We introduce Mr. Rizal G. Corales, acting branch manager of PhilRice Negros, who was among the recipients of the PAG-ASA award, a prestigious recognition given by the Civil Service Commission last month.
Kuya Rizal, as he is fondly called at PhilRice, hails from Sanchez Mira, Cagayan now residing at Bagong Sikat, Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija. He oftentimes says that he does not enjoy office work that much as he is more into seeing how theories work in practice. Rizal is the program lead of the Integrated Rice-based Agribiosystems program of PhilRice, which has evolved from the highly successful Palayamanan program, the Institute’s banner program for unfavorable ecosystems.
Not his first love
“Agriculture was not really my first love,” says Rizal. He wanted to be an engineer or an architect. During then, however, the Mariano Marcos Memorial College of Science and Technology (now MMMSU) was not offering any engineering programs; hence, he landed in its BS Agriculture program, and just planned to major in agricultural engineering.
Unfortunately, the College decided to abolish the agricultural engineering major as it decided to offer it as a full-fledged program. Kuya Rizal then ended up taking BS Agriculture major in Crop Protection with minor specializations in soils, agricultural extension, and agronomy—a good mix that will prove extremely useful for his career in the future.
Rizal started work at the Philippine Cotton Corporation covering the Ilocos Region in 1980 as a pest management assistant. His team monitored pests’ hotspots, provided technical advice to field technicians and farmers, and released yield forecasts.
After two years, he got a post as supervisor for the Philippine-German Cotton Project to conduct research studies on the control and management of major cotton pests and diseases.
In 1985, he was granted a 6-month scholarship program on Integrated Pest Management at the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical University, College Station sponsored by GTZ, a German organization for technical cooperation.
In 1997-1999, he got a scholarship for his master’s degree on Agriculture at the Ryukyu University in Okinawa, Japan by EM Research Organization (EMRO). His stint in Japan was extended when he got another scholarship from the Rotary International from 1999 to 2000.
As development worker
From 1988 to 1990, under the administration of former President Corazon Aquino, he helped the implementation of Rebel Returnees Program of the Central Luzon State University in providing livelihood projects to the rebel returnees in Nueva Ecija.
“My experience in helping the rebel returnees was very fulfilling as I learned so many things like simple living, appreciating the things you have, and developing a good sense of brotherhood and cooperation,” shares Rizal.
His work with the rebel returnees has served as the launching pad for his career in development work.
Rizal is known for leading and promoting widely the “bahay kubo” concept at the PhilRice Central Experiment Station in Nueva Ecija. The concept has evolved several times and is now called the Palayaman Plus (PalPlus), a rice-based farming systems model that helps increase farmer’s income and profitability. It advocates the adoption of diversification, intensification, and integration of farming activities such as crops, livestock, mushroom, and vermicomposting.
The PalPlus platform was adopted by some international agencies like those funded by the Agricultural Cooperative Development International and Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance (ACDI/VOCA) and the PhilRice-Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
More of Palayamanan
While most researchers and development workers have fears working in Mindanao, Rizal seems cool and happy with it.
“I am happy working in Mindanao. I have got so many friends there who are always happy to see me—and the feeling is mutual,” says Rizal.
The original Palayamanan concept has already evolved with the addition of the rice-duck system and mushroom production. As we write, PalPlus has already been adopted by several entities, public or private.
Rizal is passionate about helping people especially the farmers.
“I think it’s within me. I have always been fascinated talking to people. I enjoy going to communities, interviewing people, holding meetings… I feel that I learn a lot from spending time with them,” shares Rizal.
Reflecting on his work, Rizal says the important thing is to transform farmers to become better decision makers.
Being a father, husband
With his frequent travels around the country, Rizal ensures that he is on top of things when it comes to his family. He’s got three daughters: Val, Arni, and Mai who are all doing very well professionally. Rizal’s wife, Dr. Aurora Corales, was also a recipient of the PAG-ASA award in 2006.
Usual family bonding moments are spent in their farm with lots of fruits and vegetables. Cooking and collecting orchids, ornamentals, cacti and succulents are the usual off-work activities with his wife.
When the ladies were still young, they had plenty of outdoor activities such as fishing and doing some farm chores. They usually go to Church on Sundays. Rizal is a member of the Knights of Columbus since 1999.
Rizal and Aurora’s love for agriculture is probably passed on to one of their daughters who is now pursuing her PhD in Agriculture at Kyushu University in Japan.
Rizal shares what he repeatedly tells his daughters: be helpful. He believes that helping others brings with it a priceless reward, which is the sense of fulfillment.