Saturday, April 26, 2008

Keynote address of Ms. Maria Elena Regpala

Good morning and greetings of peace to all guest from Kalinga, Ifugao and Mt. Province,…

In behalf of the friends of mrdc, we would like to congratulate the bod and staff for its 30 years of servcie to the peoples of the Cordillera. Congratulations for a job well done.

Let us all give the bod and staff a warm applause.

These past days, the newspapers headlines warn of a world facing a food crisis, and in the Philippines an impeding rice shortage. On the other hand, local newspapers say that the Cordillera have adequate supply of rice. Whatever the situation, we face hard times in the days to come.

It is in this context that we celebrate the 30th anniversary of mrdc with the theme “consolidate our gains, advance sa to attain food security.”

Yesterday, when I was reflecting on the theme of the anniversary, I asked a colleague on what she thought of the essential particularity of the Cordillera people’s practice of Sustainable Agriculture. And she replied that it is the recognition of Indigenous knowledge and practice of traditional agriculture. Yes, indeed and it includes the defense and continuing practice of traditional agriculture in our ancestral lands and domains. These is the essence and meaning of our peoples way of life.

Today, this way of life is increasingly being threatened by new ways of thinking and making a living. Among others, are mining, logging, chemical based farming. That is why it is urgent to strengthen our ip brand of sa that also includes appropriate technologies such as…water lifting devices, bio-fertilizers and others.

But there are also NEW ways of thinking and making a living that are positive and sustain our people’s way of life. Our challenge is to know what these are and integrate it to our people’s brand of sa. What are these new ways of thinking and making a living ?

In 1979, the first research problem that we had to work on was to know what practices of our people are scientific and what are superstition. Looking back, this research problem was rather strange…

Let us examine the ubaya, teer or rest days before seed planting, seedling transplanting, and before and after harvesting and the rituals, prayers and offerings related to this. At that time these practices were considered by others who do not understand the cultural practice as superstition. Deeper research and analysis of this practice indicate that it is an important agricultural practice to synchronize work in planting and harvesting and to avoid and minimize the attack of pests on rice plants.

The idaw bird as an omen of impeding events. This was really considered as superstition. But science today recorgnize that animals react strangely days before an earthquake. Therefore, animals are considered as a good early warning device of impeding earthquakes and other disasters.

The belief in spirits or spirit guardians of particular places, of the earth, of the rivers, lakes (Lake Danum) of gold veins. All these are strange beliefs. But today, the documented experiences of some farmers in Scotland, UK and the United States prove the existence of such beings and that farmers who communicate with them and ask their help for a good harvest have experienced bountiful harvests.

The science of pranic (energy) healing as applied to agriculture is another New technology that is being practiced in some parts of the world particularly in India and Africa that have improved the harvest of farmers.

These are some NEW / old ways of thinking and technologies that can enhance our brand of sa and can contribute to food security. The challenge is not only to know these NEW / old ways of thinking and technologies, but to practice them.

The last challenge is in the area of service. Again we congratulate the bod and staff of mrdc for their 30 years of service to the people of the Cordillera. We urge everyone here today to be of service to the people. One way of doing service is to continue our advocacy and practice of sa, because in doing so we ensure our survival as a people and our way of life.

Thank you. May the Supreme God of our ancestors smile on us and give us life!