Rice and mountain life-A A +A
Tuesday, February 5, 2013
LIKE any Filipino, we highlanders now depend mainly on rice for energy.
We have overdone it. The statistics show that nationwide, the Cordillera region ranks fifth among the highest consumers of rice along with Armm at rank 1 with an average per capita rice consumption of 145 kilogram per person annually; Soccsksargen at 137 kilograms average per capita rice consumption per person; Mimaropa at 136; Western Visayas at 134; and Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) at 132. These regions are also among the lowest in the production of rice.
Among the Cordillera provinces, Abra has the highest per capita rice consumption per person annually at 171.34 kilograms, followed by the other provinces, as follows: Kalinga, 163.07; Apayao, 156.312; Mountain Province, 142.792; Ifugao, 125; and Benguet at 108.
2013 was declared by President Benigno Aquino as the National Year of Rice (NYR). It is an advocacy campaign that uses social marketing to enjoin the common public, the producers, and the policy-makers (basically everybody) in the endeavor to be rice-self-sufficient in 2013. It is also a communication strategy in support to the food self-sufficiency program (FSSP) of the government. Like all rice-eating Filipinos, we must join and support this trust.
In our highlands, at least where I come from, there was such a time when we did not worry about rice and its availability, year in and year out. In the agamang (rice granary) are always stored palays that could supply a family’s rice supply for 10 years. In any case we were more worried about being able to plant and harvest the rice crop in its seasons – to conserve and not waste it. That is ensured with community and family values our ancestors attached to rice.
The production and harvest of rice through community labor, in my mind, has made it possible for most villagers to have a common understanding about the value of rice. When rice has to be planted, cared for until and during harvest, through contributed and shared labor, the outlook on rice – its consumption and conservation is almost the same. Even in my grandfather’s house, a man with the widest and most number of rice terraces, the rules are strictly observed: just no one grain is wasted or falls on the ground when harvested, processed or eaten. It does not end there. To conserve rice and owing to the clan’s experience with drought and pestilence right after the war, rice must by all means be conserved and not served alone all throughout the year. My parents ate rice mixed with corn and other wild root crops in their seasons. When patatas came into our hands, my grandfather had it mashed with camote and rice and served to his growing tribe, in our time.
We are not rice and root crop eaters only really. Back then, we ate a variety of cereals, bananas, cassava, gabi, squash, fish, shells, mushrooms and a lot more that were grown along or after rice in the terraces; grown in the kaingin, or harvested in the wilds. That meant much and also tells us why wild life then was also valuable to us. We had a balance meal of rice, fruits, vegetables, grains and protein. I have written about these matters in my previous columns, I believe. Today, the typical Filipino plate consists of ½ plate rice, fruits or vegetables and protein. We restrict our energy source on too much rice.
In terms of rice production, our contribution to the total national production is limited by land area suitable for rice. Otherwise, where rice grows well, it is of record too that our percent annual increases in production are among the highest. I would like to commend the continued stewardship of the rice terraces farmers. Even if production provides their rice requirements for 5-6 months at these times, they do well still. Besides, one notes that where the rice terraces are, the watersheds still thrive although this aspect is now being neglected through the years.
I recall I have been writing on this theme under this column all these years: The changing landscape and climate; changes in food values; habits and outlooks on mountain life.
2013 has now overtaken us and it is National Year of Rice. Let us join the nation in its observance. I hope we know how?
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on February 05, 2013.