One Friday night as I was watching the news over GMA 7, I came across a headline about Thailand’s rice field art — an art of strategically planting different colors of rice showing amazing patterns as the rice plants grow months later. Aside from how magnificent that kind of art is, what really caught my attention was the fact that the above mentioned art initiated by Green Peace, which was the very first of its kind in Thailand was created honoring the country because it’s the World Record Holder for exporting the largest amount of rice!
That is indeed an achievement for the Thais.
Yet as I was contemplating on it, my mind landed on a little contradiction: The Philippines is the home of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). Triggering my curiosity, I further researched about IRRI and Green Peace on the web.
IRRI is the largest “autonomous, non-profit, agricultural, research and training organization” with offices in 14 nations worldwide. Established in 1960 by the Ford and Rockefeller Foundation in cooperation with the Philippines, IRRI aims to “find sustainable ways to improve the well being of present and future generations of poor rice farmers and consumers while at the same time protecting the natural environment. IRRI was established to help poor rice farmers in developing countries grow more rice on less land using less water, less labor, and fewer chemical inputs.” This 252-hectare farm located at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños exists with a mission to “reduce poverty and hunger.”
On the other hand, prior to the creation of different branches outside the Philippines, Thailand was one of the countries who sent people here to be trained in IRRI. Now, few decades later Thailand beats Asia’s home of the Green Revolution.
If you’re pondering and arriving at my point, you would likewise realize that there is a huge irony going on: the student becomes better than his teacher!
What happened? Have we down cycled and leveled down? Have we lowered our standards and caliber? Having IRRI in our soil should be a huge advantage; enough to make the Philippines the largest exporter of rice; enough to scatter rice field art works and make it a household name here in the Philippines. But the saddening fact is: We don’t even have one. Another intriguing thought: our very own the Banaue Rice Terraces is world renowed in its grandeur and glory. Are these not enough to be the king of rice in Asia?
It is a privilege to have been chosen as the cradle for an international organization as the IRRI. If almost ten years ago, the Philippines was given this rare privilege, I could just imagine how strong and stable, independent, and potential-filled, our country and economy was; how our neighboring countries including Thailand looked up to us; how other foreign countries believed and trusted us (knowing that the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundation which established IRRI in the Philippines are international organizations run by people of other race).
Reviewing IRRI’s goal, it is inevitable to ask: has poverty reduced (specifically in the Philippines)? Has hunger relieved? What do farmers’ hunger strikes imply? What do farmers’ rallies in front of the Department of Agriculture convey? Why do their cries rang real loud still? Why do we still need to import rice from Vietnam, Thailand and other Asian countries when we were the ones who taught them how to have abundance in the rice fields?
I hate to admit, it seems like the rumored tag for the Philippines has become a nasty reality. Do we disclose we are a “sleeping giant?” If the IRRI irony repeats itself over and over again in other aspects besides agriculture, and rice training, then we are bound to answer a shameful “yes.”
Being Filipinos, we should know our potential, our talents and capabilities then put it into proper application. In 1960, the world has seen us worthy to be a caretaker of an international organization, after that, there wasn’t any of its kind built again in the Philippines.
Stop the snooze Filipinos!