Engineering was Alkuino’s love from an early age, but his parents urged him to study agriculture so that he could take charge of the family farm. After earning his degree at the University of the Philippines Los Baños College of Agriculture, Alkuino dutifully returned to Valencia to cultivate corn. But when a seven-month drought caused the loss of two harvests, Alkuino and his wife Joy realized that they needed a sideline source of revenue that would be independent of the uncertainties of farming. They decided to try making bricks.
Alkuino looked for raw materials. Silica and soil are the ingredients that, when mixed together and baked at high temperature, combine by a chemical reaction to create brick. Alkuino’s ready source of soil was obvious: the nearby Pulangi river is in a drastic state of siltation, so an unlimited quantity of loose silt can be had for the cost of trucking it up from the river bank. Sourcing the silica proved a bit trickier. Sand is typically used for the silica ingredient, but sand is not a cost-effective option in Valencia, since Bukidnon is a landlocked province. From his agricultural courses at college, Alkuino recalled that rice hulls contain silica, and rice hull is at least as abundant in Bukidnon as sand is in the maritime provinces. After each rice harvest, the farmers rake the hulls into mounds and burn them, dimming the skies of Bukidnon with smoke. Through much trial and error, Alkuino eventually discovered the ideal ratio of river silt to the ash from burnt rice hulls.
At first he was able to make 200 bricks a day, but over the years Alkuino’s ingenuity has enabled him to automate much of the process. In one day, he and his crew now produce about 8,000 bricks. “I discovered,” he says, “that the first love of a man will come back.” Having deferred his engineering dreams to honor his parents by studying agriculture and assuming the management of the farm, he has since discovered abundant employment for his love of inventing.
Pastor Manny Alkuino is a strategic advisor and consultant for PBCI and is the spiritual leader of Bukidnon’s PAR Community. In June of 2014 he invited PBCI to help manage and market his company, Sidlak Pinoy, whose motto, “Pinoy Technology for Pinoy Prosperity,” presents a vision of indigenous social enterprise that harmonizes with PBCI’s hopes for inclusive growth throughout the Philippines. PBCI is grateful for the opportunity to strive alongside Sidlak Pinoy and Pastor Manny in our shared mission to serve God by serving our neighbors.
Coming up in Part 2: The ideal building material; brick production and environmental conservation; bricks in disaster response; bricks for rural empowerment.