Rowena B. Gonnay from the Kalinga, Philippines visited Turin as a delegate to the Salone del Gusto and Slow Food Terra Madre 2012. This is her experience…

Originally posted at Slow Food Terra Madre Voices


“Attending the global Terra Madre meeting in 2010 was a milestone in my life. I met with great people from the Slow Food network, made new friends from different countries and learned many things, in particular about food, seeds, and other indigenous products from around the world. I was deeply impressed by the warm hospitality of the host families, volunteers and staff organizing the event. When I returned home to the Philippines I took up the great challenge of spreading the message. I conducted farmers’ meeting in villages to spread information about keeping local seeds, traditional agricultural practices and knowledge passed from our ancestors to current generations. I started to organize Terra Madre gatherings at a village level, and while we celebrated and enjoyed indigenous foods and recipes I challenged all farmers to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.Rowena Gonnay

When I returned to Turin again this October, my second experience at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre exceeded my expectations. The excitement had risen as one unified event brought together the Terra Madre network with Slow Food’s international fair, the Salone del Gusto.

As a farming leader in the indigenous community of Pasil, Kalinga, it was an honor to participate and see our traditional rice varieties displayed in the Biodiversity stand for Asia and Oceania. I am so proud that we in the remote community of Pasil still have this heirloom rice that our ancestors have preserved for thousand of years, and that we continue to plant it today despite having limited areas of production. Our rice was also cooked and served at the Philippines Stand, giving people from around the world the chance to taste it.

Hundreds of topics were discussed in forums during the five-day event, and we participated in the Asia and Oceania conferences. I was impressed and encouraged by the speakers at the Traditional Rice in Asia session, where the right to seeds and the rights of indigenous peoples was highlighted. We heard about traditional rice varieties being preserved in many other Asian countries and speakers from Malaysia and Indonesia shared their traditional methods of planting and harvesting that are deeply tied to the moon cycle and the stars.

This reminded me of when I was young. I remember our parents always observing the moon and signs from nature, such as bird songs, that signaled the moment to plant and harvest crops like rice, beans and tubers. They observed everything around them, and marked the agricultural seasons with rituals and traditions, but gradually these are all being lost.

Slow Food’s international event Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre is a challenge to all cultural minorities to redeem their culture and tradition from the influence of the modern world. I was impressed to see many products from all around the world and to meet the producers who brought them to the event. I tasted new foods and shared ideas with other delegates. I witnessed so much good work being done in the events. Now I willl share my experiences in our region, hoping to promote the revival of our food culture and traditions. I am very proud to be a member of Slow Food and now I understand that as long as we understand each other through shared goals, it doesn’t matter who we are or what language we speak.

Many thanks to the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project and RICE Inc. who introduced our rice to Slow Food International and the deepest gratitude to everyone who help us join the movement, in particular Elena Aniere who visited us in Kalinga.

Rowena B. Gonnay
Slow Food Kalinga


Bookmark Heirloomrice

Heirloom rice of the Cordillera

Poster at Slow Food Terra Madre/Salone del Gusto

Bookmark Heirloomrice

The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project is again well represented at the 2012 Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre, which is happening this week October 25-October 29 in Turin, Italy. Vicky Garcia heads our delegation along with farmer representatives from the three heirloom rice-producing communities that are represented in The Slow Food Foundation’s “Ark of Taste”.

In the opening ceremony attended by thousands of participants, speakers Alice Waters, Vandana Shiva and FAO Director José Graziano Da Silva, to name a few, addressed the themes of DIVERSITY, SEEDS, EDUCATION, NETWORK, EARTH, WATER, ENERGY and BIODIVERSITY. All of these ideas are central to the work of our project.

On Saturday October 27, the purple ominio sticky rice of Barlig, Mountain Province will be highlighted in a taste workshop on Traditional Rices of Asia.


On May 5, 2012, Rose Soneff and the Global and Community Action Committee of the Kamloops United Church (BC, Canada) hosted “Raising More than Rice” a delicious Filipino dinner and a narrated slideshow about the terraces and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project.

"Raising more than rice" dinner event

A great turnout of support from the Kamloops community

Over 70 people enjoyed a dinner of traditional Filipino dishes cooked by Rose, her family and church volunteers. Several varieties of heirloom rice from the terraces were used in preparing the meal.

Over a scrumptious coconut/sticky rice dessert that was made from the dark purple rice of Barlig, Mountain Province, Rose shared stories and pictures from her recent trip to the Philippines, her visit with farmers of the Rice Terrace’s Farmers Cooperative in Banaue, Ifugao and their effort to build a sustainable business for the sale of their heirloom rice. Everyone at the dinner went home with a complimentary gift bag of heirloom rice.

The event raised over $1600 to fund a series of quality control trainings and to purchase needed processing supplies for farmers involved in the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. The funds were used by Vicky Garcia and the staff of RICE, Inc to facilitate seven two-day quality control trainings in seven different municipalities across three provinces.

Inspecting the rice panicles

Inspecting the rice panicles

A total of 200 farmers participated in the seminars with 52 farmers attending
in the municipalities of Hungduan and Banaue, Ifugao; 117 farmers participating in seminars in the municipalities of Sadanga, Bauko, Tadian and Barlig, Mountain Province; and 31 farmers participating in the seminar held in Pasil, Kalinga. 78% of the participants were women.

Each training began with a sharing of experiences by members who had previously participated in the project’s rice consolidation and processing. A group activity followed in which farmers identified production problems within their areas.

Other sessions addressed the principles of Fair Trade in developing the project; what Fair Trade means for selling in the local and international market; and ways to strengthen the cooperative.

The second day focused on the Quality Control requirements for selling a premium quality product. During the session, farmers had the opportunity to discuss the issues/problems encountered during rice production in relation to meeting quality control standards, and what measures/solutions would help farmers meet those quality standards.

The final training session concluded with a hands-on activity focusing on rice processing.

Funds from the event purchased new heavy duty screens

Funds from the event purchased new heavy duty screens

A couple of the comments shared by the farmers during the assessment segment of the training:

  • The training is very informative. I learned something new about our rice, that quality begins with good seed and lasts until processing.
  • I am encouraged by this training… we were given the opportunity to ask and assess our level of understanding about our product; it is very empowering to be part of this training.
Participants in the Hungduan training

Participants in the Hungduan training

As a small NGO, these trainings would not have been possible without the support given by Rose and the Global and Community Action Committee. We are hoping that a long-term relationship can be built between the farmers and this wonderful group from Kamloops United Church.

And finally, the story comes full circle. A photograph taken during the Quality Control training in Ifugao will appear in the 2013 FTF/FTRN Fair Trade Calendar. This story began when a calendar photo moved a wonderful woman named Rose and she decided to make a difference.

Rose in Banaue

Rose in Banaue

Maraming Salamat po!

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Rose Soneff of Kamloops, British Columbia saw a picture of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project (Philippines) in the beautiful 2011 Fair Trade Federation/Fair Trade Resource Network calendar. After contacting FTF member Eighth Wonder, Inc. for more information, Rose and her family visited the project and some of its farmers during their Christmas holiday in the Philippines. On Saturday May 5, Rose’s parish, the Kamloops United Church, will host a fund-raising dinner to support the project’s quality control seminars and the purchase of processing tools for the farmers. What a great Fair Trade story! One person, moved by a photograph, takes the time and effort to make a difference. Read more at

May 5, 2012 Fundraiser for the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project

2011 was a tough year on many fronts. Typhoons causing floods, landslides and loss of lives had a devastating effect on the mountain provinces. Many terraces with standing crops were destroyed and roads and bridges crucial to moving food and supplies in and out of the mountainous region washed out.

Despite all this, 2011 had many highlights and opportunities for the farmers and RICE, Inc. We would like to a share a few of the highlights.

Mountain Province display of Igorot rice

In September in Baguio City the Regional Department of Agriculture-Marketing Division held a first ever Investment Forum on Heirloom Rice. Mary Hensley, President of Eighth Wonder, and Vicky Garcia were able to attend the event. Farmers and LGUs from every province in the mountain region came to the forum to showcase the hundreds of traditional rice grown in the Cordillera and discuss the opportunities and challenges of bringing their varieties to the market place.

Investment Forum on Heirloom Rice

Sticky Igorot Rice.........Talking Quality.........Benguet Province Display


Collapsed terrace in Hungduan

After the devastating typhoons in the last quarter of 2011, the government and the private sector mobilized relief efforts to provide for the victims of the typhoons. Aid organizations in Manila contacted RICE, Inc. for assistance in making contact with the people in the affected area. Vicky Garcia helped coordinate with representations of the Rice Terraces Farmers Cooperative for the pick up and distribution of relief good to members of the community.

Vicky with farmers from the Cordillera region

Vicky with farmers from the Cordillera region

The project’s heirloom rice production areas are some of the only OCCP certified organic hectares in the Cordillera. The Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project has paved the way for introducing the indigenous producers of traditional rice to the organic movement. Because of this, Vicky Garcia was asked to speak about the project and her experiences at the 8th National Organic Agriculture Congress held at the Aquino Center, Luisita Hacienda in Tarlac City on November 8-11, 2011.

Vicky speaking at the National Organic Conference

Vicky speaking at the National Organic Conference

Interview for Vietnamese television

Interview for Vietnamese television

Project farmers were interviewed for a Vietnamese TV documentary on rural economic development and the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project was showcased by the Participatory Impact Pathway Analysis (PIPPI) Learning Alliance October workshop. 30+ASEAN Farmer Delegates visited Banaue and had an opportunity to meet farmers and see the custom-designed post-harvest machines that are being used to process the heirloom rice as part of the project.

 Although regional government funding in support of trainings was cut back in 2011, provincial and municipal local government units continued their support to their farmers:

Working together to make it happen

Working together to make it happen

In Mountain Province provincial and government units (LGUs)have consistently supported their farmers with the hauling of palay to processing center in Bontoc. Everyone worked together to get their rice processed, packed and ready for shipment to Manila.
Farmers thank Ifugao Governor Balitang for his support

Farmers thank Ifugao Governor Balitang for his support

In Ifugao the provincial government provided funds to build a small warehouse for the post harvest machines. Plans are in place to add a second story in 2012.
In Kalinga, negotiations are on-going to find a permanent home for processing. Mary and Vicky are hopeful that provincial office of the National Irrigation Authority will provide warehouse space in one of their vacant buildings. 
Requesting support from the National Irrigation Administration- Kalinga Office

Requesting support from the National Irrigation Administration- Kalinga Office


Bookmark Heirloomrice

Vicky and Jimmy with Carlo Petrini, Slow Food's founder and president

Lamen Gonnay shares his experiences as a farmer and leader within the Kalinga community


In June 2011, Vicky Garcia and project farmers Lamen Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo joined over 200 representatives of indigenous communities from 31 countries at the first Indigenous Slow Food Terra Madre held in Jokkmokk, Sweden and hosted by the indigenous Sami Community.
It was an incredible experience to travel halfway around the world and then so far north to the land of the midnight sun above the Artic Circle.

Vicky Garcia was invited to be a speaker in the Food, Culture, Diversity and Traditional Knowledge seminar at the Slow Food Convivia held in Namyangju City, Republic of Korea. The Convivia was held in conjunction with the IFOAM Organic World Congress (OWC) in September 2011. The Slow Food Culture Center of Korea invited chefs, students, producers, and farmers from 12 Asian & Oceania countries. The conference was an opportunity to network with delegates from around the region and to promote the philosophy of Slow Food.

Slow Food Asia & Oceania Convivia, Namyangju City, Korea, September 2011

Bookmark Heirloomrice

Rowena Gonnay speaking at conference in India

Farmers share experiences in developing organic fertilizers from indigenous materials

Project farmers Rowena Gonnay and Jimmy Lingayo were invited by the Deshpande Foundation’s Centre for Social Entrepreneurship in Hubli, India to speak on a panel at a development conference entitled “ Leveraging Opportunities”.  Their participation helped develop their confidence as community leaders and reinforced their belief that the farmers of the Cordillera can once again make traditional rice and the terraces culturally and economically relevant to a younger generation of farmers.

Bookmark Heirloomrice