag-fail ako. Kailangan patunayan kong kaya ko ‘to. So, ang ginawa ko, ako mismo nag-aral at gumawa ng lahat sa farm.”
(“I was challenged! I thought to myself, ‘I’ll show you.’ I get restless whenever I fail. I needed to prove that I can do this. I decided to become more hands-on in my farm, studying the basics and doing the manual labor myself.”)
Domingo with Sacks of Rice from His Second Harvest
Domingo watched farming tutorials on YouTube, read books, and researched modern ways of farming. He also invested in a tractor for plowing the soil. Among the mistakes he learned were not leveling his field, not investing in fertilizers, and not preparing the soil.
“Rice planting is so meticulous. It requires so many things. The most important is soil preparation, which I didn’t do. If your soil is not level, it would waste ungodly amounts of fresh water because it would drain on one side.”
When the next harvesting season came, all the farmers in the area were shocked when they saw two large container trucks pulling over at Domingo’s farm.
Domingo and His Tractor
“Hindi sila makapaniwala, pero tuwang tuwa din,” says Domingo. “Naka 110 cavans of rice ako per hectare during my second harvest. Balitang balita ako sa barangay namin! Takang-taka sila may dalawang malaking truck na nagpupunta doon sa farm ko, bibili ng palay ko!”
(“They couldn’t believe it, but they were genuinely happy for me. I harvested 110 canvas of rice per hectare during my second harvest. I was the talk of the town. They were so astonished to see two large trucks coming to my farm to buy my grains!”)
Now that Domingo has mastered the basics of rice farming, he still manually tills his land and plants his crops.
“I love it when I learn things first hand. I like it when I can blame only myself for my failings, or say ‘good job!’ to myself for my successes.”