By CYRIL GARE
BAMAYANG, Mabayang…no its Bayambang, the visiting PNG Agriculture and Livestock Minister, John Simon and his entourage were been corrected repeatedly by our Filipino friends to get the name of the place correctly pronounced.
Filipinos are friendly, live simple and orderly life and somewhat perfectionists.
They are technically skilful and innovative lots who are able to create appropriate technology tailor-made to their needs.
If President Theodore Roosevelt had to remind the world once again to “do what you can, with what you have, where you are”, it would be the Filipinos – among few others – that have perfected this.
Getting us to pronounce the name of Bayambang correct – each time we get it wrong – is therefore a natural trait.
It was June 22, 2019 around mid-day. Minister Simon and his delegation had just arrived at the Balon Bayambang Events Centre situated in the heart of this growing bustling first class municipality of the province of Pangasinan, one of the 81 provinces of the Republic of Philippines some three hour drive north west of Metro Manila.
It was Minister’s Simon first official offshore visit after his appointment.
He was accompanied by DAL deputy secretary technical services, Stephen Mombi, Kokonas Indastri Koporesin (KIK) Managing Director Allan Aku, Cocoa Board of PNG (CBPNG) executive manager research & extension David Yinil, Maprik district CEO Joshua Himina, DAL Ministry first secretary, Otto Wangilen, DAL Ministry legal officer Martin Ginyaru and myself representing the news media.
The mission was to study the farm mechanization technologies, techniques and knowledge of the farmer cooperative groups, foster sister city relations and agricultural training exchange programmes, and hold discussions with Filipino agro-business investors who have expressed interest in PNG’s vast agricultural potentials.
Bayambang is special not only that it hosts one of Philippines most promising and successful cooperative farmer group – the Mangabul Seed Grower Cooperative – but more so that on April 5, 2019, this place put Philippines on Guinness world record – for the second time – after winning the award for constructing the world’s first tallest statue built with steel and engineered bamboo panels.
This bamboo sculpture of St. Vincent Ferrer is taller than the statue of Liberty in America – suspended from gravity at 50.23 metres or 164 feet and 9.65 inches above ground level at the St. Vincent Prayer Park in Barangay Bani.
The Philippines Star reported that this win commemorates a lot of momentous occasions for the town of Bayambang this year; its 405th founding anniversary, the 400th year of the St. Vincent parish, and the 600th anniversary of the death of St. Vincent – the patron saint of builders.
ABS-CBN news reported architect Jerry Suratos who said that this superstructure was built to withstand earthquakes, strong winds, and even floods.
The statue was designed using 3D polygon technology and is anticipated to last up to 30 years. The construction time spanned 10 months and took 608 workers to complete.
Rappler.com reported that Bayambang’s first Guinness award was recorded in 2014 for hosting the world’s “longest barbeque” which spread across eight kilometres.
Worldpopulationreview.com reported the population of Philippines in 2019 at 108.11 million of which 86 per cent are Catholics, proudly boasting to be the only Christian nation in Asia, six per cent belong to various Nationalized Christian cults, and another two per cent belong to well over 100 Protestant denominations.
Certainly, such a super bamboo sculpture resembles more than just another mega structure or a piece of engineering genius of the 21st century but a measure of Christian Catholic faith in the Philippines.
“I am always passionate about agriculture in my country even before I enter politics. We (PNG) export cocoa, coffee, copra, rubber, tea, oil palm, timber, and that’s basically it.
“The problem we have (in PNG) is production and to some extent quality of our agricultural commodities. This is one of the reasons why we have come here in Philippines to see how we can bring some of these technologies (and knowledge) to assist our farmers.
“PNG has a land mass of around 460,000 square kilometres, 15 million hectares or 34% is suitable for agriculture however, currently we are utilizing only 500,000 hectares.
“Farming system is all rainfall. Unskilled labour is around 50% of which 85% is rural based. We have a huge potential for agriculture using these available resources.
“What we don’t have is technology (farming knowledge and mechanization) and capital”, Minister Simon told the Municipal Administrator, Atty. Raymundo B. Bautista Jr who was accompanied by members of the Mangabul Seed Grower Cooperative at the Balon Bayambang Events Centre.
Following the official reception, Minister Simon was taken for farms visits including a village rice field where he witnessed mechanized rice planting, a bamboo nursery, sorghum and corn fields, rice seed propagation and soil preparation facility, a sorghum and corn processing, packaging and storage yard, and finishing off with a visit to a stunning bamboo processing and manufacturing plant, all these operations are solely owned and operated by the Mangabul Seed Grower Cooperative of Bayambang.
Municipal Mayor, DR. Cezar T. Quiambao, and his deputy Raul R. Sabangan although absent had expressed confidence and willingness to forge sister city (district) relations and farmer training exchange programmes between PNG and Bayambang.
Back at metro Manila’s Burgundy Empire Tower the next day, Minister Simon held talks with the board and management of Sathwo Corporation where elements for the project terms of reference for a five year master plan for agriculture food security programme for PNG were chartered.
Under a public private partnership, Sathwo Corporation will introduced high yielding varieties of traditional produce: corn, rice, coconut, cacao, tea, coffee, forest products by providing improved seeds and planting materials, developing nurseries, farmer education and training, and monitoring of farm and forest processes.
Sathwo will also introduce non-traditional varieties including sorghum, abaca, cassava, and high breed livestock as well as farmer training, farm input support and monitoring.
Sathwo to also provide appropriate pre and post-harvest facilities, storage, logistics, and road to market infrastructure, install a number of feed mills, introduction of mechanized farming, and strengthening R&D for traditional and non-traditional agricultural produce and livestock.
PNG and Philippines have an existing MOU to commercialize rice in PNG, a staple food commodity which PNG spends around K700 million to import 200,000 tonnes of rice annually.
- Cyril Gare is a freelance journalist