Reynaldo C. Gabllo : The Man Who Helped Establish PhilRice-Agusan
Before entering the branch station of PhilRice (Philippine Rice Research Institute) in RTR, Agusan del Norte, one of the first things a visitor would notice is the marker on the wall. Among the names written on the marker is Revnaldo C. Gahallo, then the provincial agriculturist during the branch station’s inauguration.
Little is known that this man played a key role in the establishment of the branch station. I did not know this myself even if I have been closely associated with PhilRice since 1990, when Dr. Santiago R. Obien got me as the Institute’s first visiting scientist. I only learned about Rey’s role when I visited him recently.
The idea of establishing a branch station in Agusan first cropped up during a PhilRice conference in Davao City in 1987. As moderator of a plenary session, Rey took the opportunity to request Dr. Obien to establish a rice research center for Northern Mindanao. He told Dr. Obien a 13-hectare farm that was suffering from zinc deficiency could be negotiated with the owner.
Rey thought the land could be bought at P 10,000 a hectare, but the owner – Gov. Consuelo Calo of Agusan del Norte, wanted to sell it at P30,000 per hectare. The land was acquired on August 8, 1990 and PhilRice-Agusan formally started its operation five days later with a branch manager, two technical men and 12 pioneering field workers.
The farm was converted into an experiment station, which later became known as the C.V Calo Rice Experiment Station. Due to the absence of an administrative staff, Rey became the temporary disbursing officer.
Several years later when he was already the Department of Agriculture’s regional technical director (RTD) for operations, research and training, Rey also negotiated for the purchase of a 25-hectare farm at Brgy. Los Angeles, Butuan City for the seed and commercial production operations of PhilRice-Agusan. The farm is intended to serve the needs of farmers in the Caraga region, which covers Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte, and Surigao del Sur.
FARMER AFTER RETIREMENT
Rey became a full-time inbred seed grower after seven years of being an RTD. One hectare of his 4-hectare rice farm is also planted with commercial rice since he also needs to produce rice for milling. Before he retired, he used to farm every weekend but found it difficult to divide his time for his official functions and farming because it was against his conscience to steal time from the government.
He says that weekend rice farming has a host of disadvantages. For one thing, it is difficult to get hired labor if the capital is not enough. It is easier to get hired labor for full-time farming since he is in constant contact with hired farm hands. Besides, he could closely supervise the farm and, hence, the results are better.
“The best fertilizer for your crop is your presence in the farm because you [will] know fully well what are happening,” Rey said. He visits his farm, which is located along the highway, at least three times a week. From his house, he could reach his farm in less than five minutes. This is why the brand new pick up that he acquired when he retired has not worn out.
During land preparation, however, he goes to his farm everyday to make sure that the soil is well puddled and the weeds are well decomposed before planting.
He said rice seed production is a better venture than commercial production, even if the amount of seeds he produces is limited by his allocation from the seed producers’ federation. It’s because in terms of prices and income, Rey said seed production offers a great difference from commercial production.
To assure quality, he gets registered seeds from PhilRice every cropping season whenever he cannot get foundation seeds. However, if he can buy foundation seeds, he would not buy anymore for the next season since the seeds produced from foundation seeds normally become registered seeds.
He said his seed harvest is always certified by the National Seed Quality Control Service (NSQCS) of the Bureau of Plant Industry. The NSQCS provides the tags for registered and certified seeds, which he buys at PI .50 each. Although farmers usually do not require tag as long as they have seen the standing crop, the government would not buy the seeds without the tags, he said.
Rey has not yet received any complaint from his buyers. The quality of his seeds is guaranteed by continuous roguing or removal of off-types which, if not removed, would decrease seed quality since its seed would mix with the main variety. He is also always the first to be certified by the local branch of the NSQCS.
Rey makes sure that his caretaker, who stays in the farm, starts roguing 45 days after transplanting when the off-types start to become visibly different from the main variety. Thereafter, roguing is done every two weeks until the hard dough stage. Rey said roguing is easy as long as you are aware of the phenotypic traits or external appearance of your variety.
Since he can only produce as much seeds as allowed by the federation, he uses the rest of his farm for commercial production.
Asked how much longer he will continue planting rice, he said it will be “until my knees are still strong enough since it is difficult to stay at home.”
Regarding his farming operation, he said: “Farming now is more pleasurable than when I was still employed in the government. The rice plants are so beautiful to look at especially when the panicles are waving as these are blown by the wind.”
However, he always feels bad whenever his crop is damaged by golden kuhol, which he himself introduced in Agusan del Sur. Even the other farmers are angry with him whenever golden apple snails damage their crops.
At 67, Rey is blessed with four children, three of whom are in the medical profession. Although he was not able to pursue his initial ambition of becoming a physician, he has two daughters who are now medical doctors and the other one is both a physical therapist and a nurse. His junior is a civil engineer.