Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Ilocos Times May 26-June 1, 2014

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Sweltering storms

“El Niño” is suddenly in the headlines as thermometers surge and we all swelter.  So, what is “El Nino”?  How does that differ from “La Niña”? Above all, how does that affect our daily lives?

The scientific explanation is dense: “Large-scale ocean-atmosphere climate interaction linked to a periodic warming in sea surface temperatures, across the central and east-central Equatorial Pacific.”

Got that? No. Transposed into layman’s language that means: Warmer water, in the Pacific Ocean, that messes up normal weather patterns across the world.

El Niño of 1997 bore “more energy than a million Hiroshima bombs” writes National Geographic. “By the time it had run its course eight months later,” it had deranged weather patterns worldwide. The death toll rose to 2,100 and property damage bill crested at US$33 billion dollars.

In Peru, this caused massive rainfall which led to deadly flooding and mudslides. El Niño whipped Hurricane Linda off the coast of Mexico, which turned into the strongest Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone ever recorded. The extreme weather spurred cycles of mosquito-transmitted diseases in Africa. Meanwhile, other countries experienced severe drought.

It’s not uncommon for El Niño to be followed by a La Niña. Then, climate patterns and worldwide effects are, for the most part, opposite of each other. Where there was flooding, drought spread. Three La Niñas followed El Niños in a 15-year span. 

El Niño conditions here, for example, still prevailed in December 2013. There was “way above normal rainfall over from Cordillera Autonomous Region to Camarines, most of Visayas area and Western Mindanao. However, the rest of Luzon including Metro Manila, Southern Palawan and Eastern Mindanao were parched by below to way- below-normal rainfall.

Fast forward to today. Weather bureau Pagasa spotted early this month “a significant increase in the sea surface temperature.” This could usher in an El Niño come June. And it’d probably peter out by the first quarter of 2015.  That would reduce rainfall. Worse, it’d alter the track and intensity of the 18 to 20 typhoons that slam into the country annually, “causing them to become erratic.”

The UN’s World Meteorological Organization, earlier this year, predicted a warming of the tropical Pacific. A majority of models indicate that an "El Niño may develop around the middle of the year". And this week data, collected by US National Space Agency satellites showed “conditions in the eastern Pacific at the beginning of May 2014 were similar to those experienced in May 1997.”

BBC points out that the periodic warming “El Niño” and cooling “La Niña “ of sea surface temperature, in the eastern Pacific, “are phases in the naturally occurring phenomenon El Niño-Southern Oscillation—“ENSO” in shorthand.

These phases shift position of the jet stream. That, in turn, alters temperature and rainfall patterns in many regions and results in extreme weather conditions. Drought or abnormal rainfall “has a knock-on effect on crop yields, which are heavily influenced by temperature and precipitation levels.”

El Niño events can have a significant impact on yields of major food crops, like Filipino staples maize and rice, BBC environment reporter Mark Kinver writes. El Niño can whittle down maize yields by more than four percent.

Nature Communications states that latest research show El Niño likely improves the global-mean soybean yield by 2.15 percent. There is a big “But”. But it appears to change the yields of maize, rice and wheat by -4.3 to 0.8 percent. The global-mean yield of all four crops during La Nina years tend to be below normal.

These crops account for almost 60 percent of food calories produced on the world’s crop lands. Rice is one of the four staple foods that provides more than half of the global calories from crops.

“This new work tells us that we can predict when the bad years will be, ahead of the harvest," explain co-author Prof Andy Challinor from the University of Leeds, UK. The researchers found that the high reliability of ENSO forecasts presented an opportunity to link it with global crop yields data. This, in turn, would be beneficial for food monitoring and famine early warning systems.

The scientists suggested that the forecasts could help mitigate impacts by influencing planting dates, crop choices, as well as considering other inputs such as chemical treatments and irrigation.

"An improved response to ENSO could reduce the risk of malnutrition; allow for an increase in agricultural investment in positively impacted years; and improve the adaptation capability to climate variability and change."

“El Niño is a good example to illustrate that there is indeed predictability in the midst of chaos,” writes J. Shukla of Institute of Global Environment and Society. El Niño reminds   Henry Diaz of NASA of the story of Prometheus and the gift of fire: a tool of great promise to humanity, but one with a sharp double edge! It is vitally important that we learn how to use our improved knowledge wisely.

So, will “El Niño” also affect Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Bong Revilla?” emailed Dr. Carolina Camara of Butuan. The odds-on bets are they may be in prison by then for involvement in the Napolist pork barrel scam.”

Scriptures provide a reply: “Your Father who is in heaven makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Business groups call on gov’t to define power supply and rate as key to sustainable and inclusive growth

Nine major business organizations have urged government to define power supply security and competitive power rates as major twin initiatives to realize aggressive industrialization and inclusiveness, with public and private sector working together to achieve these objectives.

In a joint letter to President Benigno Aquino III, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), Alyansa Agrikultura, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP), Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP), Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport), Semiconductor and Electronics Industries of the Philippines (SEIPI), American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) and the Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (KCCP pointed out the importance of having a clear program for achieving reasonable and competitive power rates as key to accelerating industrialization, bringing in significant foreign direct investments, creating employment opportunities and realizing sustainable and inclusive economic growth.

The joint Philippine business group and foreign chambers said private sector is ready and enthused to support actions to resolve the situation, but there is that need for the national leadership to clearly define the national policy and strategic objectives concerning the two critical issues of power supply sustainability and reliability and regional competitive power tariff.  They said this should include reasonable target timing and accountability.

The group emphasized that the DOE should not be left alone to figure out the solutions but for the entire Economic Cluster to act as one team in evaluating the situation and strategizing on how to achieve these goals.  They said the Economic Cluster should be able to respond to the challenges with a broader perspective and mindset giving full consideration of the real and apparent successful strategies of the Philippines’ neighboring countries in the region in terms of enhancing the business environment by providing more competitive power rates.  They also pointed out to the importance of fair competition towards achieve the goals of power security and competitive rate.

Specifically, the business organizations submitted the following long-term recommendations:

On power supply security
1.       A national power supply roadmap specifying, among other things, the required power plants, their configurations (fuel type, size, etc.), locations, and schedule of operations
2.     A supporting power supply agreement (PSA) template that will be adopted by all distribution utilities (DUs) as classified and qualified
3.     A regular and transparent power supply bidding process that will cover base load, peaking, and reserves

On competition
1.       Developing programs and processes that ensure fair and transparent competition among stakeholders in the supply side, where the final major stakeholders do not number more than five and are also partners among themselves or with DU stakeholders in other major industrial ventures in the country
2.     Increasing the market power of various DUs in order to create fair competition and increase power supply security

On competitive power rates
1.       Fostering closer coordination among economic, fiscal, industrial, and energy sectors to develop a competitive tariff sweet spot
2.     Bringing the regulatory sector to the same table in order to address the impression that there is a lack of coordination among planners and implementers

On implementation
1.       Developing a strong public-private coordinating task force to provide leadership in promoting the program and overcoming anxiety or resistance from LGUs and civil sectors
2.     The task force to clear the way for the efficient implementation of the program (e.g., LGU permitting, licensing, etc.)

In the mid-term, the joint business group called for the following:

1.       Creation of a forward market[1]by requiring distribution utilities (DUs) to contract 100 percent of their forecast energy requirements for the next three years and no less than 90 percent for seven years thereafter, subjecting these to competitive public auctions;
2.     Creation of a forward market and the establishment of such either at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) or under a trading platform operated by industry stakeholders and duly accredited by the private sector, subject to market rules prescribed by the DOE;
3.     Creation of an ancillary reserve market by requiring the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to secure firm contracts for ancillary services; and,
4.     Streamlining business permit and licensing systems to facilitate generation project development and early commissioning of badly needed additional capacity.

The business organizations concluded that the EPIRA provides government enough arsenal to improve processes and policies that will pave the way for the implementation of programs addressing the issues of power supply and cost.  They cautioned that amending the law will only cause uncertainties that will slow down the progress of new investment and projects in the power generation sector and ultimately further delay the gains that the EPIRA was envisioned to bring.

Whenever there is talk of amending EPIRA, banks and investors put on hold the evaluation of power projects.  Potential changes or amendments to the EPIRA could materially change the risks or upset financial projections on the viability of high-cost power projects.

[1]A forward contract is an agreement between DUs and generators for the supply of a fixed quantity of electricity at a pre-agreed period within the year at an agreed fixed price. A forward contract mitigates the price volatility of replacement power from the WESM and allows supply gaps from PSAs during maintenance to be filled without speculative pricing (if generators are otherwise required to include in their power rate the replacement power cost during maintenance outage).

Batac has new city agriculturist

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff Reporter

Batac City—In pursuance to RA 7160 otherwise known as the Local Government Code of 1991 which mandates the appointment of a city agriculturist, the city council headed by Batac vice mayor and presiding officer Ronald Allan Nalupta approved the appointment of Ms. Merryline Gappi as new city government department head I or the city agriculturist of Batac.

During the deliberation at the city council for its approval, the measure which was certified as urgent by Batac mayor Jeffrey Jubal Nalupta, the issue focused on Ms. Gappi’s erstwhile current position as section head of the city agriculture office.

Ms. Gappi was also queried on the problems of farmers and zanjeras in Batac, which she answered sufficiently.

After the approval of the council, Mayor Nalupta congratulated Ms. Gappi.

The mayor, being the appointing authority, said he believes in the capacity, potential and performance of Ms. Gappi. He added that the new agriculture officer has been with the local government for 16 years. 

City futures in transformation

Participants of the UNESCO Futures Forum-Workshop Resilient Cities, Brighter Futures attended by mayors, administrators, planners, academics, NGO leaders, bankers, social scientists and futurists from different parts of the country and the world. (Shermon O. Cruz)

By Romelene Pacis

“Many cities are beginning to imagine alternative futures for themselves that go beyond the tradition of only providing for roads, rates and rubbish. Cities do now have the ability to influence climate change and the future in general. While many Asian cities remain locked in the bigger is better race and fighting for constructing the tallest building, healthy cities are emerging and some, like Laoag, are setting the example for ‘Glocalization’ in the Philippines and if it emerges the Asia Pacific region as well. If more forward looking politicians emerges a broader vision of the city could be created. If Laoag succeeds, it could be used as a template for the preferred city idol, if you will,” these were some of the narrative insights shared by Sohail Inayatullah, one of the most influential futurists and political scientists in the world today and main speaker of the UNESCO Future Lecture Laoag edition, to the participants of the four-“day Resilient Cities, Brighter Forum Workshop” held at the Laoag City Auditorium on May 21-24, 2014.

Organized by the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines, UNESCO Paris Headquarters, the Center for Engaged Foresight, the City Government of Laoag, Northwestern University Laoag in partnership with the Hawaii Research Center for Futures Studies, University of Hawaii, the Graduate Institute of Futures Studies, Tamkang University, the Heal-Being Society of South Korea, The Ilocos Times, and SMART Communications around 90 participants consisting of mayors, city administrators, city planners, urban planners and developers, researchers, academics, consultants, bankers, disaster risk reduction officers, environmentalists, movement organizers, social scientists and futurists attended the four-day forum-workshop.

The first day introduced the emerging discipline of futures studies and strategic foresight. The morning panel featured the experiences of Hawaii, Taiwan, South Korea and the Philippines in advancing futures to policy-making, decision-making and governance.

Shermon Cruz, director of the Center Engaged Foresight, explored some conditions and suggested some strategies for futures literacy and strategic foresight to occur in the Philippines. Using Google and IBM research, Mr. Cruz noted that Filipinos are primarily short-term oriented while Singaporeans, Koreans, Taiwanese and Chinese are long-term thinkers.

Dr. Jiang Bang Deng discussed the beginnings of futures studies in Taiwan and that 30,000 students at Tamkang University has 6 to 9 units of futures course to develop Taiwanese students’ capacity to anticipate the future, to create and innovate new imaginings for the future of Taiwan.

Mark Alexander from the University of Hawaii discussed Jim Dator's alternative futures methods and the East-West University Myanmar Futures Exchange. Dr. Hyun Ryul Park shared some notes on the future of the creative industry and tourism in South Korea and the implication of foresight to South Korea's health, tourism and creative-related policies.

The afternoon panel explored new ways and approaches to city planning, land use and disaster risk reduction and management.

Architect Jun Palafox of the Palafox Associates, Dean Mario De Los Reyes, Dean of the School of Urban Planning, Moncini Hinay, project manager of the business risk assessment and scenario-building project of WWF and Mahar Lagmay of Project NOAH shared their insights on the future of cities in a climate change driven era. The panel discussed the importance of long-term thinking to building resilient and community preferred cities.

The local government views were shared by mayor Chevylle Farinas of Laoag, Dr. Merlinda Panganiban of the Makati government and John Escobar of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office. They presented the best, tried and tested practices of Laoag, Makati and Albay in responding to disasters and imagining city futures.

The UNESCO Knowledge Workshop on city futures and building resilient cities were facilitated by Sohail Inayatullah, Kou Hua Chen, MeiMei Song, Linda Tinio, Romelene Pacis, and Karl Lenin Benigno to name a few. The event was live-steamed by SMART Communications.

The results, outputs and report from this workshop will be presented to UNESCO Paris and will be presented to the forthcoming UNESCO-Rockefeller Foundation strategic foresight conference this year.

Mayor Chevylle shares Laoag City's experience on disaster risk reduction and management and her vision of creating valuable future for the City of Laoag to participants of UNESCO's Resilient Cities, Brighter Futures Forum Workshop held in Laoag City. (Shermon O. Cruz)

Pagudpud needs a fire truck

By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff Reporter

PAGUDPUD, Ilocos Norte—The popular tourist destination of Pagudpud has no functional fire truck.

Pagudpud mayor Marlon Sales said a house at Brgy. Baduang already burned into ashes before responding firefighters from the neighboring Bangui town reached the area on the evening of May 22 when a fire broke out.

“Should there be a fire truck on standby in Pagudpud town, several damages to properties and possible loss of lives due to fire incidents could have been avoided,” the mayor said citing the need for a fire truck in the municipality.

According to Sales, a mini fire truck was earlier donated to the Pagudpud municipality during the past administration of then Pagudpud mayor Matilde “Maja” Sales but unfortunately it was not properly turned-over to the municipality when he assumed as mayor in 2013.

In view of this, the Pagudpud mayor has reiterated his request to the Department of Interior and Local Government to set up a Bureau of Fire Protection station in Pagudpud town.

As a counterpart, Sales said the municipality is willing to donate a portion of lot of the municipality for the establishment of a fire station which is needed in this prime tourist destination town.

Emapanada battle: Vigan vs Batac

While this popular delicacy is not an Ilocano original (It was introduced here by our Spanish colonizers), empanada has become as Ilocano as saluyot, marunggay, and baggoong. It comes from the verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread.

In the Ilocos dichotomy that is Norte and Sur, two versions emerged from two key locations: Batac and Vigan. It’s not the first time someone compared the two Ilocos empanadas, but I will be more upfront about my verdict.

This comparison is a product of a series of store visits, interviews with tourists and locals, online reviews, direct observation, and, of course, product tasting conducted this summer in the respective empanada centers (empanadaan) of Vigan, Ilocos Sur and Batac, Ilocos Norte.

How do we proceed with the comparison? Taste, I admit, is highly relative because one comfortably prefers what she is accustomed to. Ilocano anthropologist Malot Ingel, for instance, said, “…kung ano ‘yung alam kong lasa, mag-i-stick ako dun ...maraming beses ko nang nalasahan ang empanada ng Batac, sabi nila masarap, pero di ko matanggap-tanggap ang lasa ng empanada ng Batac.” This preference for what one can call her own is why I found it important to conduct interviews with people who are from neither of the two provinces.

We’re now ready to dissect the two empanadas. Let’s get ready to rumble.

Round 1: Filling
Vigan empanada’s stuffing is composed of cabbage, ground pork, and egg (many stalls use the yolk only) while the Batac version is filled with papaya, mongo, longganisa, and whole egg.

Most tourists I talked to prefer the Batac stuffing because of its flavorful blend. Many dislike the idea of fried cabbage. Vigan empanada used to have papaya, too, but they now generally use cabbage because it is more available. “The use of repolio makes the Vigan empanada so generic like lumpia,” notes popular lifestyle blogger blauearth (Tina Tan) who travels with top chef Sandy Daza for some television tapings.

A professor who teaches arts and culture in a tertiary-level institution in Vigan said she craves for the burst of flavor of egg malasado and the salty, garlic-y Batac longganisa. Giving permission to be quoted but not to be named, she admitted that the quality of Vigan empanada has deteriorated over the years.

True enough, Batac wins hand-on in the quality of the meat filling. It still uses the traditionally-prepared longganisa while stalls at Plaza Burgos just use seasoned ground meat.

Winner in this round: Batac

Round 2: Crust
Both empanadas have crusts made of rice flour. Vigan’s is light yellow while Batac’s is orange because of atchuete, an organic food coloring. Psychologists say orange stimulates appetite.

The Vigan empanada crust is thinner, yet it absorbs a lot of oil. Some say it is crunchier but I disagree because the Batac Empanada crust can also be as crunchy as it could get, and with less grease. In fact, some customers request for an extra, separate serving of just the crust, which is called pinais. Popular travel bloggers Ivan Henares and rjdeexplorer also express amazement over the “orange tortilla wrap.”

Winner in this round: Batac

Round 3: Shelf Life and reheating
Tourists love to bring home a taste of Ilocos. Unfortunately, the oily Vigan empanada gets even oilier when it gets cold. Re-frying is not encouraged unless oil is your favorite juice.

On the other hand, Batac empanada can be refried, and if it’s done properly (make sure the oil is really hot before you soak the empanada in, but be careful not to burn it), the crust can look and taste almost newly cooked. Some travelers would buy Batac empanada before they embark on a nine to twelve-hour from Batac to Manila where eager pasalubong recipients await.

Winner in this round: Batac

Round 4: Nutrition
Cabbage versus papaya and mongo; egg yolk vs. whole egg is a no-brainer. And remember that your cardiologist advised you against having very greasy food.

Winner in this round: Batac

Round 5: Customization
The itlog malasado is a hit among many Batac Empanada fans. Having a half-cooked egg is not possible with the Vigan Empanada because its crust is not so solid. It usually has some holes, perforations, and some small openings which may be difficult to avoid because it is thin. Also, you have only two choices with the Vigan empanada: Special (with longganisa) and ordinary (without).

At the Batac Riverside Empanadaan, you have, aside from special and ordinary, double special (two pcs. longganisa), double egg, double (two pcs. Longanisa, two eggs), and jumbo empanada which has hotdog instead of longanisa.

Winner in this round: Batac

Round 6: Value for money
Vigan Empanada special is sold at P35 while the ordinary version, which is really small you can consume it in two bites, is worth only P5. Batac Empanada special is P40 while the ordinary serving, which is the same size though thinner because it has no meat, costs P20.

While more expensive, Batac empanada has more content. I am tempted to give this round, yet again, to Batac, but the thought of having a Vigan empanada, no matter how small, at only five bucks thrills me.

Winner in this round: Tie

Final round (7): ‘Busog’ factor
Because the Batac empanada has more ingredients in more generous amounts, it is definitely more filling than its Vigan counterpart. But, of course, you already know that.


LC all set for 2014-2015 school year

By Dominic B. dela Cruz
Staff Reporter

AFTER KICKING off Brigada Eskwela 2014 at the Balatong Integrated School on May 19, the Laoag Dept. of Education division said they are now ready for the opening of classes on June 2.

Dr. Cecilia P. Aribuabo, city schools division superintendent said they have sufficient teachers for the coming school year.

She also stressed that schools have been advised not to collect fees during enrolment unless the parent would be willing to pay the allowed fees.

Among the allowed fees are Girl/Boy Scouts fees and the anti-tuberculosis fee.

Dr. Aribuabo added that contributions are pegged at P250 for elementary pupils and less than P500 for secondary students.

Wearing of uniforms is also voluntary but she pointed out that uniforms are for the pupils’ and students’ safety as they can easily be identified if they roam around. She stated further that uniforms would eventually be a savings for parents as they would no longer need to buy new school clothes for their children.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

National council for dragon fruit organized

Editha Dacuycuy (center) file photo
By Leilanie G. Adriano
Staff Reporter

IN A BID to further boost the dragon plant industry in the country, the Philippine Dragon Fruit Growers and Processors National Council was organized recently to make its presence felt in the export market.

Led by its president, multi-awarded farmer scientist and entrepreneur Edita Aguinaldo-Dacuycuy of REFMAD Farms, the pioneering dragon fruit plantation in Ilocos region, the newly-organized council backed by various government agencies including the Department of Agriculture, Department of Agrarian Reform and the Ilocos Region Agriculture Resources Research and Development Council (ILARRDEC) aims to promote dragon fruit as a promising high value crop with a great demand in the export market.

At present, there are at least 40 active members in the council composed of big time players in the agriculture industry.

“By coming as one, we envision to make the Philippines known for its quality fruit products such as dragon fruit,” Ms. Dacuycuy said after her meeting with Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala in Manila.

The 69-year old Dacuycuy, popularly known as the “Dragon Lady” of Ilocos Norte said they are now on the process of registering the council to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The oath-taking ceremony of the new officers and members is expected this June.

In the last four years, dragon fruit growing in the Philippines has been attracting farm enthusiasts and investors from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

With a high demand for this exotic fruit known for its therapeutic properties, dragon fruit growers and investors can earn if they penetrate the international market.

In Ilocos Norte, local growers have developed at least six varieties of dragon fruit.

Leonardo Pascua, project leader of the dragon fruit research and development extension of MMSU, who is also one of the consultants of the national council, said dragon fruit growers need to have at least 1,000 ha of dragon fruit plantations to supply the global market.

While Ilocos Norte’s production is still below the export target now with around 100 hectares, growers here continue to produce other dragon fruit-based products that have found a steady market. Among these products are ice cream, jam, wine, vinegar, tea, cookies, pastries and even soap bars.

Brgy. 15 (Laoag City) elderlies go on a picnic

RELAX, RENEW, REFLECT. Top Photo shows senior citizens of Brgy. 15, Laoag City, with all smiles partaking lunch during the picnic to relax, renew, recharge and reflect. (From left) standing, Naring Matias, board; Cresen Nolasco, Loi Fausto, and Merlene Alvarez, board and third from R; Romana Fernandez, Treasurer.
(Inset left): Members of the board singing together, “Diay Baybay”, with the following lyrics to remember: “Sadiay anian a ragsak” (relax)/ “Sadiay awan ti rigat”, (renew)/ “Sadiay makalinglingay diay baybay ket nalinak” (reflect). From Left -  with microphone, Dolores Pedro, secretary; Loi Fausto, Merlene Alvarez, members; Mariano Eugenio, with hat, president; Romana Fernandez, treasurer, and Avelina Alipio, asst. secretary-treasurer.
(Inset right): Lolas with their grandchildren enjoying the clear water to relieve them from the summer heat, besides the fun and laughters.
The Senior Citizens Association of Barangay 15, Laoag City, recently went to a picnic at the San Joaquin river resort in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, to relieve themselves of the high temperature of the summer season. To add joy and love, family members of elders, their grandchildren, and appokos joined the occasion. This is one way of diverting their attention to something more pleasant, like meeting others, bathing together, singing together, and enjoying the fun with their fellow chickitings.

Elders of Barangay 15 give this annual activity a very special event in their lives. They claim that they attain the three R’s all rolled into one, as they are to:

RELAX- Many elders easily get tired and over stressed even just routine work within the home or in the garden tending the plants as part of physical fitness activity.

Take a break. Take a walk. Take a vacation. Join elders in your barangay for group activities, like: picnic, field trip, even just for a quarter of a day, to rest our body and our mind, and just be. Experience the restoring power of the joy, the happiness, hearing biblical songs, for at the end of the day we have a good rest, and sleep.

RECHARGE/RENEW- Getting together like picnic somewhere in a quiet place, a cool place where we could feel to lower the temperature of the day, and feeling nature with us. Being together, we share our past experiences during our happiest days of our youth years. We feel young once more.

REFLECT- While having a dip in clear water around us, and focus our eyes in the East, we could see the blue mountain covered with clouds. This remind us, that within ourselves God is watching us enjoying His creation. God is whispering to us what are we really doing? What have we done to benefit others? Are we going to protect, and develop His creation as our mission in people and for this world?

Besides, the food we partake together, the laughters, the songs we sang together, the bathing in clear water flowing, and watching our appokos enjoying the slides, the swing and seesaw, all these filled our hearts.

The board members said, that there are association you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t socialize in, with meetings you can’t get into, but Brgy. 15 Sr. Citizens Association of Laoag City, Inc., in all its activities are always open for you. Come join us.

Members of the Board of Trustees: Mariano Eugenio, president; Ernesto Tamayo, vice-president; Dolores Pedro, secretary; Romana Fernandez, treasurer; and Avelina Alipio, assistant secretary-treasurer; Segundina Julian, Merlene Alvarez, Loi Fausto, Naring Matias and Felicitas Abad, board members.

37 IN students qualify for DOST scholarship

By Kent Jerico Ramil

OF THE 274 high school graduates from the different municipalities and cities of Ilocos Norte who took the scholarship examination, 37 qualified for the Dept. of Science and Technology scholarship.

The passers were mostly from Laoag City, Batac City, Bacarra and Bangui, which accounted for the highest number of passers. Adams and Dumalneg, on the other hand, accounted for the least number of qualifiers.

The scholarship qualifiers belong to the economically disadvantaged families who qualified under the Republic Act 7687 scholar grants.  These scholars will receive free tuition fees, monthly stipend and book allowance, among others. 

The qualifiers who will avail of any of the science and technology undergraduate scholarships may pursue a four- or five-year college degree in priority science and technology fields. 

They can enroll in state universities and colleges and other higher educational institutions recognized by the Commission on Higher Education as centers of excellence or centers of development.

Ilocos Norte Scholars are enrolled in the different colleges and campuses of Mariano Marcos State University.

The highest numbers of scholars are enrolled at the College of Engineering while the rest of the scholars are enrolled at the College of Teachers Education Laoag Campus Laoag and College of Arts and Sciences Main Campus in Batac.

As of the moment, there are 54 active scholars in Ilocos Norte while 18, out of 72 scholars of 2013 have graduated this year, eight of them graduated with honors.

Ilocos Norte provincial science and technology director Jonathan M. Viernes stated that the scholarship programs will provide the new awardees access to quality education. 

Mr. Viernes added that the DOST scholarship program targets to substantially increase the number of scientists and engineers needed to boost economic productivity and knowledge creation in the region, and in the country as well. 

He is also hopeful that the applicants and qualifiers for the succeeding years will increase since there had been promotion activities undertaken in the municipalities of Adams and Dumalneg, Ilocos Norte. 

Ilocos Sur farmer produces quality coffee beans

Robusta coffee, Sigay’s one-town-one-product. 

By Reynaldo E. Andres

SIGAY, Ilocos Sur—Coffee traders in Ilocos region who are looking for aromatic coffee beans like those produced in Batangas and Cavite need not go too far. They can find them in the farm house of Simeon Acbayan, 61, at Brgy. San Elias, Sigay, Ilocos Sur.

Mr. Acbayan’s farm house is always loaded with sacks of dried coffee beans ready for market. These world class coffee beans are those of the Robusta variety which abundantly dot a two-hectare slopes of a hill owned by Mr. Acbayan.

Because of Mr. Acbayan’s success in producing quality and aromatic coffee beans, Sigay has now become a well-known trading “entrepot” center of small and big time coffee traders in Luzon.

In fact, the local government of Sigay has made this morning beverage as its one-town-one-product (OTOP) since 2009 and recommended Mr. Acbayan to the Ilocos Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development Consortium (ILAARRDEC) to be the farmer-scientist for coffee in the town’s Farmer’s Information and Technology Services (FITS) center.

Concurrently the chairperson of Brgy. San Elias, Mr. Acbayan is now being tapped by Marites Bagawe, Cheryl Bitibit and Valentina Zita of the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) as lecturer in seminars for coffee farmers.

Mr. Acbayan’s two-hectare coffee plantation is giving him substantial yield throughout the year that he and his son could no longer manage to harvest the berries. In most cases, they just leave the berries ripe in their branches waiting for the birds and foxes to eat them, or these will just drop off to the ground to germinate later. This is the reason why he cannot control the population density of his plantation.

The author (left), Simeon Acbayan (center) and Ernesto Mendoza of OPAG Ilocos Sur enjoy the sweet Robusta berries. (Photo by Richard Guinsatao, ILAARRDEC)
Mr. Acbayan said that with his vast area planted with Robusta coffee, he can only manage to harvest the berries of the half hectare portion which gives him a little more than 25 sacks of fresh coffee beans a year. A sack contains 25 gantas of dried coffee beans. And with the current price of P70 per ganta, Mr. Acbayan is getting a substantial income of P43,750 in one harvesting season alone. That is only from the sale of his harvest from a half hectare area.

Mr. Acbayan laments that if he could only manage to harvest all the berries of the remaining 1.5 hectares, he could have a P175,000 income in one season.   Mr. Acbayan’s coffee trees are laden with fruits that a single tree yields 15 gantas of dried coffee beans.

“I tried planting the Arabica variety, but it commanded a very low price by traders coming from Batangas and Cavite. That’s why I cut down all the Arabica varieties and replaced them with Robusta,” Mr. Acbayan explained.

Inside the coffee plantation of Simeon Acbayan (center) in Brgy. San Elias, Sigay, Ilocos Sur. Also in the photo are (from L-R): Alice Hernando of MMSU, Valentina Zita, Marites Bagawe, Cheryl Bitibit (Sigay FITS Center), Ernesto Mendoza of OPAG Ilocos Sur, the author, Lovely Viloria (ILARRDEC employee), and Bernie Dayang of MMSU (Photo by Richard Guinsatao, ILAARRDEC)
His technology
Mr. Acbayan shares his technology in planting the Robusta coffee variety. And for those who may want to start a small plantation, they can get free seedlings from him. And these are the things one may consider in establishing a coffee plantation:
Robusta coffee does not need so much commercial organic or inorganic fertilizer as long as it is planted in a moist soil rich with decomposed leaves and plant parts. It is best to plant the tree in a well-drained soil with pH of about 5.5 - 6.5. Coffee needs a place with a moderately wet and cool climate so that it could give its maximum yield potential.
If one can provide the plant with these simple requirements, there would be no reason why the plant would not flower in March until April and bear fruits in May until February in the succeeding year.

Seed selection
Select seeds that are healthy. Peel the berries and soak them in water for 24 hours. Wash the seeds afterwards. Air dry the seeds in shaded open area for four days before planting them in polyethylene plastic bags. Make sure that the soil in polyethylene plastic bags are always moist to hasten germination which usually takes 45 days after sowing.

But for Mr. Acbayan, he doesn’t need to put up a nursery for seed germination. If he wants to expand his plantation, he just uproots those that germinated in between the old trees and plant them in vacant portions of the hill.

He said that matured seedlings that have reached a height of four feet could yield fruits after three years that they are transplanted.

Simeon Acbayan with the author while inspecting the dried coffee berries.
For those who want to begin planting coffee, it is better to sow the seeds in polyethylene plastic bags which measure 4” x 4” x 10” before they are transplanted at 6 months after germination which will coincide at the onset of rainy season. By that time, the seedlings would have 6 pairs of young leaves.

According to experts from the Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCAARRD) in Los Baños, Laguna, the best planting distance for coffee is 4 x 4 meters to 5 x 5 meters so that the plants will receive uniform amount of sunlight.

Care for the plants
Mr. Acbayan said that coffee trees are not hard to manage because they are not susceptible to pests and diseases. He knows of only one pest that seldom attacks his trees—the coffee twig borer, which is the most dreaded pest of coffee.

When the pest drills itself in the twigs, the leaves will turn to yellow. When Mr. Acbayan sees this symptom, he immediately cuts the infected twigs and burn them. If not, he could control the pest by applying any of the recommended pesticide four times during the plant’s fruiting stage. But to be sure he sprays the trees only once in every 14 – 21 days.

Farmers also need to cut or prune the old branches because they hardly bear fruits. This is to give chance for the trees to produce new buds that will bear fruits in the next seasons. Experts call this rejuvenation technique.

One good reason of employing rejuvenation technique is that you can easily maintain the desired tallness of the plants for easy harvesting of berries. It is recommended to prune the trees before they bear flowers, or just after harvesting.

Mr. Acbayan said there are three methods of pruning coffee trees. One is the twig pruning method which is the removal of crooked and diseased branches. Another is the desuckering method which is the removal of the buds that emanate from the main stems. The other one is called detopping which is done by removing the upper canopy of the tree so that it could only reach a height of 1.5 – 2 meters for easy management.

Farmer-scientist Simeon Acbayan (right) shares his brewed Robusta coffee to this author (second from right). Also in the photo are (from L-R): Alice Hernando, Lovely Viloria (ILAARRDEC employees) and Ernesto Mendoza of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist of Ilocos Sur. (Photo by Richard Guinsatao of ILAARRDEC).
Lastly, don’t forget to fertilize the trees once in a while especially if the soil is not so much rich with organic matters. It’s enough to apply 180-90-180 kilograms of nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium (NPK) for a one-hectare coffee plantation.