“Would any country, even the developed ones, be able to invent a machine which, if fed with grass, would give you milk? Would there be any machine in the next century which, if fed with rice straw, would give you meat? This is the carabao we are talking about—a symbol of backwardness to most, but if given enough support would be a tool for progress.”
This was how Dr. Libertado C. Cruz re-echoed the encompassing inspiration that guided him through two decades of service as head of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC), from its establishment in 1993 up to his official retirement on January 9, which marked his 65th birthday.
It also reflects his firm belief in the potential of carabao as a medium of addressing poverty alleviation, improved nutrition of the people, and employment opportunities.
In his remarks during a recognition program held in his honor by dairy farmers, PCC staff and various groups at the PCC national headquarters and gene pool in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija, he expressed his thanks to “those closest to my heart, our bosses – the farmers and their cooperatives.”
“They are indeed the pillars of our carabao development program and I am much grateful to them,” he declared.
Cruz also took the opportunity to air three of his “most ardent hopes and prayers.”
“First, I hope and pray that the next leaders of PCC will sustain and bring the development even greater than what we have achieved. Second, I pray to be given a lot more courage because many people have told me that I should be ready to accept the fact that some people will be so different after retirement, the way they’ll treat me. Lastly, I pray that I’d be given enough courage to face a new chapter of my life. I think the past 20 years of service and working with the PCC’s staff and friends are very wonderful years. I hope that I can see equally another 20 years ahead of me,” he said.
“From the bottom of my heart, thank you all very much,” he concluded, which was greeted by a thunderous applause by those who gathered for the event.
Held at the PCC Estrada Hall, the event featured a video production dedicated to the honoree. Titled “LIB LXV: In Honor of the Visionary”, it included spiels from his family, friends, and partners, including Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, former president and senator.
As then member of the Senate, Mayor Estrada was the main author of Republic Act No. 7307, which formally established the PCC.
“Sa inyong pagreretire, iiwanan mo bilang pamana sa ating bayan ang isang world class na facility para sa pangagalaga ng ating mga kalabaw (As you retire, you leave a legacy to our country a world class facility for the development of our carabaos),” he stated.
“Without the able leadership of Dr. Cruz, the success of the law creating PCC would not have been possible. As a Pro-Patria awardee for outstanding agricultural science, Dr. Cruz nurtured and developed the carabao’s institutional capability, and sustained research and development of the local carabao and cattle population. In doing so, he helped the farmers improve their livelihood by ensuring them a stable source of meat and milk. Indeed, Dr. Cruz’s numerous contributions to the body of knowledge in the field of animal reproduction have benefited not only our farmers and other scientists but Philippine society as a whole,” he added.
The video tribute underscored his being the educator and scientist from the Central Luzon State University (CLSU), where he was a professor, who was tapped to be PCC’s executive director.
As such, he operationalized PCC virtually from scratch and steered it as an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, to pursue its mandate “to conserve, propagate and promote the carabao as a source of milk, meat, draft power and hide to benefit the rural farming families.”
In looking back at his service at PCC, he is credited with the full operationalization of PCC and its network of 13 regional centers, and the institutionalization of the carabao development program, including the establishment of the National Impact Zone (NIZ) along with the Regional Impact Zones (RIZs).
Under this watch, the PCC also established a national gene pool, world-class research facilities, a network of extension facilities, and the establishment of a complex comprising national headquarters and various facilities.
Dr. Cruz has been given recognition in his various capacities and works as an administrator and animal scientist. Among others, he was bestowed the Pantas Award by DOST-PCARRD “for his pioneering work on in-vitro maturation/fertilization and embryo transfer (ET) in buffaloes, which resulted in the production of the first ET Murrah buffalo offspring from a Philippine carabao surrogate dam”; as an Outstanding Agricultural Scientist (Pro-Patria Award) by the Department of Agriculture and Office of the President “for the technology on improved estrus synchronization and AI using riverine buffalo semen in upgrading the Philippine carabao for meat and milk, and for developing the country’s institutional capability for sustained research and development in the local carabao and cattle population to help improve the livelihood of small-hold farmers”; as PSAS-InPhilco Distinguished Animal Scientist Award for “numerous contributions to the body of knowledge in the field of reproduction and for his professional attitudes that benefited other younger scientists and the society as a whole”.
Moreover, he was awarded as an academician by the National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST), as Excellence Awardee for Research Administration by the Prime Minister of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and as G. Zara Awardee for Applied Science by the Philippine Association for Advancement of Science and Technology.
In addition to the dairy farmers, farm workers, PCC employees and his family, guests from other DA livestock agencies, various local and foreign institutions, and colleagues from the academe joined him during the tribute.
Dr. Cruz, in subsequent message, said: “I will finish my unfinished job (in PCC), including the publication of books that will highlight the history and accomplishments of PCC in the last 20 years.”