Various yet simple activities gave color to the celebration of the Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s month and St. Isidore’s feast day at the Department of Agriculture Regional Office in Bicol on May 14, 2021 amidst the raging COVID-19 pandemic.

At 6:00 in the morning, selected farmers toured the 13 – hectare hybrid rice derby site at the Central Bicol Experiment Station inside the DA compound. Dubbed as “Hybrid Rice Derby Site Farm Walk and Digital Agricultural Equipment and Farm Machinery Demonstration”, the activity aimed to showcase the different high yielding hybrid rice varieties as well as demonstrate new farm machineries and equipment developed by private companies.

Eleven private seed companies participated in the derby. Among the hybrid rice varieties planted at the derby site were: Bigante plus, AZ7888 and Habilis plus produced by Bayer Crop Science Philippines; S6003 and NK5017 by Syngenta Philippines, Inc.; SL20H and SL68H by SL Agritech Corporation; PHB79 and PHB77 by Corteva Agriscience; US88 and TH82 by Seedworks Phils., Inc.; Mestizo 20 by DOSEPCO; BioRice453 by BioSeed Research Phils, Inc.; LP 534 and LP 205 by Longping Tropical Rice Development Inc; Jackpot WinAll 102 by Leads Agri Products; and Hatao Unlad by Tao Commodity Trader, Inc.This hybrid rice derby site was only one among the five (5) on-going hybrid rice demo farms in the Bicol which was initiated by the DA Bicol Rice Program for this dry season 2020-21. Other hybrid rice derby sites are located in Labo, Camarines Norte; Malinao, Albay; CBSUA Calabanga campus, and Lagonoy in Camarines Sur.Meanwhile, new farm machineries were also showcased and demonstrated to the farmers, namely: 4WD tractor and precision seeder by Brixton Construction and Industrial Supply Corporation; drone sprayer by DA 5 DRR team ; drone seeder by New Hope Corporation; and combine harvester by AIMS Agri Ventures, Inc.

In his message to the farmers, DA Bicol Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla said that the “farm walk” was conceptualized to give the farmers an upclose and personal encounter with the high-performing hybrid rice varieties and compare them to their own farms. “Diyan natin makikita kung ano ang dapat nating i-adopt sa ating mga sakahan at ibalita sa mga kapwa natin magsasaka ang mga best practices dito. As you tour around our office, I also want you to see the developments inside the DA regional office such as the newly completed integrated laboratories complex. We believe that improving our facilities will also lead to improved services to the farmers” director Tornilla explained. Director Tornilla added that the “farm walk” and other activities were also a tribute to the farmers and fisherfolks who continuously toil to provide food for the people.

In honor of St. Isidore – the patron saint of the farmers – the nine-day novena culminated with a solemn mass which was followed by the blessing and inauguration of the newly completed Integrated Laboratories Division complex.

Also on the same day, the DA RFO 5 welcomed Jose R. Cordero as Farmer Director for the month of May. As the chairperson of the Regional Agriculture and Fishery Council (RAFC) in Bicol, Cordero has been designated by Secretary William Dar to assume the roles and tasks of the DA Regional Executive Director (RED) particularly those non-policy determining activities.Director Cordero thanked the DA family for the warm welcome. “Ito po ay isang magandang hamon sa private sector bilang farmer director. It is an honor to be surrounded with hardworking and dedicated people and I’m happy with this new role knowing that I am with a very talented and powerhouse team, together with the RAFC Regional Executive Officer Aloha Gigi I. Bañaria, EXECOM officers and Sectoral Chairpersons who will give the support for attainment of food security and sufficiency in the region” Director Cordero added.

Director Cordero has been serving the Agriculture and Fishery Council (AFC) for four decades. He started as Municipal AFC Chairperson of Tigaon, Camarines Sur, and later on elected as Provincial AFC Chair of Camarines Sur, RAFC Vice Chair and now the Chairperson. “Halos kalahati ng buhay ko po ay ginugol ko bilang AFC volunteer leader. Ang RAFC ay isang malakas na consultative partner ng DA in the formulation of policies to uplift the lives of farmers and fisherfolk”, added Director Cordero. In behalf of RAFC, I would like to thank the DA and its very dynamic Regional Executive Director Rodel P. Tornilla for continuously supporting the AFC for so long a time that we have been partners in developing the agri fishery sectors in Bicol. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the DA has continuously recognized the contributions and voluntary services of the AFCs, and we are very grateful for that. Let us continue to be strong partners for all the farmers and fisherfolks na ngayon ay binibigyan natin ng pagpupugay”, Director Cordero enthused.

In the afternoon, the highlight of the celebration was the regionwide Pinaka contest which drew some 80 farmers who brought their best harvests to the respective Research Outreach Stations in their provinces for the judging. (Lovella P. Guarin / photos by RAFIS 5)