At Large

Villar champions farmers and the environment

/ 01:03 AM September 09, 2015

Between herself and her husband, former senator and presidential candidate Manny Villar, who does Sen. Cynthia Villar believe is the better senator?

Well, she implies, maybe not necessarily better, but at least different. “He is the visionary,” she says of her husband, the politician-mogul who, she says, suddenly realized that he was running out of time to do what he does best—business. “He is better at long-term planning.”


She is “more detail-oriented,” she says. “I suppose like many other women,” she adds, “I want to take care of the little details, to keep track of the data and information that come my way.”

But if so, the senator certainly shows that being “detail-oriented” comes in handy in the work of a legislator, as she proved when she spoke before the “Bulong Pulungan sa Sofitel” yesterday. Off the cuff, she cited figures and statistics about the country’s farmers and agricultural sector, an interest she has a natural involvement in as chair of the Senate committee on agriculture.


Why agriculture and not some other, more glamorous, more high-profile committee? Because, she said, studies show that the majority of Filipinos living below the poverty line are rural folk engaged in agriculture. “And it is my belief that if we want to upgrade their status, we must help them not just survive but also prosper.”

“If a farmer earns P50,000 per hectare from his farm, do you think he would still want to leave and migrate to the city?” she said.

Senator Villar also cited a United Nations study that found that the world’s future food security depends on the viability of small, family-run farms, not huge industrial operations. “It is also important for the children of farmers to want to remain on the farm and continue—and improve—the livelihood of their parents,” she added. And for this to happen, especially the improvement of farmers’ standard of living, the government must help farmers and others in the sector—fishers, livestock raisers, farm laborers—improve their economic status.

* * *

Perhaps the senator’s affinity with the country’s farmers also explains her advocacy for the environment, most evident in her championing of a protected area within her and her congressman-son Mark’s constituency of Las Piñas—the wetlands along Manila Bay and Las Piñas River.

She shared with evident glee news of the impending launch of the “Las Piñas-Zapote River Cruise,” an ecotourism project funded by the Department of Tourism that will include stops of both historical and ecological significance, including the wetlands.

The area, on which thrives perhaps the last remaining mangrove reservation and bird sanctuary in an urban setting in the country, is also being developed as a site for sightseeing, bird-watching, and teaching the public about the importance of preserving and caring for the environment.


What of the proposed airport project which would have laid to waste the reclamation area and bird sanctuary? The proponent, the senator said, is apparently transferring the project further up north, although the case is still pending in the courts. But the destruction of the area will take place only “over my dead body,” she declared. And it looked like she meant it.

* * *

Even as the Filipino public goes crazy over such ephemeral phenomena as the “AlDub” love team, Filipino artists are making waves abroad, earning plaudits for the country even as they struggle in relative obscurity.

Young violinist Joaquin Ma. “Chino” Gutierrez is one such “unsung” artist, making a name as a violin virtuoso and earning merit for himself as he prevails in international competitions.

Recently, Chino bested more than 200 contestants who auditioned for the 2015 Joseph Joachim International Violin Competition (JJIVC), emerging as one of only 39 qualified entrants.

“Tough” was how Chino described the rigorous process to music critic Pablo Tariman, since the program demanded that he present several difficult pieces, including a modern work commissioned exclusively for the JJIVC, and a 35-minute recital which included a Beethoven sonata and a virtuoso piece.

The 39 who made it through the first round recently underwent exhaustive master classes at the Keshet Eilon music camp in Israel conducted by Patinka Kopec for the first half of the course and Alexander Vinnitski for the second half.

A big bonus at the camp, recalled Chino, was the presence of Israeli violin icon Ivry Gitlis, who listened to his rendition of Ernest Bloch’s “Nigun,” on the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people, which must have been a moving experience for both the young talent and the senior artist.

* * *

Of the 39 master-course participants, writes Tariman, only 12 were chosen to play in the culminating concert, and of course one of them was, again, Gutierrez, who played a movement from Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir d’un Lieu Cher” with the Moscovia String Orchestra under the baton of Russian conductor Eduard Grach.

Now back home, Chino is gearing up for the second half of the competition not just by practicing but also by engaging in what he calls “other dimensions” of preparation. These include taking long walks, playing with his dog, watching movies and reading books. “I want to walk on stage as a whole person—not just a music-making machine,” he said.

Catch a performance of this phenomenal talent on Saturday, Sept. 12, at the BDO Francisco Santiago Hall with pianist J. Greg Zuniega. For reservations, call 218-1864, 897-5239, 0915-1892998, and 0917-8325694.

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TAGS: agriculture, AlDub, Chino Gutierrez, Cynthia Villar, Las Piñas City, Las Piñas-Zapote River Cruise, manny villar, Mark Villar
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