The RICEing demand

By Christele Jao Amoyan

Mang Reynaldo’s life starts at 7 am. He drives his way from Bay, Laguna to his tending contract farm at PhilRice on his two-wheel ride, rain or shine. Early on, he will be spotting birds picking palay grains, and will be weeding wild grasses sprouting on the half-hectare rice paddy. This would be his day-to-day routine for the next 30 days before harvest-time nears mid-week of October.

The 45 year-old farmer Mang Reynaldo is the breadwinner of his family.  He has four children. Two of which – Reyciel, 26, and Realyn, 24 – got married at a young age. Not one of them were able to finish high school.

Mang Reynaldo and his family are among the two million households that depend on rice-based farming in the country. He has been a farmer for over 20 years. Currently, he is working as a contractual laborer at PhilRice Los Baños with an income of P390.00 per day. Mang Reynaldo says that the money he receives can barely support his family’s needs. “Kulang ang kinikita ko. Ang mamahal na ng bilihin ngayon. Kaya nga ibayong pagtitipid na ang ginagawa ko.”

According to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, a farmer earns about P75,000 annually on the average. Basically, a farmer’s salary is considered underpaid labor compared to a white-collar-job’s whose workload is less physically taxing than that of manning the rice fields.

The RICEing Crisis

“May krisis ngayon sa bigas,” says Rey Buhat, a rice retailer in Barangay Batong Malake, Los Baños. For six years that Rey has been experiencing rice price increase, it is only now that he felt the erratic shift of rice prices. From the regular milled rice of P34.00 per kilo, it went up to P41.00. Some of his costumers were surprised about this.

However, Rey’s costumers still pick the good quality rice. He said that buyers still prefer quality rice despite the price hike. “Di bale ng medyo mahal ang bigas, basta masarap naman kainin,” Rey explained.

Rice price crisis has already been a problem since 2007/2008. The price tripled in six months after a steady slow trend in 2005 according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Hence, there are two reasons why there is rocketing price of rice. The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) claims that the shortage in supply and heightened demand keep the price up. This means that the price yield produced does not meet the consumers’ demand or consumption requirement.

The RICEing Consumption

Thirty to seventy per cent of a person’s caloric intake is derived from rice. Rice is enriched with nutrients and carbohydrates to fuel up the daily body energy need. It serves as the primary staple food in the Philippines.

Rice is every Filipino’s favorite. It matches well with almost any kind of viand. Rice can also be served anytime of the day, may it be day-in or day-out. Pinoys have sinangag (fried rice) during breakfast, mixed with savory garlic and spices – a perfect combo for beef tapa and egg. For lunch, nothing wins the appetite than a freshly cooked rice and caldereta. And for dinner, bahaw (leftover rice) swam in hot soup of sinigang will finally satisfy your day.

Gil Suazo, a junior student in the university spends half of his 100-peso allowance on rice. Every meal, he consumes three to four cups of rice a day. “Mas importante na may kanin,” says Gil.

Gil and the rest of the 3.5 billion people on earth eat on rice. That is half of the world population. Moreover, 90 per cent of that comes from Asia alone, where still, extreme hunger is faced by 560 million people in the region.

Based from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) 2013 consumption forecast, the Philippines produced more than 11 thousand tons of milled rice in the first quarter of the year. Though the country tops 6th as the largest rice yielding country in the world, the production rate is yet to meet the domestic consumption at 12, 900 tons. 

The RICEing Problem

Meron tayong isang mabigat na problema. Tumataas man ang production natin, ang population naman natin ay tumataas din,” told Richard Romanillos, development coordinator at PhilRice Los Baños. The booming count of Filipinos is essentially one aspect of concern to rice production. According to the Population Commission (PopCom), the Philippine population is expected to reach 98 million by the end of 2013.

Aside from the growing need for rice, another challenge is the shrinking arable farmlands. FAO reported that after a couple of decades since 1991, two-thirds of the 10 million hectares of rice fields are gone.

In spite of these stumbling blocks to achieve rice self-sufficiency in the country, Filipinos remained accountable for rice wastage. In 2010, 13 per cent of rice has been wasted. This much could already feed 2.6 million people for a year’s time. Furthermore, PhilRice survey shows that for every two tablespoons of leftover rice, 17 million pesos is spent for rice supply.

(Y)our RICEponsibility

This RICEing demand paves way to the National Year of Rice 2013. This campaign works in the national arena venturing from rice production to rice consumption. NYR 2013 shares the advocacy of rice self-sufficiency.

This is embodied in President Benigno C. Aquino III’s Presidential Proclamation No. 494 launched in October 18, 2012 conveying the theme “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas.” Hence, during the President’s 2nd State of the Nation Address (SONA), he mentioned: “Ang gusto nating mangyari: Una, hindi tayo aangkat ng hindi kailangan. Ikalawa, ayaw na nating umasa sa pag-angkat. Ang isasaing ni Juan Dela Cruz dito ipupunla, dito aanihin, dito bibilhin.”

The said nationwide campaign joins farmers, consumers, policy makers, and even the private sector to foster a rice self-sufficient Philippines. Moreover, IRRI being a non-profit organization also extend its support to the government for better rice production. “IRRI does develop new rice varieties,” told Sophie Clayton, IRRI Public Relations Manager. In fact, with their new varieties, they have assessed an additional P2,180.00 income of farmers per hectare per year. “This helps the national economic figures as well,” she added.

NYR 2013 aims to make every Filipinos RICEponsible. We can make it happen, right?

Dealing with Autism

By Kristin Chloe Pascual and Maria Carmel Rimpos

When Marivic had her second child, Miko, she expected him to follow the same journey as her first child. However, Miko walks on a different path. At the age of two, Marivic saw his first signs of autism.

“There was something wrong with him,” Marivic, now a trainer at the Autism Society Philippines Laguna Chapter, recounts the first time she noticed the signs in his then two-year-old son. She said that Miko did not know how to play with a toy car. Instead of running its wheels against the floor, Miko would just turn the wheels in his hands repetitively. He also would not have eye contact when someone is talking to him.

The lack of eye contact also alarmed Shiela, parent of Althea, an autistic child. The mother became more concerned when she observed that Althea never cried whenever she was hungry.

Sharon’s son, Daron, on the other hand has a slightly different case from Miko and Althea. He doesn’t pay attention when someone calls him. Something else would catch his interest instead. His mother shared, “when music from Disney movies are played, he pays attention immediately.”

The three children have shown signs of autism, a development disorder. Autistic children don’t usually make eye contact when a person calls their attention. According to Joseph Languez, an occupational therapist, they look at the person talking to them for one second and then they drift away. Also, they exhibit repetitive behavior by continuously flapping their hands, flipping their fingers, and even banging their heads.

Languez explained that as early as 10 months, parents can start seeing signs of autism in their child. A simple “peek-a-boo” would normally trigger the baby to laugh. If this isn’t the case, something could be wrong with the child. Usually, symptoms of autism are visible at the age of two years. However, autism can only be officially diagnosed by a developmental pediatrician when the child is already three years old. At this age, a normal child will already fully participate in social interaction, communication, and behavior, while an autistic child will encounter basic learning problems in these three aspects. Aira Kristina Basmayor, a speech language-pathologist stated that these three are known as the “triad of impairments.”

For diagnosis, a child must first take the standardized diagnostic criteria indicated in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual IV (DSM-IV). It shows a list of a child’s problems in social interactions, communication, and behavior or activities. Languez added, “at three (years of age), all of the criteria would be observed because at two years old, the language is not yet that developed.”

Though the real cause of autism is still unknown, it has already been linked to social factors, heritage, and a combination of both. Recent materials from Mt. Sinai Medical Center have shown that people with autism have an incomplete set of genes. However, this case is not always inherited from the parents.

People with autism encounter problems in processing the sensory inputs transmitted in their brains. Languez said that autistic children have problems specifically with their five basic senses (touch, sound, sight, hearing, and taste) as well as proprioceptive and vestibular senses. Proprioceptive senses refer to the sense of joint movement which allows us to move objects and respond to other’s touch. On the other hand, vestibular senses refer to the sense of balance and direction. It enables a child to stand properly and distinguish left from right.

These problems can be observed mainly through an activity children naturally engage in as part of growing up such as playing. Autistic children are very peculiar in the way they play and interact. When playing, one would notice that an autistic child has his “own world” which means that he isolates himself from other people.

It is important to note that each child diagnosed with autism is unique. According to Basmayor, “they manifest different levels of severity and also have different characteristics.” One technique that benefits one child could have a different effect on the other. Hence, it is important that each child is treated with utmost care.

Autism still has no cure but it can be monitored through special education, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. Children with autism need assistance to properly perform basic activities of daily living such as taking a bath, brushing their teeth, dressing up, and eating. They do not learn by themselves; they should be taught.

The goal of a speech therapy is to improve the child’s communication and socialization skills. Basmayor stated that it would be difficult and frustrating for the children and their families if they don’t know how to express even their basic needs and wants. “Our role is to help children with autism learn how to express themselves, engage into communication (verbal or non-verbal), exhibit appropriate social skills and be functional,” she added.

In line with this, the goal of occupational therapy is not really to correct the children’s behavior but to teach them to become independent. When they grow up, it wouldn’t be difficult for them to adapt. Their parents wouldn’t have a difficult time assisting them anymore. Moreover, the occupational therapists would want to let the children experience the “normal” life, without any discrimination. “We give them ways to make their lives meaningful,” Languez said. “We make them feel that they’re also normal.”

Unfortunately, the parents can also hinder the progress of the child. There are cases when the parents won’t accept their child’s condition. “Denial is the number one defense mechanism,” he said.

The tendency of parents with an undiagnosed autistic child is to evaluate them as having delayed development. Languez added that the earlier the parents would accept the situation of their child, the sooner the possibility of intervention towards the progress of their child.

Glaiza Ozarraga, another occupational therapist, said that parents who are in denial always ask for a second opinion from other doctors. “They won’t stop going to doctors until someone would tell them that their child is just delayed,” Ozarraga added.

Moreover, Ozarraga said that this kind of thinking of parents greatly affect the progress of the child as they might not put him into therapy right away. And if they decide to, they might even control the flow of the session.

To boost the esteem of the parents, Languez suggested the Autism Society of the Philippines (ASP) as a support group. “They offer free seminars to have an idea [about autism] and to accept that it’s okay to have such a kid,” he said.

Basing on the figures from the United States social mapping data, Autism Society Philippines believes that one million Filipino families live with an autistic member. As mechanisms for diagnosis have become sophisticated, more and more people are likely to be diagnosed autistic. Shiela, who is also part of the Autism Society Philippines Laguna Chapter has realized that of all people, she should be that one person who will not discriminate her own daughter. Before, she was still scared bringing Althea to public places for fear that other people might discriminate her daughter.

However, she has learned that she should take risks and let Althea blend in. Althea is currently enrolled at the Anos Day Care Center and is able to cope with the lessons. She also added that Althea does not throw tantrums anymore whenever they go to malls. She even knows how to run an errand already and buy from a neighborhood store. “My approach is that I play with her but at the same time I also train her,” says Shiela.

Aside from denial, the capacity of a family to pay for therapies and special education could also be a great barrier. During diagnosis, the developmental pediatrician would usually require the patient to undergo a costly Brainstem Auditory Evoked Response (BAER) to rule out that the disability is not caused by impairment in the brain.

Therapy sessions are costly. For the speech therapy, initial evaluation ranges from Php1,500 to Php2,500 while actual therapy costs Php500 to Php700 per session. On the other hand, the estimated value for an occupational therapy is about Php500 to Php650 in one session. If a family could afford the expenses, they would opt to go to private hospitals and pay the rate.

Meanwhile, some of the parents go to public hospitals, like the Philippine Children’s Medical Center and Philippine General Hospital just to get an intervention or correction in their child’s behavior. However, they sometimes need to wait for months before they could be accommodated.

According to Ozarraga, intervention is important because there is a major difference between the behavior of a child who underwent therapy and who didn’t. She said that the latter would be uncontrollable if they would go to a session. “Those who had therapy already knew the routine, so they’ll sit down once they get inside the room,” she explained.

In Daron’s case, Sharon shared that they were not able to enrol him to the school and therapy center recommended to them by their first development pediatrician due to its high cost. As a result, they opted to enrol Daron to a less costly special education. She said that they have seen changes in Daron’s development but the expenses are still relatively high since it’s located far from their home. When a special education center was established in Paete, they immediately transferred Daron to make some adjustments with their family budget.

Sharon admitted that along the way, Daron’s follow up at home became inconsistent causing the regress of his son’s development. “At the end of the day, follow up and consistency is still the essence of improvement,” Sharon explained.

According to Ozarraga, therapy won’t be effective if the parents don’t participate in changing the kid’s behavior once they go home. She said that they must also help the child practice what he learned at school. “We always encourage families on what activities they can do at home, because the home is the best learning place for the child,” Basmayor expressed.

Marivic agrees with this. Though she didn’t have much resource to give her child a therapist, she tried her best to teach her own child. Upon Miko’s diagnosis of autism, she started researching about the disability through books and magazine articles in libraries and decided to learn how to teach an autistic child. Ever since then, she has always been Miko’s teacher and guidance. She proudly stated that her child has become more independent after many years of training. He could even now travel and ride an airplane alone.

She emphasized that parents have a big role in improving their child’s situation. “In a therapy, they only learn for an hour a day,” she said, “but we spend 23 hours with them. We [the parents] have to be the one to guide them.”

Laguna Red Cross holds bloodletting for Yolanda victims

By Noli A. Magsambol III and Rae L. De Mesa

A total of 173 donors took part in the bloodletting activity of the Red Cross Youth of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (RCY of UPLB) in partnership with the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Laguna Chapter and Rotary Club of Los Baños for the benefit of Typhoon Yolanda survivors on November 28 at the lobby of the College of Human Ecology of UP Los Baños.

Bloodline: A Pledge of Life. Donors of the bloodletting activity of UPLB-RCY getting their blood counts for Yolanda victims in the College of Human Ecology on November 28. (Photo by: R. De Mesa)

Rhys Ivan Galang, Blood Program Committee Head, said that project Bloodline is an annual activity of the organization. This year, its focus is to help the wounded Typhoon Yolanda victims who are in need of blood.

Hindi lang siya bloodline activity ng organization namin. It is also a community service because all the blood donated will be forwarded to PRC Laguna Chapter blood banks at sila na ang bahala na mag forward sa Visayas pero dadaan muna ito sa blood testing (It’s not only a bloodline activity of our organization, it is also a community service because the blood donated will be forwarded to PRC Laguna Chapter blood banks, and they will be the ones to screen and send these to Yolanda victims in Visayas).

PRC lent equipment and provided volunteer physicians to conduct the bloodletting, while the Rotary Club of Los Baños provided food and helped with the finances. Aside from these institutions, RCY of UPLB also tapped local government units in Los Baños, and 15 other student organizations in UPLB, such as Buklod-UPLB, UP ERG (UP Engineering Radio Guild), UP CES (UP Civil Engineering Society), UP MI-ABEYABE, to help in information dissemination and in bringing in donors for the activity.

Student Councilor Mungunkhishig Batbaatar of the College of Development Communication knew the activity through his friends and decided to donate in order to help. Aside from this, he volunteered in repacking relief goods in the DSWD warehouse located in the NAIA Terminal 3.

Officials from Camp Eldridge were also invited to take part in the event.  Pvt. Aliijoy Banquilis and seven other officials from Laguna 403 Defense Center unit of the camp donated blood. She said that they send in people from the camp to join beneficiary activities such as fun runs and bloodletting whenever they can.

Galang shared that usually there are more or less 100 donors every year on their project Bloodline. However, they expected this number to increase since there is a high demand for  blood supply in Visayas.

One dead in Bay shootout

by Christele J. Amoyan and Crispin Mahrion B. Abacan

PO2 Dominic V. Julian of Bay Philippine National Police (PNP) said that there is no evident angle seen yet on Ramon Salvador’s case. Hence, further investigation is still on-going.

Salvador, 53, a resident of San Pablo City was a geodetic engineer by profession. He was shot dead by two unidentified riding-in-tandem gunmen last November 28, Thursday. The shooting incident happened along Crossing Dila National Highway at Barangay Dila in Bay, Laguna.  According to PO2 Julian, Salvador’s wife said that her husband was going to Manila that day but would stop-by in Calamba City for some business appointment.  He was with his work acquaintance, Tracy Marie Catipon, who was also on her way to Calamba City to buy some store supplies. From the statement of the victim’s family, Salvador had only been involved with Catipon for a week.

Meanwhile, according to Catipon’s eyewitness account, she had no clear details about the incident; neither had any identification of the two suspects. She did not see the motorcycle’s plate number because she was covering herself from the gunfire. Catipon called for help from the black car behind them but the driver refused.

There were five (5) bullets found in the crime scene. Though, Sta. Cruz Crime Laboratory has not given any autopsy results about the number of bullets retrieved from Salvador’s body.

Furthermore, PO2 Julian said that the last shooting incident they recorded in Bay was in 2011.

PhilRice NYR 2013 runs for Yolanda victims

by Christele J. Amoyan and Crispin Mahrion B. Abacan

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) held the National Year of Rice (NYR) Run 2013 on November 24 at the UP Los Baños grounds.

Proceeds of the NYR Run 2013 will be donated to help in the rehabilitation of areas hit by Supertyphoon Yolanda (Haiyan) in the country. Mar Movillon, PhilRice Chief Science and Research Specialist said that the full NYR Run 2013 proceeds will go to the Yolanda victims, especially to the towns of El Nido, Busuanga, and Coron in Palawan.

More than 700 participants attended the event with 574 recorded finishers. Topping the list of the finishers were Paulo Abiera (5K), Renelyn Desuyo (10K), and Benjamin Kipkasi (21K). Race results can be viewed at

Executive Director of the Department of Agriculture-PhilRice Dr. Eufemio T. Rasco Jr., Miss Universe 3rd Runner-up Ariella Arida, as well as the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) officers from Region 4A (CALABARZON) and Region 4B (MIMAROPA) graced the event.The NYR Run 2013 officially opened with the welcome remarks of PhilRice Los Baños Branch Manager Diego G. Ramos. In his talk, Ramos explained that the NYR Run 2013 was held simultaneously in eight other locations in the country including Diliman, Bacolod, and Dumaguete.

Arida leads the “Panatang Makapalay” during the opening program, a pledge for every Filipinos to become ‘riceponsible.’

The National Year of Rice 2013 was signed under Proclamation No. 494 by President Benigno C. Aquino III in October 18, 2012 themed “Sapat na Bigas, Kaya ng Pinas.”

This campaigns for the Philippine’s rice self-sufficiency with its Four (4) K goals:

  1. Konting-konting kanin muna, 
  2. Kakaibang kanin naman, 
  3. Kumain din ng brown rice; and 
  4. Kilalanin at pasalamatan ang magsasaka.

For Paulo T. Abiera, 14, it is never too young to take the lead.

Fourteen year-old Paulo T. Abiera was first to finish the 5K run within 19 minutes, outpacing all his other contenders in the category. He is with his older sister Julia, who then placed second in the female 5K category.  According to Paulo, he started as a young runner one and a half years ago.

Manuel R. Austria, 80, won the special award for being the oldest runner for the challenge. Austria is a former administrative officer in the University Health Service (UHS). After retiring in 1998, he settled in Canada for good.

Rene Villegas, 55, received the “Me and My Pet Award” for running with his four Labrador dogs Obama, Mishi, Ali, and Brian.

Rene Villegas, 55, received the “Me and My Pet Award” for running with his four labradors: Obama, Mishi, Ali, and Brian.

The top-finisher runners and special awardees were given cash prizes and packs of Japonica rice, inclusive of certificates and medals. Finally, the event closed with the announcement of the raffle draw winners.

Chipeco, Perez swear in new set of LB brgy officials

by Nicole Lorraine R. Prieto

The oath taking of newly elected and re-elected barangay captains and councilors from the 14 barangays in Los Baños took place on Tuesday afternoon, November 19, at the Los Baños Municipal Covered Court in Brgy. Baybayin.

According to Mayondon Barangay Captain Victorio Reyes, Los Baños Mayor Cesar Perez and Laguna Second District Representative Jun Chipeco led the simple oath taking ceremonies. Both Perez and Chipeco called for all the newly sworn in barangay officials to think less of the colors they wore during the elections and to work together for the progress of Los Baños.

Elected barangay officials of Brgy. Mayondon during the oathtaking ceremonies at the Los Baños Municipal Covered Court.

Reyes expects to have a harmonious relationship with the officials from his barangay for this term. “Dito sa barangay namin wala naman siguro kaming magiging problema kasi most naman sa na-elect ngayon ay nanungkulan na dati, alam na nila yung responsibilidad nila,” he explained.

Linda Vivas and Raquel Maligalig, residents from Brgy. Mayondon who attended the oath taking hope that the elected barangay officials will perform their best for this term. “Yung kanilang mga binitawang salita nung sila ay nangampanya, yun sana yung maasahan namin para gumanda naman ang baryo,” said Vivas. Maligalig added that “sana yung magandang panunungkulan nila nung huli sana lalo nilang pagandahin at sana matugunan yung pangangailangan nung baryo namin.