Wednesday, February 22, 2012

It's the centennial of the1912 corn campaign; Emilio Aguinaldo, Jr. had his own corn plot

One hundred years ago, the Bureau of Education inaugurated a general corn campaign in all schools in the country to complement vegetable growing in school and home gardens and the cultivation of farm crops in what were then called settlement schools.  The full force of about 8,000 teachers and other government agencies implemented this corn promotion program.

One aim of the campaign was to "impress upon the Filipino the fact that corn is a food for human consumption."  The American authorities thought that "it was necessary not only to teach the Filipinos how to grow corn, but also to teach them to eat it. Corn is one of the regular crops of the islands, but owing to ignorance and prejudice, corn products were regarded by the Filipinos as food to be despised by all except the lowest classes." 

It was also necessary to have other food products supplement rice, the Filipino's main staple. Then, and it is now, rice was already being imported. The Americans felt that it was best to popularize corn so that there would be a reduction in rice imports.  They were thinking that a "considerable loss of public funds secured from the import duty on rice" would be compensated by "the retaining in the Philippines of the several million pesos which annually leave the country for food staples."  

The campaign had several components that would be capped by the first large corn exhibition in the Philippines during the 1913 Manila Carnival.  

The biggest component was the corn-growing contest among schoolboys.  

Contest no. 1 had the boys cultivating corn plots in their own homes. Their teachers evaluated their plots regularly. A prize was awarded to the boy who grew the largest quantity of corn on one hundred square meters of land.   

Contest No. 2 was an open competition among the boys who could submit the best five ears from their harvest. For the Manila Carnival corn exhibition, there were 149 five-ears exhibits from various provinces that competed.

All in all, there were 11,661 boys who competed in Contest No. 1, and 18,666 boys who entered Contest No. 2,or a total enrollment of 30,327.  First, second and third prizes were awarded in each participating province.

 He was not among the winners in Cavite, but Emilio Aguinaldo, Jr. also had his own corn plot to tend during the launching year of the corn campaign in their home in Kawit, as shown by this picture from the Philippine Craftsman issue of November 1913.   

While the boys were into corn growing, there were 6,660 girls who were taught corn recipes and they prepared the dishes using only utensils and ingredients found in the ordinary Filipino household.

Corn demonstrations were held in towns and barrios especially during fiestas, garden days (yes, they had Garden Day, Arbor Day then), and even during athletic meets. They had "booths specially constructed for the purpose ... devoted to the display of points pertaining to the growth of corn; good cornstalks with ears; ears of corn; seed testing; preparation of corn meal; and the preparation and serving of corn dishes." 

The worst drought, the worst attack of locusts, and destructive typhoons wrought havoc to some parts of the country during this first year.  "A pronounced drought, the worst for many years, was followed by swarms of locusts.  It was the worst locust year during the American administration. Entire sections of the Philippines were devastated. The locust experts of the Bureau of Agriculture, in cooperation with the people, worked hard but in two or three provinces practically all crops were eaten up. In these provinces the boys enrolled in the corn-growing contests had their corn destroyed. Many plots were replanted two and three times. Two or three very destructive baguios caused extensive damage in certain provinces. Buildings as well as corn plots were destroyed. The corn campaign was conducted during a year when there were more than the usual number of agricultural calamities, but the part the campaign played in reducing the want and suffering usually following the destruction of crops cannot be readily expressed in terms of money value."

The corn campaign was discontinued after five years, in June 1916.  The American authorities felt they have attained their objectives. Corn-growing contests continued as part of the activities of agricultural clubs.

After one hundred years, several varieties of corn find their way from farms to markets, corn has become a part of the Filipino cuisine either as veggie ingredient or stand-alone salted or unsalted, buttered or un-buttered staple, sweet yellow corn stalls have become fixtures in the urban Katipunan Avenue landscape, canned sweet corn is almost like a regular item in the grocery list, and pop corn seems like a constant in everybody's equation of an enjoyable time in the movies.  

Anyway, when Emilio Aguinaldo, Jr.  was tending his corn plot, West Point was not yet in his dreamscape, we suppose.

  • Bureau of Education. (1913). The corn campaign. Thirteenth Annual Report of the Director of Education, July 1, 1912, to June 30, 1913. Manila: Bureau of Printing. [35-36]  Retrieved from
  • Bureau of Education. (1915). Agriculture. Fifteenth Annual Report of the Director of Education, July 1, 1914, to December 3,1914. Manila: Bureau of Printing. [85-86]  Retrieved from
  • Bureau of Education. (1917). Corn. Seventh Annual Report of the Director of Education, January 1, 1916, to December 31, 1916. Manila: Bureau of Printing.  1(17):39. Retrieved from 
  • Crone, Frank L.(1916, Jan ) Public Instruction, America’s Work in the Philippines.  The Philippine Review (Revista Filipina). Nieva, Gregorio, Ed.  1(1):41. Retrieved from 

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