Exposure to greatness and passion for excellence: a foundation for greater achievements in life

by Romulo G. Davide, Ph.D.

Lecture delivered for the 2002 Concepcion Dadufalza Award for Distinguished Achivement on February 27, 2002 at the OR, Office of the Chancellor , UP Los Baños

Good afternoon Ladies and Gentlemen!

First of all, let me extend my warm greetings and sincere thanks and appreciation to the kind donor of the award who is no other than Dr. Concepcion Dadufalza. I also wish to thank our U.P. President, Dr. Francisco Nemenzo, Jr. for selecting me to receive the Dadufalza Award for Distinguished Achievement as recommended by the Selection Committee. To all our distinguished guests, thank you very much for joining us during this significant affair.

You know when I first received the letter of Dr. Jose Maria P. Balmaceda, Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the U.P. Vice President for Academic Affairs on January 15, 2002 informing me that I was selected to receive the Award, I could hardly believe it. I did not expect any award since I am already retired from UPLB after serving about 40 years. I thought that as an Adjunct Professor without compensation I could no longer receive any award. This must be an exceptional case.

This is also my first time to receive an award where the donor requires me to deliver a lecture that will relate to the concept of distinguished achievement – what it means, what responsibilities it entails, why one should strive for it and others.

Keeping this in mind, I am indeed humbled and honored to receive the Dadufalza Award for Distinguished Achievement. I will try my best to relate to these requirements and talk about “Exposure to Greatness and Passion for Excellence: A Foundation for Greater Achievements in Life”.

I chose this title because it has a very strong influence in the molding of my character in our family. There is a saying that for a good tree to bear good fruits, it must start from a good seed. My mother and father who gave me the good seed of life nortured me and my brothers and sisters with the strong foundation of values for love of God, country and people. Although poor and living in a mountain barangay, my parents had the great dream and ambition that all of us seven children, would get a better college education with a profession that would make us excel in life. They did this by sending four of us to U.P. – two in U.P. Diliman and two in Los Baños. I was here in U.P. Los Baños with my elder brother to study agriculture and two younger siblings in U.P. Diliman that included the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Honorable Hilario G. Davide, Jr., who was also a working student in that campus.

Exposure to Greatness

The main reason why our parents sent us to U.P. was to expose us to the greatness of this institution whose alumni are well known for their distinguished achievements in their professional careers. Although it was financially difficult for our parents to send us to U.P., they succeeded in convincing us to study hard to get our desired degrees. As a working student here in U.P. College of Agriculture I worked as part-time janitor of the Boys Dormitory with a minimum wage of P50.00 a month. Most of our professors were recognized scientists in their chosen field of specialization. The year 1953-1957 was a great exposure for me to the academic excellence of this University.

Through hard work and self-determination my exposures to academic excellence were not only confined in U.P. but also in other institutions of great learning in the United States. When I did my graduate studies for M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Nematology at the Oklahoma State University and North Carolina State University as a student assistant, my professors were all well known scientists and authorities in their major field of studies. I really felt great to be one of their students. They guided me to become what I am today.

 Passion for Excellence

My training here in U.P. and abroad would have been nothing had I not translated it to blazing a new trail of scientific endeavors in the development of the science of Nematology in the Philippines. What guided me to achieve more as a professor of plant pathology specializing in Nematology was my strong desire to excel in whatever task I am assigned to do.

As young children we were advised by our father to do the best we could in any kind of endeavor because we might not be able to do it again. He told us to have the passion for excellence and be excellent workers wherever we may be. Our father wanted to prove that children of poor families could also get the best education and achieve greatness in their chosen profession.

So in my almost 40 years of service to U.P. Los Baños, I did my best to establish and develop the science of Nematology in the Philippines. Our research publications of more than a hundred have been published here and abroad in well known scientific journals. I am proud to say that many of my students who took major courses in Nematology and had their B.S., M.S. or Ph.D. thesis research under me are now holding higher and better positions and compensations than me. They too had made distinguished achievements in their line of work.

In research, what I consider my greatest contribution to science and technology is the development of BIOCON, a natural or biological control technology against plant nematodes, a serious pest that attack many of our economic crops like banana, pineapple, potato, citrus, tomato and others. This was the first technological product transferred legally with a MOA from UPLB to a private company, the Asiatic Technology Incorporated in1986. This was registered in the SEC under the trade name BIOACT for which U.P. Los Baños was supposed to receive a royalty of 2% of the gross sales. Unfortunately, BIOACT was passed to a number of other companies in the Philippines, Australia, and now in Germany. It was manufactured in Australia when two companies got into a court litigation in the Australian Federal Court as to who would own and market BIOACT. Because of this case, the production of BIOACT was stopped in 1998-2000. After the case was settled, its production was resumed last year by a company in Germany that improved the BIOACT formulation. This company is now going to register BIOACT in Europe, United States and other countries for marketing in the world market.

Last January 28, 2002, the new BIOACT product was re-launched in Davao City by the Biotech Resources and Agricultural Industries, Inc., a joint venture with Australian, Filipino and German stockholders. I was informed that the world market of BIOACT has been estimated at $87 billion. I never thought that a product of our technological research would reach a court battle in Australia and then get into the world market as the safest product for the farmers’ use to control nematode pests and replace the highly toxic chemical nematicides in the market. I hope our UPLB Legal Counsel can initiate a discussion with the company to define the royalties that the University can get from the sales of BIOACT in the international market.

Long Walk to Return Home

After re-examining my achievements in the academe and having retired from that kind of human endeavor two years ago, I feel that there is still an empty part of my life. Going back to my mountain barangay of Colawin, Argao, Cebu where I came from 40 years ago, I noticed that there has not been much changes in the farmers’ agricultural productivity. Their corn production for food remained the lowest in the country with an average of 0.50 ton/ha only. The same thing is happening to other farming communities in Cebu and some other parts of the country. Government authorities have already declared Cebu as a non-agricultural area because the soil is already very poor and could no longer support good growth of com and other food crops. If this is so, what shall we do with those 125,000 or more farmers who could not produce enough corn for their food and therefore remain poor?

Challenged and touched by this situation in Cebu, I decided to dedicate the remaining portion of my life to help poor farmers, not only in Cebu but also in other parts of the country, improve their living conditions beyond poverty level. This is done by sharing with them the knowledge I have gained in my study of agriculture here and abroad.

The main reason why our farmers, especially in upland communities, remain poor is because the modern methods of farming have not reached their farms. I had to go home and prove that our poor farmers can become prosperous. They should not remain poor forever. Thus, I took my long walk to return home and transfer scientific farming technologies to them. It took me 40 years before I had this opportunity to return home and help our farmers.

Teaching Farmers to Become Farmer-Scientists

The opportunity to start my work with the farmers in Cebu came in 1994 when I received a research grant of P500,000 from DA-NAFC as part of my Gawad Saka Award as the 1994 Outstanding Agricultural Scientist. Since this grant gave me a choice as to the place to pilot the project, I started it in 14 depressed mountain barangays of Argao, Cebu with the home base at the Colawin Technical School. Colawin is the barangay where I was born and did farming before going to college.

To teach farmers the scientific methods of corn-based farming, I introduced the Farmer-Scientist Training Program (FSTP). This is implemented in three phases which integrate research, development and extension work (RDE) in corn and later vegetable and backyard milk production. Phase I gives the farmers research exposure data collection and other experiences. In Phase II the farmer- scientists conduct and evaluate trials of technology adoption in their own farms while in Phase III the farmer-scientists share their acquired knowledge/expertise with their fellow untrained farmers under the adopt-a-farmer or adopt-a-barangay scheme.

After a few years of implementation, what did the farmer-scientists achieve? They demonstrated that applying scientific methods of farming can undoubtedly improve their farm productivity and living conditions.

Impact of Farmer-Scientists Training Program

There are some impacts of the farmers’ training program:

a) Increase in corn production from’ 0.5 ton/ha to 4.0-6.0 tons/ha through introduction of high-yielding varieties/hybrids and correct application of fertilizers;

b) Reduction in farmers’ cost of production by more than 50% through the application of newly developed microbial and low cost organic fertilizers;

c) Improvement of farmers’ income through increased corn yield and added income from sales of vegetables, milk and other farm products; and

d) Improvement in the living standard and quality of life of the poor farmers in upland communities resulting from increased income.

Conclusion

Based on what I have discussed, it is clear that the concept of distinguished achievement is basically anchored on one’s goal, mission or vision of life. To be distinctive, one has to accomplish something that others have not done yet, something innovative and pioneering.

Whatever accomplishments one has achieved, however, entails the responsibility to share them with others to improve the socio-economic well being of the country and people. The great task of bringing science and technology to the farmers’ farms should be the responsibility of any agricultural scientists. The farmers should benefit from the products of our research and development efforts. This is the best way to make our farmers prosperous.

There are several reasons why one has to strive to attain distinguished achievements. My own personal reasons for this are:

To overcome personal poverty. I was born poor but do not like to be poor forever;

To elevate or improve the standard of living among poor farmers;

To share with others the opportunities for a better life;

To reach the goals for a successful and meaningful life; and to contribute to nation-building.


THANK YOU AND MABUHAY TAYONG
LAHAT!


Dr. Davide is an Adjunct Professor of Plant Pathology and Project Leader, Corn-based Farmer-Scientists RDE Training Program sponsored by UPLB and BAR, DA.

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