Why an Agricultural University?*

“To accomplish great things, we must not only act, but also dream; not only plan,but also believe.”

These were the words of the great French poet and journalist Anatole France. I heeded his advice. I dared to dream and to believe.

It all started when I was a little girl at my father’s small farm here in Pili.  As I watched a man I called Manoy Badong toiling silently among the endless rows of corn,   I wondered  why he had to work so hard and produce more food than he and his family could consume. Why did he have to sweat it out and share his corn crop to feed his neighbors?

Over the years, it dawned on me that Manoy Badong is a farmer. A farmer whose responsibility is to produce food and feed the nation. As an impressionable young girl, I somehow realized  that food came from Manoy Badong’s unassuming farm as he plodded on with nary a whimper.

I then thought of Manoy Badong as a hero and dreamed of giving him a place. A place where his sons and daughters can take on their father’s calling of producing food for the nation. A place where the science of producing food shall flourish and inspire the youth to till and nurture the soil,  and be amazed by  nature’s bounty.

It was a dream that I kept in my heart.  It was a dream that fired me up to strive and seek that place for Manoy Badong and his children. And I eventually found it in my Alma Mater then known as the Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (CSSAC) and now, the Central Bicol State University of Agriculture (CBSUA).

We have a multitude of reasons to articulate and rationalize the need for an agricultural university in Bicol. For one, almost 70% of Bicol’s rural economy is agricultural.Second, agriculture has disturbingly under performed for more than a decade.Third, food security is at risk.  And fourth, the onset of climate change makes the scheme of things extremely challenging– and unpredictable.  These are indeed drivers of change that we have to respond to with urgency and dispatch.

In the next few years, CBSUA has to have a definitive role in configuring the future agricultural landscape of the Bicol Region. Such predisposition will only be done by being an active instrumentality and an able partner in regional development.  

 Our search for truth, our creative drive, and our imagination create knowledge. Our engagement with the communities, our response to societal issues, and our duties as citizens form part of meeting the demand for knowledge. Instruction, research and extension are mutually reinforcing. CBSUA has to excel in all these areas. . It is at this point, that I exhort all CBSUA professors to be research leaders and cultivate the culture of critical inquiry. Essentially then, a CBSUA faculty member has to be a teacher, a researcher, and an extension worker rolled into one.

As we prepare for our centennial, our agenda will fully consider the societal challenges. We want CBSUA to nurture the legacy of Manoy Badong. We can only do this by being an active resource center and partner in the development of an economically strong Bicol Region.

Within a four-year time frame, I propose a six-point agenda:

1.  Develop new ideas and technology solutions in building climate smart and resilient communities.

     Climate change is now irreversible. Ideas and solutions to adapt have to be in place. Research initiatives in climate smart agriculture should be CBSUA’s response to climate change adaptation.

2.  Develop innovative platforms for shaping anew league of future farmers and young entrepreneurs.

     Manoy Badong is due to retire soon as a farmer. There is a critical need to bring back the youth to the rural areas and inspire them to do farming. Our curricular programs and student experience should not be merely exciting but equally rewarding. Our students should not be merely farmer entrepreneurs but should have the capacity for Asian mobility and integration.   

3. Establish innovation laboratories as a means of public engagement and academe-industry interface.

     Public confidence and private partnership are yardsticks of international standards. Extension should not simply be technology dissemination but partnering with the private sector in refining technology and solutions through innovation and technology incubation laboratories. Only then can we say that CBSUA is indeed relevant to the communities.

4.  Build a corps of University faculty and staff of international caliber who will cater to the needs and expectations ofthe students and the entire Bicol region.

The CBSUA will heavily invest in the development and constant upgrading of the skills and competency of its faculty and non-teaching staff. The end-results are for them to meet the students’ expectation for the provision of “an environment in which they may study, learn, work, and live without unwanted interference from others” and to respond effectively and efficiently to the needs of the region.Moreover, I will pursue Gender and Development initiatives in the CBSUA,“insuring equal  gender opportunity in all spheres of public policies and programs” as pointed out by President Benigno S. Aquino III in his so-called  social contract with the Filipino people.  

5. Showcase CBSUA as an Agri-tourism destination.

     Agri-tourism in CBSUA does not merely reflect a response to an emerging alternative industry. It shall manifest howwe do things in this place in terms of harmony with nature, efficiency in landscape management and the appreciation of the nuances of agriculture. The organic agriculture techno-hub will be a centerpiece of agri-tourism.

6.  Strengthen the international character of the CBSUA, as the premier instruction, extension and research center in agriculture  serving the Bicol Region.

 

The year 2018 will be CBSUA’s centennial. That will also be the last year of my tenure as the university president.  The journey to the centennial might have started years back but what I have just cited today as our goals will be the measures to reckon with in the future.

 

As we move along with the intricacies of university governance, let us not lose sight of a dream of making a place worthy of the simple desires of Manoy Badong and his children, a place that would value the responsibility of feeding the nation. 

 

Yes. I dared to dream, to believe, to act, and to serve. Paraphrasing another great writer, serving is beautiful but only if it is done with joy, a whole heart, a free mind -- and your unconditional support.So help me God.

 

*inaugural speech delivered on the occasion of her investiture as the 2nd University President on October 10, 2014 at CBSUA Atrium.