Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“MILAGROSA,” miracle lady with a mystic scent

By: Enn C. Baybay
Freelance Writer

“Milagrosa,” a runaway rice variety- "miracle lady" with a mystic scent wants to be reunited to her homeland.

RIYADH - “Milagrosa Rice” or miracle rice has striking resemblance to a beautiful lady, Filipina name, but embracing citizenship of another country. When this fashionable young woman walks in for the swimsuit category, the gullible audience were overjoyed and thought at last a new breed of Filipina will be crowned as Miss Universe. However, when she introduced herself, her fans were caught by surprise when she said: “I am Miss Thailand.” The festive air fades away in an instant.

In reality, it is not only our talented Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who invaded the lucrative market abroad, but also various Philippine products except for rice. Once our very own, Milagrosa has joined the caravan but ironically coming from another country. Some OFWs may have been victims of illegal recruiters or in the case of Milagrosa rice by shrewd businessmen whose ultimate opportunistic goal may prompt them to cheat and to enrich themselves at the expense of our national heritage.

During the Marcos era, a high yielding rice variety, named as IR8 was created. This variety was also popularly called the "Milagrosa" rice, a Spanish word for "miracle rice" which has been our pride and a favorite rice for many years. Its crystal, transparent complexion attracted not only Filipinos but also people from other countries. Many competitors are trying to duplicate this variety but failed to equal its vibrant texture. In fact, there was a report that a similar variety of "miracle rice" would have been christened as “Imelda” in honor of a once beauty queen and the former First Lady of the Philippines. However, the idea was abandoned due to the rice pests at that time that might have caused a "bad image for Mrs. Marcos and the IRRI."

Many people were wondering why the Philippines is facing a rice crisis when it hosts the prestigious International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the world. Since its founding, agriculture scientists have known that the Philippine agricultural lands need government support in providing fertilizers and pesticides to counteract the menacing bugs that attack our crops. That was almost half a century ago. Today, we are still confronted with the same dilemma. Before the so-called “Asian Tigers” were born, we were there at the limelight. We were always in the international spotlight economically. The importance of the "miracle rice" can not be ignored since it is the only variety that made the Philippines self-sufficient in rice during the early days of the Marcos regime.

Although there are factors beyond control, but failure in effective governance has been a major cause in the tremendous decline in the economy. The country’s debt has multiplied and keep on rising since the Martial law era and there is nothing in the horizon that shows us the light of recovery. I am expressing the sentiment of the common people, recipients of the fruits of a “failed economy.”

Meanwhile, feed up and frustrated of the economic situation, skilled workers have gone abroad in search of a better life, free from the "pests" that occupied the influential sector in society.

Going back to our beauty queen, Milagrosa, shall we just sit back and do nothing to regain its ownership? Was she adopted, stolen or pirated? I believe, the real mystery involving Milagrosa is adding insult to injury in a country whose “runaway daughter” gives magic and glory to an alien country. In my opinion, our local farmers are very sensitive to this issue and would like to be reunited to their once national pride which is nearing its extinction in a country it originates.

Can we prevent Milagrosa to be commercially manipulated, its Filipino name to be misrepresented and falsely advertised? For the sake of our national heritage, shall we take the initiative and start the campaign now to bring home our beautiful, “Milagrosa?” The least we can do perhaps is to convince the parties involved to refrain from using "Milagrosa" and "WagWag" rice labels in millions of bags being marketed abroad.

Close-up of Milagrosa rice bags on sale

Abundance of Milagrosa rice on sale abroad
at the height of the "rice crisis" in the Philippines.

Another variety "WagWag" rice of Philippine origin marketed abroad.

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