IRRI and the National Museum feature the genius of Manansala, the heritage of Cordillera rice farmers, and nearly 100 wild bird species

 Alaric Santiaguel   |  

The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and the National Museum will hold a trifecta of grand events celebrating the genius of National Artist Vicente Manansala, heirloom rice treasures of the Cordilleras interpreted for the palate by the country’s top chefs, and the breathtaking natural beauty and awe of wild bird diversity in the Philippines.

Sharing the harvest, on 12 November 2015, at 6:30 pm at the National Museum, spotlights the original studies (rendered in watercolor) of the two large Manansala paintings that opened for public viewing in the museum’s IRRI Hall on 14 May 2015. Another study of the artist’s oil painting Prayer Before Meal will also be on display for the first time.

“The existence of the three small watercolor paintings is virtually unknown to the public,” said Mr. Paul Hilario, curator of IRRI’s Riceworld Museum. “They were presented to the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations for approval before Manansala did the larger paintings in the early 1960s.  It is a pleasure to finally share these treasures with the public.”

These studies, on multi-year loan to the museum and part of IRRI’s art collection, shed new insight on Manansala’ s immense talent, particularly for the large Manansala paintings officially declared as National Cultural Treasures.  “Considering their small dimensions, Manansala’s superb brush control, attention to detail, composition prowess, and outstanding color selection are in full display here,” Hilario added.

In addition, IRRI is also launching the 2016 Heirloom Rice Recipes calendar. For this very special calendar, the Heirloom Rice Project of the Department of Agriculture and IRRI teamed up with top celebrity chefs to help raise awareness of rice farming in the Cordillera Region and contribute to preserving the region’s cultural heritage. The calendar features a different recipe each month contributed by chefs Robby Goco, Chele Gonzales, Gaita Forés, Anthony Raymond, Jessie Sincioco, and Sharwin Tee. The chefs created the recipes especially to bring out the excellent culinary traits of heirloom rice. As a special treat, some of the chefs will serve their respective dishes featured in the calendar during the November 12 event at the National Museum. The chefs have provided the recipes free-of-charge and proceeds from sales of this calendar will be donated to the rice farming communities in the Cordilleras.

“As a chef, I feel very blessed that I have been given the chance to add all these heirloom rices in the ingredients list that I work with,” says Chef Gaita. “They really widened my repertoire and allow for new things I can do. My creativity is enhanced because the product is so beautiful.”

The calendar also contains stories of how the growing demand for heirloom rice is improving the lives of the farmers who sow them and help in the preservation of the magnificent rice terraces.

Finally, IRRI’s Guide to the Birds of Philippine Rice Fields will take its maiden “flight” on the same evening. The guide provides brilliant photography for identifying birds (both common and rare) and important background for better understanding the significant role of these feathered creatures in the ecological balance of rice-farming systems and wider surroundings. “It is a base upon which wild bird conservation in the country can really take off,” said Gene Hettel, IRRI senior science editor who conceived the guide and then coordinated a team of talented photographers (Tirso Paris and Fred Serrano) and bird experts (Paul Bourdin and Richard Smedley) to pull it all together. “The guide features 93 species that actually use rice fields while hunting for food, sheltering within the rice canopy, and raising their broods,” he added.

The guide concentrates on birds that frequent the IRRI experiment station because the fields there have been intensively surveyed over the last 6 years like no other location in the country. But almost all of these species can be observed in many rice fields across the Philippines.

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