Saturday, 16 June 2012

"Thriller in Manillaa"

Today we arrived at the IRRI guest house in los banos manilla. The tour of Manila was titled "The Thriller in Manila" as it was thrilling to see the immediate difference in culture and perspective we gained of agriculture whilst being exposed to it. The Phillipino people have been exposed to many occupying countries, settled by the Spanish their population is the largest practising catholic nation.

It made for great material we had a New Zealand scholar Richard Fitzgerald who is CEO of the New Zealand young farmers on our tour. The first incident was when we visited the local market and he was buying a fanta, the young lady behind the store counter asked him in broken English "Where are you from?" Richard replied "New Zealand - do you know where that is?" Stumbling with the can of soft drink the young lady became very nervous...... She looked up at Richard and stammered "I'm sorry Sir I'm not sure, I am very flustered at the moment you are very handsome"

The work they are doing in research in the Philippines in terms of genetic modelling is embarrassing when looking from a livestock perspective. We are still on a global scale looking at improving animal physiology from an appearance and performance level rather a molecular level. This is an area that I will spearhead my research because at a molecular level performance gains are at an instance where as at a physical level the performance gains are generational.

While in the Philippines we visited the Taal Volcano, by boat over lake Taal. What was initially a sombre activity turned to a journey deserved of a few beverages on completion. We knew the mole hill turned into a mountain when there were over 500 pack horses stabled at the base. With Michael Chilvers as the professional trekker in the group we set off on foot and decided against paying for a horse, just as the climb was getting really tough we came to a group of horses positioned to take advantage of our weaknesses, the locals were taunting and encouraging us to pay and ride the horses up while we were grappling with the climb. Defiant we pushed on.

The reward at the summit was amazing as we looked back down the path of struggle and at views that amassed us it seemed a similar picture ahead for or research and alas it was within minutes storm clouds were closing in and we were to be swamped by torrential rain, the only way to go down was to run before the slopes became slides. Matt Simmons, our fun loving pig farmer caught us on film as he thought the margin for error was great and with Scholar Jim Geltch as one of the subjects would have made for great laughs. Jim however championed up and down the hill with great valour.........a remarkable man.

Irri gave me some great perspectives and valuable contacts, one is in Nairobi at the livestock research institute to which I will visit as there is a Nuffield scholar based there and the system I want to create must involve the field of science if it is to be recognised.

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