- In high school, he began writing about agriculture and at the age of 16 when a national magazine carried his article, though without remuneration, he decided upon his profession. His first full-time employment in his chosen field was as staff writer at the College of Agriculture.
- While augmenting his small salary by contributing to national magazines and the Philippine News Service, he found opportunity to introduce a quarterly, Agriculture at Los Banos. Although limited to 1,000 circulation, it confirmed his conviction that there is a readership for precise agricultural news on which farmers can risk their livelihood, providing it is written in a lively, human fashion.
- In 1964 SARIAN persuaded the Manila Chronicle to let him start Philippine Farms and Gardens. Its popularity at home and abroad further confirmed his premise that agriculture news can make good reading.
- The RMAF Board of Trustees recognizes “his standards of editing and publishing interesting, accurate and constructive farm news.”
Were farmers utilizing all relevant knowledge accumulated by agriculture research scientists, world food shortages and malnutrition would not be the chronically urgent problems they are. An essential factor in stirring the farmers’ inner will to innovate is the effective communication of ideas in agriculture that may emanate from the scientists or the farmers themselves. Interpreting between them is the task of the agricultural journalist, who, through discovering and describing achievements, fosters action.
ZACARIAS SARIAN is one of very few practitioners of the profession of competent agriculture reporting in developing Asia, where agriculture has been the principal livelihood and holds promise of being an increasingly lucrative mainstay.
SARIAN came by his feel for farming naturally. Born in 1937 on a small farm in the Philippine province of Ilocos Norte, from the age of five he helped with rice harvesting and tended two steers and three water buffalo. Money for attending Batac Rural High School was earned from the rice and garlic he raised in the field his father allotted to him. In high school he began writing about agriculture and at the age of 16 when a national magazine carried his article, though without remuneration, he decided upon his profession. After graduation from the University of the Philippines at Diliman, his first full-time employment in his chosen field was as staff writer at the College of Agriculture. While augmenting his small salary by contributing to national magazines and the Philippine News Service, he found opportunity to introduce a quarterly, Agriculture at Los Banos. Although limited to 1,000 circulation, it confirmed his conviction that there is a readership for precise agricultural news on which farmers can risk their livelihood, providing it is written in a lively, human fashion.
In 1964 SARIAN persuaded the Manila Chronicle to let him start Philippine Farms and Gardens. Its popularity at home and abroad further confirmed his premise that agriculture news can make good reading. During the last year, when it was published twice monthly, the magazine was profitable while the newspaper was not.
Since proclamation of martial law in September 1972 SARIAN and his associates have organized and been publishing for 18 months Modern Agriculture and Industry. Risking their meager savings and investing their time and talent under SARIAN’s alert guidance as editor, vice-president and general manager, they have made this the leading farm magazine in Southeast Asia. Though SARIAN still must augment the small salary he takes by editing an agriculture section and writing a gardening column for other publications, the magazine under his editorship has reached a circulation of 12,000 to 14,000 and is a growing source of ideas and encouragement to investors in agricultural development and those who live and work on the land.
In electing ZACARIAS BOLONG SARIAN to receive the 1974 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts, the Board of Trustees recognizes his standards of editing and publishing interesting, accurate and constructive farm news.
The announcement of the Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts this year came as a total surprise to myself and to the members of my family. We are certain that to many of our friends, the news was equally unexpected.
It was, of course, a most pleasant surprise. Never in our wildest dreams did we think that some day this recognition would be bestowed upon us.
We would like to believe, however, that the Award is not an individual recognition. Rather, we would like to think that it is a recognition of the positive and constructive contribution of agricultural reporting in stimulating greater productivity and, therefore, improving the quality of life among the great mass of our people for whom the late President Magsaysay showed so much concern. We mean, of course, the millions of our farmers who must coax the good earth to bloom and yield the all-important sustenance of life.
Farming is an honest and respectable means of earning a living. But it is one of the most risky undertakings. Unpredictable floods, droughts, outbreaks of pests and diseases, market fluctuations, lack of capital, scarcity and high cost of inputs?these are but some of the problems that the farmer has to contend with in his year-round operations.
Also, lack of education has often been the misfortune of the ordinary farmer. How to convey to him in understandable and practical terms the latest findings of agricultural researchers, the new agricultural strategies of the government and related developments, has been the big problem, not only of the agricultural journalist, but more importantly of the farm extension worker.
Disseminating useful farm news has been exceedingly difficult. Farm stories have not been as sensational as crime reports or politics, especially in the pre-martial law days, so that it was almost impossible to read about agriculture on the front pages of our newspapers unless there was some anomaly involved.
Martial law, fortunately, has made very profound changes in the newspapers’ treatment of agricultural and developmental news. A cursory scanning of the dailies and magazines would readily reveal that farm news is, indeed, being given ample, if not special, coverage now.
No doubt the recognition that the Magsaysay Award Foundation is giving to agricultural journalism today will further bring to the forefront what farm reporting can contribute to the overall task of nation building.
If this is a good sign for us agricultural journalists, it should also open our minds to the awesome responsibility and absolute necessity of always striving for excellence in our calling. We believe that responsible agricultural journalism is not just a matter of writing about agriculture often and lengthily. Rather, we think that during this time when agricultural production is the top priority in the Philippines and elsewhere, the farm writer should be able to contribute his share more meaningfully by concentrating on the significant, the relevant, the constructive.
On behalf of Modern Agriculture & Industry, Business Day and Daily Express, we wish to thank most profoundly the Members of the Board of Trustees of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, and all those who have inspired us to pursue agricultural journalism.
Farming and writing about farming has been ZACARIAS BOLONG SARIAN’s lifelong pursuit. He was born into a farm family on September 7, 1937 in Batac, Ilocos Norte, in northwestern Luzon?the major island in the Philippine archipelago. The third of five children of Santiago Sarian and Pantaleona Bolong, he began as a toddler going with his father to harvest mangoes, vegetables or whatever was in season. “We grew diversified crops,” he recalls. “I remember our planting two fields of sugar cane; rice, of course, during the rainy season; and tobacco, garlic and other crops in the dry season.” At the age of five he was regularly helping in the fields, gathering grass for the family’s three water buffalo and two steer and watching over them while they grazed.
The Sarian farm, like most in Ilocos, was fragmented, so Santiago assigned to each of his children, when old enough, a particular field to plant and care for. The profits from the field were set aside for the child’s future use. Thus ZACARIAS SARIAN early on learned the value of good husbandry.
In Batac Rural High School which he entered in 1950 the same method of individual farming was practiced, each student being allotted a piece of school farm to cultivate. Approximately 30 percent of the profits went to the school, the other 70 percent was kept by the student to help him pay his expenses.
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