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By Larry T. Lopez

Benguet (PIA)– Coffee lovers say a cup of coffee in the morning makes your day.

But coffee drinkers would claim, it’s up to your coffee!

Well, coffee experts say the best Arabica coffee in the Philippines is grown in the highlands, particularly in the province of Benguet.

Produced in the upland farms of Atok, Itogon, La Trinidad, Tuba, Kibungan, and Tublay in Benguet, this variety of coffee blends well with the upland climate to produce the country’s top-coffee blend. Because of distinct taste and quality, Benguet Arabica Coffee is now a leading coffee brand in the market.

During the 3rd Philippine Coffee Conference held in Baguio City in March last year, Benguet-grown Arabica coffee emerged as the champion for the best Arabica coffee in the country, besting entries from other regions. Judges, international and local coffee experts, unanimously voted for the Arabica coffee entry of Oliver Oliem of Caliking, Atok, that blends the characteristics of apricot, lemongrass, pomelo, oolong Tea and the aroma of a rose, as the best.

Other Benguet coffee entries that won in the 2018 Philippine Coffee Quality Competition were those of Restie Labi Tacio of Atok, and Belen Macanes of Sagpat, Kibungan in third and fifth places, respectively.

What brings the distinctive taste of Benguet Arabica coffee?

Oliver Oliem, chair of the Cordillera Regional Coffee Council, elaborated how the distinct and great taste of their produce had pushed the coffee industry to be now the province’s booming industry.

Oliem explained the entire system in production tells it all.

Grown from seedlings of their own nurseries, farmers grow their coffee plants through pure organic farming without using pesticides or any chemical input. He shared that Benguet farmers practice multi-cropping in their coffee lands by planting other crops in between coffee trees like anthurium, strawberries and vegetables to add more income.

During harvest, usually in the months of November to March, farmers do not strip-off the coffee beans. They pick only the ripened ones one by one, leaving the unripe beans. This assures that the beans come from selected pick.

In drying, farmers adapt elevated-drying system where de-hulled coffee beans are spread on drying beds, instead of just putting them on the ground. This way, the beans are kept away from soil microbes making it arsenic-free adding a factor to its distinct taste, Oliem said.

Shirley Palao-ay, President of the Tuba Benguet Coffee Growers Association, Inc. (TUBENGCOGA), informed that among Benguet coffee farmers, the production of ‘honey-blend’ Arabica coffee is gaining headway.

Processors do not wash hulled beans before drying to retain the natural sugar in their coffee-produce. Even without sweetening, this brewed coffee comes naturally sweet, she said.

Dry coffee beans sell from P300/kg-P350/kg among traders, which sometimes even go higher.

Oliem noted the price is dictated based on the coffee grade given by trained cup Q-graders, who classify the quality of the coffee.

Growing industry
With the fast-growing market of the Benguet Arabica Coffee caused by increasing demand in the market, the 300 coffee farmers of Benguet grew to be more than a thousand in five years.

The coffee industry is becoming a lucrative source of income among farmers in the province. This translates to more families being able to send their children to college, more families having better homes and more families assured of brighter future.

Oliem acknowledged the coffee industry of Benguet has not reached this far without interventions from government agencies like the Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Training Institute, Benguet State University, Department of Trade and Industry, Department of Agrarian Reform and PhilMech thru their support-programs on certified seedling production, organic farming, improved post-harvest facilities and marketing promotion. (JDP/LL-PIA CAR)

Benguet Business Cordillera Features Regional News


Officers of the Topdac Laboratory Cooperative have potential of becoming future leaders , said Cooperative Development Authority Cordillera Regional Director Franco Bawang Jr. The budding leaders take pride in engaging into the lab coop sharing their personal experiences which changed their outlook in life. (SCA-PIA-CAR, Benguet)

By Susan C. Aro

ATOK, Benguet (PIA) – – Being part of the laboratory cooperative (lab coop) is more than just learning the habit of saving at young age but also shaping up values and skills and becoming future leaders.

Cooperative Development Authority- Cordillera Regional (CDA-CAR) Director Franco Bawang Jr said establishing a lab coop is not only about financial gains but it instils values and molds members, young as they are, to become leaders who will eventually take over the mother coop when they become adults.

The lab coops are lodged with their guardian or mother coop. And in the Cordillera region, the Topdac Multipurpose Cooperative (MPC) in Atok, Benguet is just one three coops that established its lab coop.

Big things start from small things
For the Topdac lab coop, Topdac MPC Manager Edina Picpican shared its humble beginnings into what it is now. It started in April 2016 with barely 48 youth members in the area who were taught by their parents to save. To equip the youth with financial literacy, the coop tapped its business partners from an insurance company. The youth were taught to understand how money is made, spent, and saved and the skills and ability to use the money they have.

They were taught how to plan and target the amount they have to save for a month spared from their allowances with the same counterpart amount from their parents collected monthly to deposit.

‘Alkansya’ or coin banks pooled from donations of kind-hearted people were awarded after the training to each of the participants, Picpican recounted. Each contained P100.00 together with a passbook as start-up amount. Collectively, they had a total of P7,300 deposits.

Within a year, the number of depositors and members rose to 132 with total deposit of P321,000.00.

On July 20, 2017, the Topdac lab coop was formally established. Since then, membership fee and share capital were collected, apart from savings deposit.

To date, with the surge of depositors and members to 456, the lab coop has a total savings deposit of P3.214 million. For the long term account, they have a total of P463,820.00 deposit which they can withdraw when in college.

They plan to continue their advocacy to other schools and areas to motivate others to join.

Apart from the CDA’s leadership trainings, the mother coop also initiated skills trainings in coordination with the respective schools of the members which they can apply in school and for their personal enhancement such as computer literacy and playing of musical instruments.

Sharing experiences, learnings
The members have stories to tell– how they were motivated, how they were molded, how their perspectives changed, and how they share their learnings and skills to others.
Jayver Picpican, a Grade 12 Senior high school student of Camp 30 National High School and the chairperson of the lab coop, said his experiences as a leader all started when he joined the lab coop. It expanded not only within the confines of the classroom but the community as well. All these he attributed to the CDA’s leadership trainings, as well as basic coop course, and values formation.

Georgia Bay-osan, the treasurer, said she developed her self-confidence through trainings and exposure to different types of people.

The most unforgettable experiences are the leadership trainings, which helped improve his ability to socialize with others, said Clifton Alsaen as he shared he would do anything to help others.

Joining the coop is advantageous because in times of need for school, I have something to get from, coop member Flora Mae Ogies said. It is also a challenge on how to balance school and lab coop activities, she said her self-confidence has improved and she can now lead group works. As the eldest in the family, she also prods her siblings to save and leave something for tomorrow.

Another coop member, Angelica Marcelino, admitted the financial literacy training helped her a lot to become thrifty like setting aside from her allowance and travelling expenses. Instead of taking a ride, she would walk in order to save. The five or ten-peso savings a day if accumulated would mean a lot, she added.

The lab coop members are one in saying that parents and classmates were their motivation in joining the group. Because they want to have a bright future, they learn how to be thrifty and save for their studies and they want to be of help to their family as well.

These youth have truly rippling effect even if they are barely more than a year in existence as lab coop, said the Topdac MPC manager.

According to Bawang, the lab coop is one of the perfect ways to teach the young on how they do something about their lives, their community, the country. Its is a way of preventing the youth from being in conflict with the law.
“Probably the coops have to reach out to the young before the gangs and criminals will embrace them” as they are taught values, to be obedient and law abiding citizens, he added.(JDP/SCA-PIA CAR, Benguet)

Abra Business Cordillera Features National News Regional News


With an entrance fee of Php 20.00 only, the Amsterdam-like Tulip Garden of Bucay, Abra gets more than 300 visitors from the entire Luzon daily. (CAGT PIA-CAR,Abra)

By Christian Allister G. Tubadeza
BUCAY, Abra(PIA) — The Layugan Garden in the town of Bucay is the newest attraction in the province averaging about 300 tourists a day.

With its 10,000 artificial tulips in vibrant colors, it is attractive in the day and especially at night when lighted.

Tulip LED flowers in different colors- red, yellow, pink, white and blue – are beautifully arranged in an elevated land.

Owned and managed by Mr. Jun Baroña, the Layugan Garden is located in barangay Layugan; about 10 minutes drive from the poblacion. It opened just last January 14 and instantly became a tourist destination.

In an interview with Bucay Tourism Officer Roger Bernal, he said the tulip garden is one of the steps of the local government in nurturing the tourism industry of the municipality.

The establishment of the Layugan Garden was inspired by the visit of Bucay Mayor Bernadette Baroña to the Sirao Garden in Cebu.

Bernal said that as more people come to see the garden, the local government unit beefs up the maintenance of peace and security especially this month of February.

“The management allowed souvenir and food stands in the vicinity of the garden for the general convenience of our visitors and to carry out business opportunities as well for the people of Barangay Layugan,” he said.

The garden regularly opens at 9:00AM with an entrance fee of Php 20.00 only and Php 30.00 in the evening. It would not close as long as there are still visitors at night, Bernal said.
To get there, tourists may ride the buses going to Bangued, then take the jeepneys going to Bucay which is less than an hour trip.

Those with private cars going to Bangued, turn right just after the Sinalang Bridge for about 20-25 minutes drive to Bucay town proper, then about 10 minutes drive to the Layugan Garden.

Aside from the Layugan Garden, visitors may also visit other tourists attractions in the municipality such as the Banglolao viewdeck, Pakiling Cave of Roces, Bucay Casa Real and the Borikibok Spring resort. (JDP/ MTBB/CAGT – PIA CAR, Abra)

Business Features


Dr. Ross Dizon Vasquez, lead researcher on pukpuklo, talks about the study during the symposium on The Values of Philippine Flora and Fauna. (Photos from Val Zabala, DOST-NRCP)

By Geraldine B. Ducusin, DOST-STII

Researchers from the University of Santo Tomas found that polysaccharides extracted from Codium species, locally known as “pukpuklo” (a seasonally-available seaweed), are effective against cancer cells and destructive enzymes associated with cancer metastasis.

The researchers, headed by Dr. Ross Dizon Vasquez, evaluated the inhibitory potential of the polysaccharides fractions isolated from Codium species. They found that the seaweed fights destructive enzymes that aid metastasis or spread of cancer to different parts of the body.

Polysaccharides are carbohydrates such as starch, cellulose, or glycogen whose molecules consist of a number of sugar molecules bonded together. This kind of carbohydrates are used by the body in storing energy, sending cellular messages, or for providing support to cells and tissues.

Aside from its potential anticancer benefits, pukpuklo has also been evaluated for its effect on the skin. Dr. Vasquez said that it induced healthy skin growth and promoted faster healing of rat’s skin that was exposed to UVB radiations.

Their next target of study is possible cosmeceutical application or formulation of anti-aging compound from pukpuklo. Cosmeceuticals are cosmetic products with bioactive ingredients purported to have medical benefits.

The Codium species were collected in Ilocos Norte, Aklan, Iloilo, and Cagayan province. Pukpuklo, a favorite Ilokano dish, is known as a good source of dietary fiber, amino acids, and minerals. However, little is known about its medicinal value and further studies have yet to be conducted to explore its use in the field of medicine.

Studying the Philippines’ flora and fauna
The Codium research was among the six completed projects that were presented at the symposium on “The Values of Philippine Flora and Fauna”, organized by the Department of Science and Technology-National Research Council of the Philippines (DOST-NRCP).

Dr. Irene V. Fariñas of the Department of Health (DOH), who was among the panel of reactors in the symposium, said that the DOH welcomes this potential drug discovery. This basic research on Codium as potential inhibitor of tumor growth, could possibly lead to the development of low cost alternative to commercial drugs for the treatment of cancer.

At the event’s opening ceremony, DOST Undersecretary for R&D Dr. Rowena Cristina L. Guevara mentioned that the third wave of research is setting in. The first was when research was mostly confined to teaching research, relegated to the centers of excellence. The second was when research was peer-centric, when getting published from standard publications was the “in” thing. The third wave is now, when research is measured by its relevance to society.

“Researchers, do not be afraid to translate your work into what’s good for the society,” Usec. Guevara addressed the symposium participants.

She added that the Philippine biodiversity is vast and the country’s local species are being studied by foreigners. “We lack researchers who can study our own biodiversity,” she emphasized.

Meanwhile, Dr. Christine C. Hernandez, associate professor at the Institute of Chemistry, University of the Philippines Diliman, commended the government especially DOST-NRCP for its efforts in championing research and development. She said that the funding support from government agencies like the DOST-NRCP enables them in the academe to support the work of their students. It also enables them to encourage more of their students to work for them and hopefully to inspire them to pursue PhD degrees, she added.

Dr. Vasquez also acknowledged that current funding enabled their two graduate students to complete their graduate thesis at UST.

DOST-NRCP also funded the innovative researches presented in the symposium which are important inputs to policy development, especially in terms of sustaining and protecting the country’s biodiversity. These basic researches on natural resources are vital not only to the local pharmaceutical industry, but for the country’s socioeconomic development, as a whole.

Features National News



By Allyster A. Endozo, DOST–STII

In a landmark feat, experts from the University of the Philippines Diliman have established baseline data on the country’s blow fly population. With key information on their distribution, identity, and growth rates, local forensic investigators would be aided in setting accurate crime scenarios from the onset of decay of a victim’s body.

Commonly, the blow fly (Chrysomya megacephala) or bangaw in Filipino, is considered a pest that brings dirt on surfaces it lands on. But in the world of research in the Philippines, the abhorred bangaw can actually bring clues in crime scenarios, making it a flagship species for forensic entomology.

This is because the bangaw is known to be the first insect to arrive and infest corpses on the onset of decay, thus helping investigators determine the time of death, depending on the insect’s larvae found in the body.

The species has a wide geographical distribution and reproduces fast, making it very useful in forensic cases.

Further, since the larva moves away from the decomposing body to find a safe place to metamorphose into a pupa, this will give a hint on the time that elapsed since a person died.

Such importance of the bangaw in forensic entomology made the insect a popular subject for study.

One such study that focused on bangaw is “Forensic Entomology in the Philippines: Establishing Baseline Data on the Forensically Important Blow Fly Species Chrysomya megacephala (Fabricius, 1794)” by researchers from the University of the Philippines Diliman.

This is the first study that established baseline data for C. megacephala on its known distribution ranges in the Philippines, molecular identification, and developmental rates at semi-controlled conditions of its larval forms.

The study found that bangaw which feasts on decaying matter is present in all major localities nationwide based on the study’s collected samples. Areas where samples were collected include Camarines Norte, Isabela, Laguna, Marinduque, Quezon City and Zambalesin Luzon; Iloilo in Visayas; and Davao del Sur, General Santos City, South Cotabato,Tawi-tawi, and Zamboanga in Mindanao.

Professor Ronniel Pedales, one of the researchers, has attributed the blow fly’s widespread presence to its inherent invasiveness and ability to coexist with human communities.

“C. megacephala is characteristically cosmopolitan in the Philippines because it is a native species and is synanthropic—it prefers habitats with human settlements and take advantage of the food availability,” he said. “With its current distribution in the Philippines and its ability to withstand competitive species, it is not surprising that this species is found everywhere—from marketplaces to the comfort of our homes.”

The species is so ecologically successful that it managed to gain foothold outside its native region. “It is very interesting to note that this species is known to only occur in Southeast Asia up until about 50 years ago. Now, the species has reached continental United States among many others,” he adds.

Code to Decode

The researchers stressed the importance of properly establishing the identity of C. megacephala in order to clearly differentiate it from countless fly species found worldwide. For this, a gene fragment—after being taken from maggot and adult tissues—was replicated for sequencing.

The fragment produced more or less similar DNA barcodes as it yielded a 99.8–100% match with the international standard, which actually makes it more useful for forensic analysis involving very distant sites.

“The reported variability shown here separates populations that are hundreds of kilometers apart. However, this shows that there is an existing genetic variability among populations and most probably this could be explored through using more variable genes,” Prof. Pedales explains.

Moreover, the study was also able to estimate the age of the C. megacephala pupa based its color. This finding is important in approximating the time when a person died. According to Pedales, once the blow fly species is identified, they can use the information to estimate the growth rate of the maggot and the time of death of a corpse.

Bridging the Gaps

The researchers acknowledge the need for a number of factors to be modified and included in the study. For improved accuracy of growth curves, these include the effect of initial egg/maggot count—in conjunction with humidity and temperature—on competition among hatchlings. Thankfully, these challenges present an opportunity for Filipino forensic experts to explore and use even more advanced DNA techniques.

The Philippine National Police is yet to adapt and implement guidelines and protocols in forensic entomology, particularly in establishing local databases. The agency, Prof. Pedales laments, is still left behind in insect evidence-based investigations.

“Forensic science as a discipline is very much ignored—for the lack of a more appropriate term—in the Philippines. There has been a plethora of published work made by local scientists but support and implementation from the government is lacking, if not non-existent.”

In spite of all the present challenges, he remains very much positive with the possible implications of this study. “I am hoping that this study will make current students realize that the forensic entomology they see in the TV shows is real and that they could do it themselves! I would like to see many more studies on forensic entomology and the diptera in the future.”

Central Luzon Features Regional News


the municipal government of Capas opens a dormitory for Aeta students. Located in Sitio Bilad of barangay O’Donnell, the facility has two rooms wherein each can accommodate approximately 40 students.(Capas Information Office)

By Cherie Joyce V. Flores

CAPAS, Tarlac — Municipal government of Capas opened a dormitory for Aeta students.

Located in Sitio Bilad of barangay O’Donnell, the facility has two rooms wherein each can accommodate approximately 40 students.

“It will be utilized by our Aeta students residing in several mountains and sitios here in Capas. We launched this to provide shelter for the students while they are studying so that they will no longer spend much time to travel to their school and go back to their sitios,” Mayor Reynaldo Catacutan said.

“We also want to ensure the safety and welfare of our Aeta students and as much as possible help them to have a comfortable and normal life,” Catacutan added.

The dormitory will be managed by the municipal government in cooperation with the barangay officials to ensure the security and protection of the Aeta students.

The project was funded by Good People International, an international development non-government organization with special consultative status granted by United Nations Economic and Social Council. — CLJD/CJVF-PIA 3)



VIGAN CITY–Dios ti agngina! Hurrah for another year to celebrate the cityhood of Vigan as a component city, ushering the unity of residents welcoming visitors on January 22 declared as non-working holiday through Republic Act No 9411 signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on March 24, 2007.
Walking through the cobbled streets in Vigan history, Republic Act No. 8988, An Act Validating and Recognizing the Creation of the City of Vigan by the Royal Decree of September 7, 1757 Issued by Fernando VI, King of Spain, was signed by then President Joseph Estrada on December 27, 2000.
A certified true copy of the Royal Decree issued by King Fernando VI can be found in the treasured archives of the city government.  This Decree states also that as long as the cathedral stands, and the seat of the diocese is in Vigan, it will remain a city.
“This explains why the picture of the Conversion of Saint Paul Cathedral is part of the city seal, and the symbol of the city during the elimination period for the New 7 Wonders Cities of the World,” said City Mayor Juan Carlo S. Medina.
Documents from “Instituto de Historia Programa de Modernization del Archivo Nacional de Filipinas” justified the category of Vigan as a city. They show Vigan with its own carcel, casa de gobierno, Mercado publico, Provincial High Court, and one of the four Public Works District in the Island of Luzon.  More importantly, it has an Audencia Territorial, indicating that it was a city.
As Medina invites visitors to the city during the Vigan City Fiesta and Longanisa Festival 2019 on January 16 to 27 this year, he wants residents to go back to where the city came from.
He hopes in commemorating the anniversary of Vigan as a city, the youth be brought back regularly to its history.
Recalling the following part of Vigan’s history, he hopes that the young leaders in the city may include activities that reflect it.
On Feruary 13, 1999, House Bill 7122, “An Act Converting the Municipality of Vigan into a Component City of the Province of Ilocos Sur to be known as the City of Vigan by the sponsors, Baterina and Mar Roxas, then House Majority Floor Leader.
How “Villa Fernandina de Bigan” becomes “Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan”
In 1755 when Don Juan dela Fuente de Yepes became Bishop of Nueva Segovia, he requested the King of Spain and the Pope for the transfer of the Diocese from Lallo, Cagayan to Vigan due to the deteriorating condition of Lallo.
The transfer was approved during the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XIV during the reign of Fernando VI, King of Spain by virtue of the Royal Decree of September 7, 1758. This Royal Decree elevated the status of Vigan to Ciudad Fernandina de Vigan in honor of King Fernando VI.
After a plebiscite to know the opinion of the residents whether they approve of its cityhood, Vigan became the first component city in Ilocos Sur in 2001.
Vigan City Mayor Juan Carlo S. Medina has always expressed his gratitude for the transformation of the city into what it is now.
“This is from the efforts of the residents, government and private groups not only in the city, but also in the province, the country and other countries that continue to pursue the preservation of the culture, traditions, ancestral houses and historical structures of the city,”he said.
In all the events that the city conducts through the months of every year, Medina has always acknowledged the help of all the sectors of the community.
“Because of all of you, we are one of the New 7 Wonders Cities of the World, aside from being the only World Heritage City in the Philippines listed by UNESCO.  And today we can feel how the popularity of our city increased our revenue,” he added.  – By Imelda C. Rivero, PIA-IS

8 Dozen Olive Ridley Hatchlings Released To The Sea On Christmas Eve

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San Juan, La Union (December 24, 2018) – Tourists, conservationists and residents gathered Saturday evening infront of the posh Kahuna Beach Resort in Urbiztondo here not to party.

But to release more than 8 dozens (96) Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings to the sea minutes after they hatched from a temporary hatchery of the conservation group CURMA here.

Wiggling slowly towards the waters, the turtle hatchlings virtually were “our Christmas gift” to nature.

Laid infront of Kahuna Resort on broad daylight during La Union’s phenomenal November tourism pitch— “Surf Break” on October 28, dubbed as “a VIP (Very Important Pawikan) visit”, the eggs were carefully moved to CURMA’s hatchery in Ili Norte barangay to stay for 60 days until they hatch.

Project CURMA (Coastal Underwater Resource Management Actions) is a pawikan conservation and protection program supported by the Science of Identity Foundation (SIF-CARE).

8 Dozen Olive Ridley Hatchlings Released To The Sea On Christmas Eve
Sea turtles like olive ridleys only lay their eggs where they were hatched.

The VIP might have been hatched in Urbiztondo some 25 years ago.

On that Sunday afternoon, the usually noise and light-shy mother pawikan slowly approached the sand, the same grounds where hundreds of mother olive ridleys have been hatching, before sunset witnessed by a delighted “La Union Surf Break” crowd treated with the rare natural spectacle, said Carlos Tamayo, coordinator of CURMA.

There are at least 12 more olive ridley nests at the CURMA nursery, and soon be released in the coming months, said Tamayo.

“Keystone Specie”

Sea turtles, especially green sea turtles, are one of very few creatures (manatees are another) that eat sea grass. Sea grass needs to be constantly cut short to help it grow across the sea floor.

Sea turtle grazing helps maintain the health of the sea grass beds. Sea grass beds provide breeding and developmental grounds for numerous marine animals. Without sea grass beds, many marine species humans harvest would be lost, as would the lower levels of the food chain. The reactions could result in many more marine species eventually becoming endangered or extinct.

Only sea turtles feed on jellyfish. If they become extinct, the deadly jelly fishes will multiply exponentially, according to CURMA.

Tamayo continues to campaign, “Let us all keep the beaches clean, quiet and safe for all.”

The bustling tourism in the San Juan is though challenging the nesting ground of the olive turtles, CURMA warned. Recently, an establishment began to build structures right where the nesting ground is in Urbiztondo. But not without conservationists, including CURMA raising questions that prompted the environment department to shut down the planned restaurant.

“We are transient caretakers of the Earth and should act responsibly towards all living beings and Mother Earth herself,” Tamayo pointed out. Together we must stand to protect our beaches and environment so that those living beings (like the pawikan) will still have their homes, he explained.

Two years ago, a huge international hotel chain planned to build along the nesting ground but CURMA with the San Juan local government negotiated with the developer to do structural considerations not to build too close to the nesting site.


The Stairways to the Sky

The stairways to the sky
The Banaue Rice Terraces in the province of Ifugao is recognized as a civil engineering project believed to have been completed in 2000 B.C. (PIA photo)

Rice cultivation is an industry common in most Filipino communities but rice paddies carved along steep mountain slopes are one of the features unique in Cordillera provinces.

The Cordillera’s rice terraces are found in Ifugao, Mountain Province, Benguet, Kalinga, some parts of Abra, and Apayao.
Over the years, the different provinces have come up with their own systems of preserving and managing the rice terraces as livelihood and food source.

These systems, utilizing local knowledge on biodiversity, agro-ecosystems, and agriculture are entwined with the ways of life of the Cordillera people.

Food security and the Cordillera rice terraces

Food security is among the global issues that the Sustainable Development Goals wants to address by 2030.
The Asian Development Bank reported that between 2007 to 2008, the export restrictions placed by rice exporting countries and the panic buying of rice importing countries like the Philippines increased rice prices up to 149% leading almost a billion people into poverty.

With its vast rice fields, massive vegetable and fruit gardens, rich seas, lakes, and rivers, the Philippines still recorded 8.2 million Filipinos below the food threshold and 3.1 million families experiencing hunger.

The Cordillera, which is home to 1.7 million people mostly dependent on agriculture, also saw three percent of its population experience hunger in 2011.

“Our population is getting bigger but our farms are not,” an indigenous peoples leader of the Cordillera said as he discussed land conversion and decreasing water supply during the NAPC-led Conference on Cordillera Rice Terraces in Banaue, Ifugao.

These issues, coupled with climate change, ecological disruption, poor agricultural support, and socio-cultural factors have deteriorated the condition of the rice terraces.

“Kaming mga farmers ay marami kaming problema sa earthworm, isang hair-like na worm. They go inside the soil so maraming paddies ang nae-errode na sa amin sa Sagada,” farmer Esteban Solang shared.

As a result, food sufficiency and other survival needs are affected by the high cost of prductivity and low technological support.

“I opted to sell the rice surplus of my family. Instead of selling it to my neigbor who is short of rice, I have to sell it outside for a better price.” This is among the concerns raised by a farmer from Barlig as he talked about the challenges of sending his children to school while providing the family food.

Beyond Food Security

In most of the previous interventions for the rehabilitation of the rice terraces in the Cordillera, the socio-cultural component has only been an add-on to conservation efforts and plans.

University of the Philippines-Baguio Cordillera Studies Center Director Dr. Leah Abayao highlighted the need to incorporate the socio-cultural aspect as an integral part of the conservation and rehabilitation plan of the rice terraces.

Abayao said the rice terraces, more than just a food source, is a reporsitory of the Cordillera identity including local knowledge and cultural heritage.

Factors such as land, irrigation systems, indigenous knowledge and practices necessary for the sustainability of the rice terraces are embedded in the culture and tradition of Cordillera communities.

Responding to the challenge

Recognizing the importance of the rice terraces in the survival and identity of the Cordillera people, NAPC, as the government’s coordinating agency in poverty reduction, facilitated the IP-Cordi convergence.

The convergence aims to rehabilitate and conserve the rice terraces; protect critical water sources, watershed, and biodiversity; strengthen indigenous knowledge systems and practices; and promote appropriate agricultural development towards food security in the Cordillera.

IP-Cordi involves provincial and municipal government units, concerned regional line agencies, academic institutions, and the Center for Development Programs in the Cordillera, a non-government organization.

Through consultations and community validation, NAPC has also crafted a five-year development plan to serve as a blueprint of the IP-Cordi convergence.

The pro-farmer and pro-indigenous people development plan 2019-2023 aims to increase forest cover by at least 10%, increase land productivity by 20%, decrease production cost by 20% through improved technologies, enhance indigenous knowledge systems, and explore the creation of a Cordillera Rice Terraces Office with a regular budget allocation and effective participation of indgeous peoples organizations in policy development.

NAPC presented the plan during the Conference on the Cordillera Rice Terraces where participants composed of farmers, indigenous peoples representatives, leaders, line agencies, LGUs, and other stakeholders discussed issues and shared best practices to improve the IP-Cordi convergence towards food security.



TRASLACION – More than a thousand devotees join in the ‘Traslacion’ of the Poon Nazareno of Quiapo or the Black Nazarene of Quiapo on November 30, 2018 held at the major thoroughfares of the City of San Fernando, La Union, the province’s capital. (Photo by: Vic Villanueva/PIA-1)

SOME OF us only witness on television Catholic devotees who flock to Quiapo, Manila to join and touch the Poon Nazareno (Black Nazarene) which is believed by many to heal sickness.

SOME OF us only witness on television Catholic devotees who flock to Quiapo, Manila to join and touch the Poon Nazareno (Black Nazarene) which is believed by many to heal sickness.

For the Ilokanos, it is of great repute that the image set foot in the province of La Union and the Catholic faith to the Poon which is passed down from generations to generations can be remarkably seen.

This year, it is the first time for some to behold the miraculous Poon Nazareno, which arrived in the morning of November 26 in San Fernando City.

As soon as installed inside the St. William the Hermit Cathedral, Holy Masses were conducted regularly at 6 a.m,, 12:00 noon and 5 p.m. administered by the monsignors of the the different towns.

On a daily basis since its arrival, thousands of devotees patiently line-up for the ‘pahalik’, a customary touching of the image which is open to the public.

“Our veneration of the Black Nazarene is rooted among us, specially those who identify themselves with the suffering of Christ which the image depicts and those who relate their poverty and daily struggles to His passion,” said cathedral parish priest Rev. Fr. Roberto Benito L. Collado and at the same time, over-all coordinator of the pilgrimage, in one of the Holy Masses.

“The shared efforts of our devotees in welcoming the Poon and their participation on the different undertakings is very much valued,” Fr. Collado added.

On Nov. 30, devotees also experienced the successful conduct of the ‘Traslacion’ which made its way to the major thoroughfares for everyone to catch a sight of.

‘Traslacion’ which can be simply described as the procession wherein thousands herd just to have a glimpse despite heat, fatigue, or possibility of being trampled upon by the crowd. They unwearyingly pass their white hankies to ‘mamamasan’ (bearers) for these to be wiped on the image.

The passing and wiping of the handkerchiefs and when used, is believed to bring healing and forgiveness of sins.

Usually, the image is placed in an ‘Andas’ or ‘carozza’ and being pulled with two thick ropes, but here, the image was carried by the about thirty-five bearers and protected by around fifty honor guards wearing color coded shirts.

While some disapprove of the ‘Traslacion’ because it is said to be infamous for the casualties that result from the jostling and congestion, Ilokanos were very obliging and cooperative to ensure that everyone is unharmed.

The image of the Poon found its home in the province until Dec. 2 until it was brought back to Quiapo.

According to history, the image was carved by an unknown Mexican from a dark wood in the 16th century in Mexico and then transported to the Philippines in 1606 and depicts Jesus en route to his crucifixion.

In 1650, Pope Innocent X granted recognition to the lay Confraternity of Santo Cristo Jesús Nazareno for the promotion of the devotion to Jesus through the icon.

It was housed in several churches near Manila in the early decades, arriving in Quiapo Church in 1787 where it has been enshrined ever since. (JNPD/AHFF/PIA-1)