Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Broadening scholars' insights through immersive rice science exploration

The recent excursion organized by the Association of Fellows, Scholars, Trainees, and Residents of IRRI (AFSTRI) marks a significant step in enriching scholars' perspectives on rice science and its cultural resonance. From August 18 to 21, 2023, AFSTRI orchestrated a captivating journey that encompassed the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) in Nueva Ecija and the breathtaking Banaue Rice Terraces in Ifugao. This voyage was designed to provide scholars with an immersive understanding of rice science's multifaceted dimensions, combining rigorous laboratory exploration with a poignant cultural immersion.

The expedition commenced with an enlightening laboratory tour at PhilRice, where scholars were granted access to both the experimental fields and cutting-edge research facilities. The interactive discourse with farmers and scientists furnished an in-depth insight into the vibrant tapestry of rice research progress within the Philippines. The scholars were privy to comprehensive discussions that traversed the latest advancements in rice cultivation techniques, disease resistance strategies, and sustainability initiatives. Through this engagement, participants garnered not only theoretical knowledge but also a tangible grasp of the challenges and breakthroughs that define contemporary rice research endeavors. The convergence of academic rigor and practical experience during the PhilRice visit laid the foundation for a well-rounded understanding of rice science's evolving landscape.

Transitioning from the laboratories to the picturesque expanse of the Banaue Rice Terraces, the scholars embarked on a cultural odyssey. As they toured the terraces and witnessed the intricate interplay between nature and agricultural ingenuity, the significance of rice farming in the tapestry of Banaue's culture became palpable. The trip was more than a mere observation of farming practices; it was a journey into the symbiotic relationship between humanity and the environment, reflected vividly in the harmonious cultivation of rice across generations.

The experiential learning continued through a cultural night where scholars had the privilege of engaging with the Ifugao community. This captivating interaction provided an avenue to delve into the rich historical narratives, cultural traditions, and practices that have perpetuated among the Ifugaos for centuries. By sharing stories, participating in indigenous rituals, and embracing the local way of life, scholars found themselves immersed in a profound exchange of knowledge and values. This cross-cultural interaction transcended academic boundaries, underscoring the intrinsic connection between agricultural practices and the cultural fabric of a community.

The following are some comments from the people who participated in the trip:

“Must visit place for all the IRRI staff and students. The way farmers producing and storing rice in Banaue is unique. We can learn, how farmers are irritating rice crop in difficult terrains and also the we can see the traditional rice varieties. Everyone will enjoy the hot spring and waterfall present in this region. We are really lucky to watch the traditional dance of Banave tribal community. Thanks to AFSTRI team for the wonderful management.” – S Vijayakumar, Post-doc

“The AFSTRI Banaue trip was a harmonious blend of adventure, culture, and connection. This journey left me with cherished memories and a renewed appreciation for the beauty of our world. I am immensely grateful for this experience.” -Kristel Sartagoda, Assistant Scientist

“I enjoyed going to the Banaue Rice Terraces with AFSTRI. It is a place I’ve heard about and always wanted to go, but couldn’t because of its distance. This trip provided me the opportunity to see the world heritage site with a good group of people with convenience and affordability.” -Stefano Ortiz, Intern

AFSTRI's meticulously planned trip succeeded in fostering a holistic understanding of rice science that transcends textbooks and laboratories. By combining insightful laboratory experiences at PhilRice with a poignant immersion into the world of the Ifugaos, scholars were exposed to the intricate fusion of science, culture, and tradition that defines the realm of rice. This endeavor not only broadened their intellectual horizons but also kindled a deep appreciation for the multifaceted nuances of rice science and its profound impact on society.


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