In a delegate’s words

In a delegate’s words

Rowena B. Gonnay from the Kalinga, Philippines visited Turin as a delegate to the Salone del Gusto and Slow Food Terra Madre 2012. This is her experience…

Originally posted at Slow Food Terra Madre Voices


“Attending the global Terra Madre meeting in 2010 was a milestone in my life. I met with great people from the Slow Food network, made new friends from different countries and learned many things, in particular about food, seeds, and other indigenous products from around the world. I was deeply impressed by the warm hospitality of the host families, volunteers and staff organizing the event. When I returned home to the Philippines I took up the great challenge of spreading the message. I conducted farmers’ meeting in villages to spread information about keeping local seeds, traditional agricultural practices and knowledge passed from our ancestors to current generations. I started to organize Terra Madre gatherings at a village level, and while we celebrated and enjoyed indigenous foods and recipes I challenged all farmers to pass on their knowledge to the next generation.Rowena Gonnay

When I returned to Turin again this October, my second experience at Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre exceeded my expectations. The excitement had risen as one unified event brought together the Terra Madre network with Slow Food’s international fair, the Salone del Gusto.

As a farming leader in the indigenous community of Pasil, Kalinga, it was an honor to participate and see our traditional rice varieties displayed in the Biodiversity stand for Asia and Oceania. I am so proud that we in the remote community of Pasil still have this heirloom rice that our ancestors have preserved for thousand of years, and that we continue to plant it today despite having limited areas of production. Our rice was also cooked and served at the Philippines Stand, giving people from around the world the chance to taste it.

Hundreds of topics were discussed in forums during the five-day event, and we participated in the Asia and Oceania conferences. I was impressed and encouraged by the speakers at the Traditional Rice in Asia session, where the right to seeds and the rights of indigenous peoples was highlighted. We heard about traditional rice varieties being preserved in many other Asian countries and speakers from Malaysia and Indonesia shared their traditional methods of planting and harvesting that are deeply tied to the moon cycle and the stars.

This reminded me of when I was young. I remember our parents always observing the moon and signs from nature, such as bird songs, that signaled the moment to plant and harvest crops like rice, beans and tubers. They observed everything around them, and marked the agricultural seasons with rituals and traditions, but gradually these are all being lost.

Slow Food’s international event Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre is a challenge to all cultural minorities to redeem their culture and tradition from the influence of the modern world. I was impressed to see many products from all around the world and to meet the producers who brought them to the event. I tasted new foods and shared ideas with other delegates. I witnessed so much good work being done in the events. Now I willl share my experiences in our region, hoping to promote the revival of our food culture and traditions. I am very proud to be a member of Slow Food and now I understand that as long as we understand each other through shared goals, it doesn’t matter who we are or what language we speak.

Many thanks to the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project and RICE Inc. who introduced our rice to Slow Food International and the deepest gratitude to everyone who help us join the movement, in particular Elena Aniere who visited us in Kalinga.

Rowena B. Gonnay
Slow Food Kalinga


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