HOW did Vietnam turn into the second largest rice-exporting country from being the world’s top importer of rice? Through the Contract 100 policy and Land Law, farmers were liberated from a collective and one-price policy, according to Dr. Vo-Tong Xuan, the first Dioscoro Lopez Umali (DLU) awardee for agricultural development. “They have higher yield and have incentives to grow more rice and to sell at a higher price,” Xuan added. Xuan played a key role in Vietnam’s transformation, as he convinced both local and central government to adopt new agricultural policies. But before Xuan achieved a critical mass of participants in the national effort in agricultural and rural development (ARD), he went through several stages. But first he advised that one should have the "heart and head" for ARD and nation-building. "I reckoned it would take first our own people to help themselves before other people would come to help us," said Xuan. Xuan said governments should not only be competent technically but also possess a strong political will to come up with incentive policies for farmers and agribusinesses. However, challenges to the rice-exporting countries like Vietnam remain, he said. “It is easy to boost rice production but very difficult to increase farm income. We need further political will to take rice farmers out of the poverty trap,” said Xuan. Currently, Xuan is advocating a movement to raise farmers’ income through the “value chain” approach. He is planning to form a farmer’s cooperative to create a permanent link to marketing enterprises. As a DLU Awardee, Xuan who is an Agricultural Chemistry alumnus of the University of the Philippines Los Baños, received a plaque and a cash prize of $10,000. The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), and the DLU Foundation give the DLU award every year to individuals who shows excellence, leadership and service in the field of agricultural development, environment, natural resource management, technology development, food security, poverty reduction, economics, business policy and governance.
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By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net AS cliché as his declaration may sound, the words of our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal still resonate up to this day: "Ang kabataan ang pag-asa ng bayan." On the 110th celebration of Independence Day, the Department of Education-Special Event Unit held the 4th Pambansang Gawad Ulirang Kabataan, which recognized five young Filipino students. Among 51 nominees, Paul Julian Hao (Chiang Kai Shek College), Ben Ralph Yu (Davao City National High School), Stephen Panol (Fort Bonifacio High School), Jamil Repors (Kidapawan City National High School), and Kate Marie F. Benitez-Colmenares (Samal National High School) stood out as the grand winners of this year’s Ulirang Kabataan. Community service, scholastic achievement, versatility, personality and character, and interview served as the criteria for selection. The grand winners took home a total of P45,000, a plaque, medal, and a certificate. But more than the recognition is the responsibility that comes with it. “Nais lang namin ay patunayan sa buong Pilipinas at buong mundo, ang pagiging Pilipino. At ang pagiging Pilipino holds so much responsibility. And being awarded as Ulirang Kabataan is a great responsibility,” said Panol. And if Rizal were still alive up to this day, Benitez-Colmenares would live up to his words through service. “Kami po ay magseserbisyo sa abot ng aming makakaya upang mas makilala pa ang Pilipinas,” said Benitez-Colmenares. Gone are the days of just nodding or shaking heads. The youth of today are now more vocal and expressive of what they think and feel.
By Momar G. Visaya, Contributor INQUIRER.net NEW YORK--A soldier of Filipino descent emerged victorious at the recently concluded 2007 Best Warrior Competition held Oct. 1-5 at Fort Lee, Virginia and was declared the Department of Army’s Soldier of the Year. Spc. Heyz T. Seeker, who represented the US Army Special Operations Command, won the grueling competition after competing with 12 other soldiers in tests of physical fitness and military skills ranging from marksmanship to first aid. “It’s still sinking in. I was really overwhelmed at first,” Spc. Seeker told the Asian Journal in a telephone interview Thursday, Oct 11. The 35-year-old soldier is stationed at the Hunger Army Airfield in Georgia with the 75th Ranger Regiment. While he listed Grover, California as his hometown, his family is now based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was born to Filipino parents in Atascadero, Calif., and grew up in Grover. His father died when he was two years old and his mother remarried when he was 10. “I only know stuff about my father through pictures and the stories that my mother used to tell me,” Seeker said. His mother, Maxima Voelker, is from Bohol, which he describes as a “small and beautiful island in the Visayas”. Seeker’s first and only trip to the Philippines was when he was 15. Spc. Seeker recognizes the fact that with this win, he is now in a different position. “This is an honorable position to be in and there’s a lot of weight on my shoulders now,” he admitted. “My mission now is to promote the army and I will go out there to tell the army story. I plan to reach out to the struggling inner-city youth and tell them my story. I am a testament to what the army has given me,” Seeker said. His goal Spc. Seeker is the first in his family to become an Army Ranger, and has said that his ambition is to become the first Filipino sergeant major of the Army, the Army's top enlisted rank. He grew up hearing stories of how both his father and stepfather had fought in World War II. Spc. Seeker said three deployments to Afghanistan and one to Iraq helped prepare him for the competition. “I love the Army, and I love living a structured life," he said. “I'm all about paving the way, leading the way and being the first at something. I was the first in my family to be a ranger, and I'd like to one day become the first Filipino sergeant major of the Army." Asked about what he considers as his favorite part in the five-day competition, Seeker replied, “It has to be the first day of the competition, when we had to go before the board. I had to concentrate and focus on it and afterwards, I was pretty confident that I did well. I felt like a winner.” His fathers' footsteps When he joined the Army in 1991, Spc. Seeker was following in the footsteps of his two fathers who were both World War II veterans. In his first enlistment, Spc. Seeker became a forward observer artilleryman and when he transferred to the National Guard in 1995, he was an armored crewman. When he enlisted again in 2004, he signed up as an infantryman. During his second round of basic training, he raised his hand to apply for the Ranger Indoctrination Program. Now an airborne Ranger, Spc. Seeker is looking to be the best in the Army through this competition. Fierce US Senator Harry Reid of Nevada congratulated Spc. Seeker of Las Vegas for being recognized with the Army’s Top Soldier award. “I congratulate, Specialist Seeker, for being named the Army’s Top Soldier,” said Reid. “While I am proud of all of our men and women in uniform, Specialist Seeker's exemplary service honors the country and honors Nevada.” Spc. Seeker was selected as the best of 26 competitors representing 13 US Army major commands, after a fierce battery of physical and mental tests. The results were based on his performance in simulated urban combat drills, battle drills, physical fitness tests, and written examinations. Seeker and 11 other soldiers competed for the title of Department of the Army Best Warrior. The 12 Soldiers and an additional 12 non-commissioned officers spent a week at Fort Lee, competing in events such as the board, land navigation and warrior tasks. The winners were announced Oct. 8 at the Association of the United States Army convention in Washington, DC. Culinary arts Throughout his military career, Spc. Seeker has also kept an interest in the culinary arts, according to a news release from the Army’s Public Affairs Office. For about six years between his Army enlistments, Spc. Seeker was a sushi chef apprentice in San Diego. Oddly, he never considered becoming a food service specialist for the Army. "I wanted to roll around in a tank or become a Ranger," he said. He's putting off his goal of opening up a sushi bar until he retires from the Army. In the meantime, he's focused on making his two deceased fathers proud. "And I want to set an example for my kids so they can serve their country too," he said. Reprinted with permission from the Asian Journal. Photo by T. Anthony Bell/Fort Lee Public Affairs Office.
By Ruben V. Nepales Inquirer MANILA, Philippines--Lav Diaz’s nine-hour “Kagadanan sa Banwaan ning mga Engkanto (Death in the Land of Encantos)” won the Golden Lion Special Mention award in the Horizons (Orizzonti) Documentary section of the Venice Film Festival on Saturday. The top prize went to “Wuyong (Useless)” by China’s Jia Zhangke. Diaz and Zhangke won against such name directors as Jonathan Demme and Julian Schnabel. Last year, renowned director Spike Lee won the award in this category for “When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts.” “Long live Philippine Cinema!” Diaz proclaimed in his acceptance speech. “In spite of all the madness in this world, it’s still a nice place to live in. We still have cinema. We have the Venice Film Festival. I would like to thank all the people who worked so hard for this film for nine months.” Earlier, the cast and crew walked the red carpet. They were met by Venice Film Festival director Marco Muller who posed with them for pictures. Then he guided them inside the screening venue for the start of the “Encantos,” which was given the closing night honors. The new work of Mindanao-born Diaz, described in the festival website as “one of the astonishing new South East Asian auteurs,” bested entries by filmmakers from around the world, including name American filmmakers. Reviewing ‘Reming’ A mixture of documentary and fiction, “Encantos” tells the story of a fictional Filipino poet, Benjamin Agusan, who returns to his hometown in Padang, Bicol, in the aftermath of the destruction and tragedy wrought by Supertyphoon “Reming.” Agusan had spent several years in Russia on a scholarship grant. The jury of the Horizons (Orizzonti) Documentary section watched “Encantos” in two installments. Paolo Bertolin, who helped the festival by coordinating with Diaz, told the Inquirer that the jury’s screening for “Encantos” was held on Thursday evening and Friday morning. Diaz worked frantically to finish the film in time for the festival’s jury and public screenings. Diaz, Bertolin and the festival organizers heaved a collective sigh of relief when the “Encantos” tapes finally arrived on Tuesday. Sharing the film’s triumph in Venice with Diaz, who was also the cinematographer and editor, are production supervisor Laurel Peñaranda, production designer and actor Dante Perez, actors Roeder Camanag (who plays fictional poet, Benjamin Agusan), Perry Dizon (Teodoro) and Amalia Virtucio (albularya or quack doctor). Send-up to father Diaz acknowledged the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) for giving them travel grants and National Commission on Culture and the Arts (NCCA) executive director Cecile Guidote-Alvarez for helping secure the group’s visas and plane tickets. “Encantos” mixes documentary and fiction. In an e-mail interview, Diaz described his film and his main character, Agusan: “I created Benjamin with no particular Filipino artist or persona in mind. My subconscious merely flowed with all the threads that ended up with the lead character in the nine-hour film. But, Benjamin’s journey is familiar terrain for the aesthetic traveler -- the search for beauty, real love, redemption, and for answers that could push humanity to greater heights.” He added: “The Russian bit is a send-up to my late father, although he never went to Russia. Yes, I know how it feels to be alone in distant lands -- I know about solitude and sorrow, so I know Benjamin Agusan.” Asians rule Taiwanese director Ang Lee’s sexually explicit spy thriller “Lust, Caution” was the surprise winner of the top award at the Venice film festival, just two years after he won with “Brokeback Mountain.” The movie is a World War II thriller set in Shanghai featuring long and sometimes violent sex scenes Lee has hinted were real. The verdict means Asian directors have won the Golden Lion on the Lido waterfront for the past three years. The Silver Lion for best director went to US filmmaker Brian De Palma, whose “Redacted” shocked audiences with its brutal reconstruction of the real-life rape and murder of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl by American soldiers in 2006. Best actress, actor Todd Haynes, one of six US productions in competition, scooped a runner-up slot with “I’m Not There,” his conceptual biopic about singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. In a bold piece of casting, Australian-born Cate Blanchett was one of six performers to play the singer-poet Bob Dylan at various stages of his life, and it paid off when she was named best actress in Venice. Hollywood star Brad Pitt was the surprise winner of the best actor award for his portrayal of legendary outlaw Jesse James in “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.” With reports from Laurel Lee Peñaranda and Reuters
By Hrvoje Hranjski Associated Press MANILA, Philippines--A Filipino nationalist at the forefront of struggle for democracy during and after Ferdinand Marcos' dictatorship, and a South Korean minister who dedicated his life to curing blindness are among the winners of the 2007 Ramon Magsaysay Award, Asia's version of the Nobel Prize, organizers said Tuesday. Jovito R. Salonga, 87, won the award for government service for tirelessly fighting for the rule of law, honest and competent government and showing compassion for the poor -- democratic and social ideals that were not always easy to find in the Philippines under Marcos. A law graduate and senator, he was crippled by a bomb blast at a political rally in 1971, a year before Marcos declared martial law. He fought Marcos' iron-fisted rule by defending the president's opponents and working for the release of political prisoners. He was briefly jailed in 1980 and spent four years in US exile. He returned a year before Marcos was ousted in the "people power" revolt and put his personal ambitions aside to back Corazon Aquino, the pro-democracy icon who succeeded Marcos. Salonga initiated the government's efforts to recover Marcos' ill-gotten wealth. In 1991, as the Senate president, he clinched his nationalist credentials by leading fellow senators in voting to close down US military bases in the Philippines. "His rare moral authority stems from a simple fact: he practices what he preaches," the organizers said. The Reverend Kim Sun-tae, 66, from South Korea, is being honored for public service for devoting himself to a hospital dedicated to treating and curing blindness. During the Korean War, Kim was blinded by a mortar shell, but soon learned to read Korean Braille and to type. The Korean Presbyterian Church named Kim director of Blind Evangelical Missions. In 1986, with support from Korean businesses, he led in founding Siloam Eye Hospital, where sight-restoring surgery and modern facilities are available to the needy at no cost. In 1997, Kim opened Korea's largest rehabilitation and learning center to help blind people cope with daily life. More than 20,000 people have received free eye surgery, and 200,000 more have been treated at the hospital. Other winners include Mahabir Pun of Nepal, who received the community leadership award for his innovative application of wireless computer technology that brought progress to remote mountain areas. Tang Xiyang from China received the peace and international understanding award for guiding his country to meet its mounting environmental crisis. Palagummi Sainath of India won the journalism, literature and creative communication arts award. Chung To and Chen Guangcheng of China won the emergent leadership awards. Chung's AIDS Orphans Project provides children who have an AIDS-infected parent with school fees. Chen, blinded by a fever as a child, became a "barefoot lawyer" helping farmers with grievances to file court cases, leading protests against a river-polluting paper factory and documenting abuses. He and his friends were beaten, Chen was held for months under house arrest and in a closed-door trial was sentenced to four years in prison for disturbing public order. He is still serving the sentence. The awards will be presented August 31 in Manila.