“Alam niyo ba kung saan namin mahahanap si Tatay Lando?” we queried, upon entering a small farm-field-side village with no street names, after driving for over an hour from Cabanatuan in search of our peculiar interviewee.
“Aaaah, si Lolo Barya!!!” chimed the group of playful children who were more than excited to point us to the house behind one of the side streets. Clearly, he had quite a reputation in this neighborhood. And it was exactly why we had come to pay this special man a visit.
As we approached the property with an open lawn with incidental free-range chickens roaming about and a planting field for a backyard, we saw him there waiting for us… right next to his new Kawasaki CT100-motorbike-turned-tricycle. He was expecting us – all ready with refreshments and some tasty homemade lugaw in true Filipino, hospitable fashion.
He asked us what took us so long – he was very eager to share his story. With a shrug and some giggles, we explained to him how we struggled for a bit, navigating via landmark-based directions rather than using an actual address. “Pag nakita niyo yung rebulto ng kalabaw, dun kayo kumaliwa!” explained the townspeople along the road. Meanwhile, Tatay Lando described his residence simply as, “Dun lang malapit sa pangalawang simbahan ng San Pedro.”
And after us spoiled city-dwellers finally found our bearings, it was refreshing to visit a farming town of simple people with simple joys. And our person of interest was he – Rolando ‘Tatay Lando‘ Cruz Gapac, more popularly known as ‘Lolo Barya’.
Lolo Barya became quite the local icon of frugality and perseverance after his legendary purchase of a brand-new Kawasaki CT 100 at a Wheeltek dealership in Santa Rosa, Nueva Ecija using a sack of coins that he saved up over many years – amounting to over Php45,000 in total change – as his straight-up payment.
As the story goes, he took the sackful of coins from San Pedro to Santa Rosa (Nueva Ecija) in a jeepney on the day of his purchase. “Of course, tinanong ko muna sa saleslady kung tumatanggap ba sila ng barya!” explained Tatay Lando. The question to which, Wheeltek saleslady Arlene Cornes enthusiastically replied, “Opo, sir! Kahit piso, tatanggapin po namin!”
Of course, the sales crew didn’t know what they were really getting into. And so Tatay Lando simply asked for their help to come get his money from the jeep… and until this day, he smiles when he remembers how he couldn’t describe the look on their faces when they had seen that he literally meant a sackful of coins!
“Patigil-tigil kami sa pag-buhat...” he recounted, of their physical struggle to carry the heavy sack of coins into the shop. “Pagdating namin sa loob, binuhos namin sa lamesa… at 5 tao silang nagbilang!” he described with big smiles. The total amount counted was more than Php45,000 – enough to make his planned purchase. “And that day, diniliver na nila!” shared Lolo Barya, while letting out a smirk as he admitted to us that no one else really knew about it at the time… not even his wife!
His children were shocked that a new CT100 was delivered to him; and they nervously speculated about the possibilities of how their father had acquired this bike. Eventually, he revealed to his family how he had been secretly saving up for this purchase by throwing in some coins into his money sacks everyday for the past few years. “Itinanim ko dito,” exclaimed Lolo Barya as he pointed one finger to his head, “na pagdating ko sa bahay, ay maghuhulog na ako!”
And when asked if he combined his savings with anyone else’s, he was quick to reply that, “This is all mine!” and emphasized that he did it with absolutely no help. He even explained that he never really individually counted his saved money; and that he has in fact, discovered after weighing it once, that about 1kg of P5 coins amounts to approximately Php1,150!
Lolo Barya is a 73-year-old farmer who spends his mornings farming, and then walking around his horse (which he owns simply as a pet – and does not use as a work animal at all – because he just loves horses!). As a matter of fact, he also happened to purchase his pet horse solely out of his own pocket, after many years of saving – testament to the fact that this frugal farmer truly has prudence ingrained in his system… a virtue so many careless Filipinos could use these days!
And to make the happy ending of this story even sweeter – the executives of Wheeltek were so inspired by Lolo Barya’s unique story of perseverance that 1 month later, as Lolo Barya recounts: “Tinawagan ako ng Manager! Naku, bumabagyo pa nga nung araw na iyon.” And to his surprise, he was invited to the Kawasaki Plant in Muntinlupa – which he accepted – and there, he was awarded with ½ sack of rice; t-shirts; 2 brand-new Rudy Project watches (1 of which, he was wearing during our interview; while the other, he gave to his son); a suitcase, caps, and even groceries – or might I just call it, the whole pangkabuhayan package?
And to top it all off, Lolo Barya also got a free sidecar that he always wanted for his Kawasaki CT100! In fact, this was something he was saving for next.
“Syempre, tuwang-tuwa ako – Lumulundag ang puso ko!” exclaimed Lolo Barya of his initial reaction. His whole family was quite shocked with the turn of events, he said with a mischievous laugh. But meanwhile, he snappily worked on having his new sidecar installed and immediately took his grandchildren around in it for a spin!
These days, he uses his new tricycle to drive down to the Bayan and pick up bundles of grass to feed his pet horse. He does not use his tricycle for “pamamasada”, but instead uses it for important errands and to drive his family around.
When asked if he feels if he has inspired his community, he said “Yes!” and even pointed out that his neighbors expressed that they would like to start saving up, like him, as well!
“Ilagay lang lagi sa isip, na kailangan magsumikap!” were Lolo Barya’s words of advice. “At huwag ninyong kakalimutan – na lahat ng bagay ay may pamamaraan!”
Kudos to Lolo Barya, and may he be an example and an inspiration to us all!