Fulfillment in service. This is one of the driving forces for many youngsters to start a career in the government. While many start with this motivation, only a few stay and finish strong.
For Architect Renato Bajit and Dr. Caesar Joventino M. Tado, starting to work with DA-PhilRice in 1987 and 1997, respectively, was a “rare opportunity to serve the [Filipino] people.”
As Bajit looks back, being one of the pioneers was somehow daunting. The facilities alone in the first DA-PhilRice office in Los Baños, Laguna were not ideal.
“Dr. Santiago Obien, the executive director at that time, occupied an obscure office with an old swivel chair and a borrowed table. The rest of us shared an office with one long table and rickety wooden chairs. There was one good swivel chair and a ceiling fan that slightly cooled us off,” he recalled. When the office moved to Nueva Ecija in 1989, that situation did not change much.
As an architect, making this situation better became his mission. While fulfilling other functions assigned to him every now and then, he led the construction of buildings and many of the facilities in DA-PhilRice and its branch stations.
“I took the brunt of preparing the places and building the facilities from scratch, so that our staff is provided the best place to work and stay. It was really tough,” he reminisced.
For Tado, acquiring facilities was also one of his memorable challenges. “I remember May 15, 1999, when I was head of Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division (REMD), DA-PhilRice was implementing the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – Technical Cooperation Project 2. At 8:15 a.m., Director Obien instructed me to prepare a proposal for possible JICA funding,” he recounted.
The deadline for the proposal’s submission to JICA was on the same day. Tado dropped all his other activities, requested colleagues to help him on the cost estimate of the building and to draw the floor plan while he worked on the substance of the proposal. After working on the computer non-stop and skipping lunch, he completed the full-bound proposal at 5 p.m. that day. The product is the current two-storey building housing the offices of REMD today.
He also remembers his first stint as manager of DA-PhilRice Agusan in January 2004 when the station did not have access to the main highway. He led negotiations with the owners of the adjacent lot, but they refused. With his persistence and relationship building skills, the owners finally agreed to sell the lot.
For Bajit, the 2021-inaugurated Crop Biotechnology Center (CBC) is his best contribution and a legacy he’d leave with the Institute.
“The plenary hall was not an item in that project, but I had always wished to have a bigger place to convene our ever-increasing attendees in big gatherings. With a wish for blessing, I drew the plenary hall next to the CBC. It was disapproved because the funding source only allowed one building. So I presented a revised plan where the two buildings were connected with a functional “bridge.” Looking from the sky, it is “one” building, so it was approved,” Bajit delightfully recounted.
Toughing it out
In doing their jobs, both men had to face other challenging situations. One memorable experience for Tado was during his assignment at DAPhilRice Midsayap. “To attend the flag ceremony, a colleague and I took a 2:45 a.m. bus trip from Davao to Cotabato City, Monday in March 2003. That time, there was a prolonged military operation against the MILF in Liguasan Marsh. Upon reaching a certain place in Pikit, North Cotabato, we suddenly heard loud gunshots. Rebels manned the checkpoint on the road to Cotabato City less than 100 meters ahead of us. Another bus from Cotabato arrived first at the checkpoint, so they were the ones held hostage. One bus passenger (an army master sergeant) was shot and killed by the rebels, and the other passengers were herded to a school building beside the road.
And for us, we endured about three hours of continuous gunfire between the rebels and the rescuing military, taking cover behind everything that we could find. Military reinforcements from Cotabato City with their armored equipment finally arrived, and the rebels retreated, leaving the hostages inside the classroom. At around 9 a.m., we made it to the station, missing the flag ceremony but relieving our colleagues that we were fine,” Tado related.
Bajit also recalled the rough and bumpy roads in the early 1990s.
“We didn’t have comfortable rides. In Mindanao, accompanied by a Midsayap driver, I had to brave the rains, dark and eerie nights, and rough roads to reach DA-PhilRice Agusan. Once, we were caught up in heavy rain at 10 p.m. We only had two packs of noodles and eggs for food. We braved knocking on a stranger’s house. It was scary, but when they sensed that we were “good guys,” they let us in and cooked for us,” he said.
That time, Bajit thought, “This is the life I chose in exchange for the riches in China.
” He remembered the earlier years when his friends referred him to their offices abroad. “Without applying, I got irresistible offers with five times my current salary plus other benefits,” he recounted.
But looking at the fruits of his labor now and the fact that he has been a present father to his kids through the years, he has no regrets. “With 37 years of serving our people, I have found fulfillment by joining the government through DA-PhilRice,” he acknowledged.
For Tado, his experiences in his 25 years of service taught him the importance of sincerity, humility, persuasiveness, maintaining good relationships, not allowing oneself to be affected by what others say, and a lot of prayers.
Indeed, what is more fulfilling than serving the farmers and the rice industry despite difficulties and being able to learn from all these experiences?