Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Today we had a great adventure as we had "free day" posted on our itinerary - so we decide to take it on board. equipped with a driver and some wonderful help from M/s Bita Avendano we followed a path in and around the district. First we headed to the University at Laguna and took detour passed the "flying Bull" to the Botanic gardens - they were very beautiful, wild ,wet and deep tropical rain forest. Then we took a stop at the local food markets. here there was a myriad of noise, people, rain, humidity, flies and many many Philippines marketers. We saw a pig arr rive on the back of a motorbike to be cut down with machetes. Jack fruits, mangoes and many fruits and veg never seen before. Rice of all varieties, eggs snow white and then purple !! Fish that were in tin trays swimming and beautiful blue ans silver fried, salted and fresh. The entire thing was basic and busy but quite inoffensive in terms of smell although the safe food bodies in Australia would have had a field day. We take for granted that our food is accountable god knows if its traceable here but no seemed to care. The people were interested in who we were and why we are in their country pleasant however I felt safe within the group. The poverty and living conditions of the people is very, very poor. They live amongst water, mud and buildings that could not withstand the cyclone seasons nor any building codes in Aust. They work for a while then take a break and move on. The school children appear very well dressed and in uniforms but stilled walked through the humidity and mud without a care in the world. The traffic is just chaos purely and simply its not the biggest, fastest, bikes,buses or pedestrians I have no idea who goes anywhere -but its fast a furious. We enjoyed a great meal at a restaurant that was a series of bamboo huts floating on a lagoon in which there were schools of catfish. We ordered chicken .pork & fish served on cane places with palm leaves used our fingers drank beer and it cost us $3Aud each !!! Next stop was the rice farm of Nanding Masajo in Victoria, Laguna. Here we saw them planting the rice by hand (this was done by women who are apparently very skilled,quick and paid more than men ) They grow the seed in long narrow beds in the water under plastic then transfer the seedlings into bays until they are ready to plant. The rice paddies are very similar to ours although they don't seem to have as much water coverage as we do. Masajo is very proud of the fact taht he doesn't use any pesticides. He believes that the natural eco systems will naturally create its on "integrated pest management system" this seems to work well however when I asked about snail - "we hand pick them out " The discussion was fascinating and they are very good farmers. They harvest the rice with a sickle and dry it on concrete and turn it over by hand with shovels. So its still very basic practices. He gave us his time a was a wonderful host. Then we headed back to IRRI guesthouse via a pit stop for beer ....where a bottle of coke, a bottle of rum and 2 apples cost they same amount of money at the supermarket. Our meal was in house and there we came across a truly fascinating rice researcher from the US called Susan . This after dinner conversation covered a wondrous array of topics form rice genetics, global rice politics, feeding the world, Bill Gate Foundation. Quite a day really.