Heirloom rice varieties, mostly grown in the rice terraces of the Philippine Cordilleras, are handed down from generation to generation and have become prized commodities. To further promote heirloom rice and its culture, the Heirloom Rice Project (HRP) hosted a photo exhibit by renowned photographer David Leprozo, Jr., titled Rice Culture of the Cordilleras.
“This event underscores the importance of indigenous peoples’ contribution of their knowledge system to the conservation of heirloom rice varieties,” said Casiana Vera Cruz, IRRI scientist and HRP project leader. HRP is led by the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).
Special guest at the opening was Teddy Baguilat, Jr., representing the Ifugao people in the Philippine Congress, who spoke about the challenge of motivating Cordillera youth to help ensure the continuity of their cultural heritage and preserving their heirloom rice varieties.
‟This exhibit will hopefully give more knowledge not just to IRRI employees but also to our youth. I hope that you can get a glimpse of how important the rice terraces and heirloom rice are to the life of the Cordillera people through these photos,” Baguilat said in his message.
Robert Zeigler, IRRI director general, said that the spirit of the event itself captures the broader commitment that the Institute has toward heirloom rice varieties and the people that these support. Through the HRP, IRRI and its partners seek to understand more about the indigenous rice varieties and thus help preserve cultural traditions surrounding this culture in the Cordilleras.
“We are asking them to share with us so that we can benefit from their cultural richness and heritage and, at the same time, they can benefit from IRRI’s products as well,” Zeigler said.
The artist, David Leprozo, Jr., is donating all 35 photos on exhibit to IRRI at the end of the exhibit.
“It’s a very welcome donation from a prestigious artist,” said Corinta Guerta, head of external relations at IRRI. “The collection will indeed be a precious addition to IRRI’s art collection.”
Throughout the event, traditional Cordillera dances were performed by members of the Hapiyu Mi Cordilleran Dance Troupe, and various heirloom rice dishes were served.
HRP is an initiative under the Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) of the Philippine Department of Agriculture and is supported by various agencies of the DA and IRRI. It aims to enhance the productivity and enrich the legacy of heirloom rice varieties through empowered indigenous communities in unfavorable rice-based ecosystems.
Also present during the opening of the exhibit were representatives from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples; HRP constituents from the Cordilleras and South Cotabato; Virgie Tapat, OIC of the Operations Division of the DA-Cordillera Administrative Region; Neil Doton of DA-Central Mindanao; and some guests from IRRI’s neighbors, the University of the Philippines Los Baños and the Philippine High School for the Arts.
Rice Culture of the Cordilleras, which opened on 22 July 2015, will be on exhibit at the Asia Room of the IRRI Riceworld Museum until 21 August. The Museum is open Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
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