by RALPH LAUREN ABAINZA
The Philippines celebrates the wonders of the country's agriculture every year through different national month-long celebrations and festivals. From rice to fish, there is a lot to celebrate and appreciate around the country.
Here are the official month-long celebrations designated to appreciate the contributions of the agricultural sector to the country's development:
Philippine Tropical Fabrics Month
Celebrated every January, Philippine Tropical Fabrics Month aims to promote the use of indigenous textiles and raw materials, such as abaca, banana, and pineapple leaves, being produced in the country. Under Presidential Proclamation No. 313, series of 2012, the government, led by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), crafts programs to sustain increased interest and active participation of Filipinos in local tropical fabric developments.
One of the local companies taking part in promoting indigenous textiles is LARA in the municipality of Basey in Samar. LARA remasters the traditional art of weaving while empowering local women weavers.
Countryside Development Month
Through the virtue of Presidential Proclamation 212, series of 2016, the Countryside Development Month aims to promote national economic decentralization through a series of activities that will highlight countryside products among local consumers and increase public-private market linkages.
One of the groups actively promoting and helping in countryside development is Green Rescue Organic Association Inc (GRO). Through the group, Arcely ‘Cely’ Lagardo, a former worker in Manila was able to grasp more opportunities in the countryside by learning organic farming with GRO.
Farmers' and Fisherfolks' Month
Throughout the country's history, the agricultural sector has contributed a lot to shaping the national economy and culture. The month of May is proclaimed as Farmers’ and Fisherfolks’ Month through the virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 33, series of 1989, to recognize the role of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk in helping the country achieve food security and sustainability.
One of the fisherfolks leading in the mission of making the fisheries sector more sustainable is Roberto Ballon, a fisherman from Zamboanga Sibugay. Together with his 30 other colleagues, he started Kapunungan sa Gamay Nga Mangingisda sa Concepcion (KGMC) which aims to promote mangrove reforestation to revitalize marine ecosystems.
In a bid to increase awareness and help in alleviating the problem of malnutrition in the country, the government designates July as Nutrition Month through the virtue of Presidential Decree No. 491, series of 1974. The series of activities during Nutrition Month aims to promote the importance of nutrition among Filipinos, especially children. The month also highlights the role of agriculture in ensuring a healthy population.
Developing the agriculture sector is essential to reaching the community's nutrition goals. Promoting sustainable agriculture and combating malnutrition is the mission Cherie Atilano, president and founder of social enterprise Agrea, aims to continue as a high-level ambassadress for the United Nations Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement.
Bamboo is a fast-growing grass known for having a variety of uses. In recognition of the many uses of bamboo and its potential to help in developing communities, the month of September is designated as Bamboo Month through the virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 1401, signed just last 2022. The month-long series of activities aims to strengthen the local bamboo industry by promoting the product development of bamboo and enhancing market access to bamboo products.
One of the companies recognizing the value of bamboo is Bambu Salubre in Bulacan. The company's six-hectare farm in the town of San Jose Del Monte is home to more than 80 species of bamboo being utilized to produce essential oils and hydrosols.
National Rice Awareness Month
Rice is life for many Filipinos, shaping not just the local cuisine, but also the country's economy. Despite being a staple food in the country, problems in the supply of rice continue to bug the local industry and are further aggravated by the problem of food waste. Through the virtue of Presidential Proclamation No. 524 Series of 2004, National Rice Awareness Month every November aims to raise public awareness of the importance of rice, combat malnutrition and poverty, and promote rice self-sufficiency. During this month, the Department of Agriculture (DA) also highlights the need for responsible consumption of rice.
More than appreciation, Filipinos are called upon to support local rice farmers. From patronizing local rice to more active community involvement, there are several ways to support Filipino farmers.
Organic Agriculture Month
Highlighting the importance of organic agriculture in ensuring food security with environment-friendly practices, Presidential Proclamation No. 1030, series of 2015, designates November of each year as Organic Agriculture Month. The series of activities during the month aims to promote the practice of organic agriculture in the Philippines as an effective tool for rural development, ecological conservation, and health protection of farmers and consumers.
After changing careers, farmer Emma Tolentino is now helping her community in Victoria, Tarlac through organic farming. Her Eco Natural Integrated Farm is home cultivating guava apples, organic rice, mushroom, and other herbs and spices.
The monthly agriculture celebrations not only remind Filipinos of the abundance and contribution of the local agricultural sector but also highlight the need for it to be further developed amidst the country's glaring problems on food security and sustainability.