Monday, June 19, 2017

Grains Museum Re-opened After 30 Years

The ingenuity at the grassroots cannot be underestimated. Farmers' technology developed with the birth of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, and spread throughout the world. 

Dr Abe V Rotor 


The re-opening of the museum signifies the revival of commitment under the present administration in pursuing the original objectives of the museum, which the author as its first curator upheld until its closure soon after the EDSA Revolution in 1986. 

The re-opening after nearly 30 years could make history for the Grains Museum to be a unifying element of a diverse and politically divided nation since the Edsa revolution.  

One of the seven dioramas, Rice farming on the Banaue rice terraces

Featured in the Grains, official publication of the National Food Authority, the NFA Grains Industry Museum with address at the Regional Office in Cabanatuan City (NE) is now inviting students, scholars, researchers, and ordinary folks, even while restoration is on-going. 


The feature story is quoted in part, as follows:  (December 2016 Vol. 44, No. 4), written by Ms Lina G Reyes and Ms Josephine C Bacungan), 

"Old farm tools and artifacts had been sitting quietly, gathering dust at the dilapidated museum of the Central Luzon Regional office in Cabanatuan City. National Food Authority Grains Industry Museum was a brainchild of then NFA Extension Director Abercio V Rotor with a vision to highlight the evolution of the rice industry through various images on production, post-harvest activities, processing, storage and marketing /distribution of rice and other grains .  It was intended to serve as NFA's contribution to the preservation of cultural traditions particularly in the agricultural landscape.  It operated for sometime but was closed down due to lack of funds and trained personnel to maintain it.  But thanks to he history-loving team of Director Amadeo de Guzman and Assistant Regional Director Serafin Manalili, and then Asst Director Mar Alvarez, et al ... "(the whole staff of the NFA regional and NFA provincial offices.) 
Rare Artifacts   
Operated by hand this native rice mill made of wood and bamboo separates the husk from the grain, leaving the grain intact with its bran.
Brown rice or pinawa dehusker made of bamboo and hardened earth with hardwood grinder displayed at the former Farmers' Museum of the National Food Authority in Cabanatuan City.c 1981 
The bran contains minerals, vitamins, oil, and digestible fiber which conventional rice mills removed during polishing. Polishing removes the bran leaving the grain white and polished. In the process, much of the grains is broken, particularly the defective and immature ones chalky and powdery.  It is the bran that gives the nutritious tiki-tiki which is extracted in the final boiling stage in cooking rice. Tiki-tiki was developed by a Filipino scientist, Dr. Manuel Zamora, a cheap and practical source of infant food supplement which saved thousands of babies during the second World War. It was later popularized as United Tiki-tiki. 

 Biggest wooden harrow (suyod) with a span of two meters, more than twice the size of a typical harrow for upland farming.  



The harrow is of two designs and make. One with iron pegs (left) is used on wet paddy. It serves as harrow and leveler.  The second is made of bamboo with natural and embedded pegs used as harrow for the upland.  




Author demonstrates a rare wooden planter with a sliding wooden block at the middle. The block creates a tic-tac sound to let know the worker is busy on the job, while the deep sound warns birds and rodents to keep away from the newly planted seeds. The block vibrates the stake shaking off clinging soil and dirt before it is thrust to make the next hole. Whoever put this mechanism into multiple and unified uses must be a true genius. 
At the background (above) are naturally shaped hame* made of bamboo.  At the foreground is the mould (cross section) showing the formed hame. The process involved is simple.  The mould is placed atop an emerging shoot.  The shoot grows through the mould and grows to maturity. One or two years after, the bamboo is cut with the mould, and cured and seasoned for durability all in the natural way.  (Hame is a curved harness that fits over the nape of a draft animal like carabao and bullock. Hame for the horse is made of two wooden pieces, padded and clamped together around its neck.) 


 

Native raincoats made of leaves of anahaw (Livistona rotundifolia), cowhide, and woven bamboo slats, with matching headgears likewise made of native materials.  Foreground: Sleds, one made of bamboo (left) and the other of wood. 

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All over the world there are similarities, based on a general pattern, save variations for ease and comfort in usage, which we call today ergonomics, Thus primitive farmers were the founders of this new science. Pride in the farmer can be read on face on discovering these simple tools displayed in the museum.   
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These sets of mortar and pestle in different designs came from different regions of the country, principally for dehusking palay into rice, and making rice flour. Other uses include  cracking beans such as mungo, and grinding corn into grits and bran. 





Photo below was taken just after the inauguration of the Museum (1982). The author (left) shows new collection to Dr Romualdo M del Rosario (in barong), deputy director of the National Museum, who helped in setting up the museum. 



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The ingenuity at the grassroots cannot be underestimated. Farmers' technology developed with the birth of agriculture in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, and spread to many parts of the world. The commonality of inventions is more on function, rather than scientific explanation, the latter serving as basis in improvement and diversification.
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Rice Industry Showcase
The Farmers' Museum of the then National Grains Authority, now National Food Authority, was put up in response to the administration's thrust in food self-sufficiency.  It was during the time the country gave emphasis on developing cultural pride as a nation and people, as evidenced by the expansion of the National Museum, the putting up of the Philippine Convention Center, and the National Art Center on Mt Makiling, among others, during the administration of the late President Ferdinand E Marcos. The Farmers' Museum occupied the right wing of the Regional NFA Building in Cabanatuan City for two decades, until it closed down.  It was once a pride of the agency, the centerpiece of visitation by foreign dignitaries, convention participants, tourists, professors and students, and most especially farmers who found the museum not only as a showcase of the agricultural industry, but as a hallmark of their being the "backbone of the nation." AVR   

There are seven dioramas, four of these are shown in these old photographs. A wall mural meets the visitor on entering the museum.  Indigenous farm tools and implements are lined on the foreground.  The dioramas are grouped at the center of the cubicles.   

 Rice Industry Dioramas 
                           
                            
The flagship of the Marcos administration Masagana 99, a nationwide
 rice production program that made the Philippines a net exporter 
of rice in the later part of the seventies.
Rainfed (sahod ulan) farming dominates the uplands and hillsides. 
Good harvest depends on generous amount and distribution of 
rainfall during the monsoon. Since ancient times festivals implore 
providence for bountiful harvest. This practice still exists especially 
among the  minorities like the Yakans.  
World famous rice terraces in Banaue in the Cordillera have been declared World Heritage by UNESCO. Rice farming on the terraces is as old as the terraces believed to be as old as the Pyramids of Egypt, and much older than the Great Wall of China. Science is still studying the sustainability of these terraces. 
 The Encomienda System dominated agriculture during Spanish rule over the
 islands for more than three centuries. The friars and Spanish officials were the encomienderos,similar to hacienderos.   Although the system underwent land reform, it still persists to this day under corporate umbrella such as the case of Del Monte pineapple plantation. Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac still retains some features of the system.                          

                  
This mural was destroyed when the wall had to undergo major repairs.
                               
How primitive are farmers' tools and implements? The animal-drawn sled predates the wheel cart, and has not changed since its invention thousands of years ago.  It is still used in the remote countryside. 
Brain coral for shelling corn raises eyebrow to the city bred.  Biggest iron bar scale (timbangan), probably is  another item for the Book of Guinness. 

“Education is the lifeblood of museums. Museum education has the power and the responsibility to do the challenging inner work of tackling tough topics and turning them into teachable moments... If we truly believe in the power of cultural institutions to impact communities and engage authentically with social justice issues, if we believe in museums’ capacity to bring about social change, improve cultural awareness, and even transform the world, than we must also believe that our internal practices have an impact, and must act according to the changes we seek.”

― Monica O Montgomery


“Closing a museum to save money is like holding your breath to save oxygen...”
― Nanette L. Avery  

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