Writer. Information technology practitioner. Systems developer. Administrator. Smart farm manager. Not five people but one. For over 30 years, Pagasa Awardee Roger F. Barroga has calibrated himself across disciplines. Sir Roger, as he is called at work, is one of PhilRice’s pioneer staff having joined the Institute while its main operations were still in Los Baños, Laguna.
A call for service
Hailing from Luna, Apayao, Sir Roger’s parents were in public service. His mother was the director for research at the Regional Field Office I of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the 80s, and retired as a professor in the Mariano Marcos State University. Meanwhile, his father worked as a technician in the National Food Authority Council. As a teen, he never thought of working for the people like his parents.
“I wanted to become a pilot,” he said.
Fate, however, led him to a different path. Having received a scholarship, he studied BS in Development Communication, major in Development Journalism, minor in Horticulture and MS in Development Communication with cognate in Research Management from the University of the Philippines, Los Baños in 1986 and 1991, respectively.
“When you are in DevCom, you become inclined toward helping others; toward public service,” Barroga, one of the 2018 Pagasa Awardee conferred by Pres. Rodrigo R. Duterte, said.
True to his calling, he started his feat in public service as an instructor at the Mariano Marcos State University for two years. Then he joined PhilRice in July 1988.
As a young practitioner, Sir Roger served as a photographer and writer tasked to document and communicate the complexities of rice science. As information technologies were still then emerging, he remembered carrying multiple lenses chasing down events and doing late night press works among other challenges.
Since then, as a pioneer, he has introduced innovations including the formalization of the Development Communication Division that facilitated the popularization of rice science and provided the contents of DA’s Rice Extension Kits. This endeavor led to two national awards in 1996 that recognized the institute’s communication efforts – the DOST Media Award and the Public Relations Organization of the Philippines Award given by then president Fidel V. Ramos.
Reinventing one’s self
First love never dies.
As a student, Sir Roger helped his uncle, who is an electronics technician, instead of going to summer school as other students did. Somehow, this made an imprint in his career and live ahead of his time. When computers came, it was not new to him.
With his background in electronics systems, he organized the Information and Communications Division (now ISD) in 1999. This established the PhilRice information network and branches into the online community.
“This made PhilRice one of the firsts among DA agencies to put up such network,” he revealed.
From 2004 to 2008, being familiar with ICT, he was designated as program leader of the Open Academy for Philippine Agriculture (OpaPA), one of the biggest Information and Communication Technology projects publicly funded by the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (now Department of Information and Communications Technology ). It created online contents in rice, established connectivity of extension offices, and created cyber communities. Some of its lasting innovations are the farmers’ text center and the Pinoy Rice Knowledge Bank.
Sir Roger shared that they have to physically put up networks in 12 sites nationwide. Computers, the internet, and cellphones were still new during those times especially in the country side.
“There were no cell sites then so we had to create our own. Plus we have to train 15,000 AEWs (agricultural extension workers). It was their first time to use computers,” he shared.
Despite many hurdles, the OpAPA became a huge success. In 2013, it won the Arab Gulf Programme for Development (AGFUND Prize) for pioneering human development efforts using ICT.
In the same year, he led the establishment of FutureRice farm that puts together the innovations that try to address the complex challenges in rice farming. It features rice varieties, integrated machinery, clean energy, and automation to enhance precision and efficiency. The 5-ha farm can be remotely monitored and managed using apps, sensors, and drones. Fish, livestock, and farm tourism also add income. Presently, thousands visit the farm to witness the future of rice farming. The farm received the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certification in 2017.
Sir Roger also served as acting deputy executive director for administration from 2016 to 2017 and introduced management innovations and computerization that improved fund utilization, efficiency, response time, and quality of services.
One might think what he does now is far beyond his degree. But for Sir Roger, you have not learned enough in school.
“You have to reinvent yourself. Upgrade your skills,” he said.
While currently head of the Information Systems Division, , he is pursuing his PhD in Human Geography at the University of Western Australia, Perth.
Sir Roger believes that success is about helping others. This was recognized in September 2018, when he was chosen as a national awardee of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) PAGASA Award for his impact to the community.
“I hope it will inspire others who work in the government especially those who are feeling discouraged to continue to serve and give the best of themselves. As long as you have a vision to serve other people and not yourself, God will reward you in ways you can never imagine,” the 54 year-old awardee said.