In pursuit of rice-A A +A
Friday, August 30, 2013
MUCH has been said and written about the cereal that millions of our people consume daily as their basic food. From Aparri to Tawi-tawi, Filipinos consume rice, except for some people in the Visayas and Mindanao who like to eat corn grit as alternative once in a while during certain days of the week or month.
But generally, rice is the most desired food by Filipinos regardless of what level in the social hierarchy they belong.
Which is the reason why we are most sensitive as a people about the manner or the way the plant is raised, cultured, stored and marketed until the “grain of rice” reaches the plate of the very rich or on the squat bamboo splits of a table in the rickety kitchen of a humble abode in a village.
At any rate, whatever else anyone of us could say about the pile of harvested palay stalks on the yard of a humble hut, or on the wide, wavy cement court at the back of a palatial home in an hacienda, the reality of the grain of palay and the survival of all of us levels off our existence before our Creator. It makes all of us equal before the social spectrum of our humanity.
But let us not go forth and excessively romanticize our smuggled rice.
Not many weeks ago, some friends in media informed me about some things going on at the local Bureau of Customs. And I did write about how the smuggled bags of sugar--I think it was sugar--were loaded by the truckloads and delivered to a certain warehouse.
There were Customs officials and some other names mentioned then. But my columns came out, and I expected some reaction afterwards. But none did come, as if the concerned were suddenly becalmed.
Now, here comes another spurt of anti-graft righteousness. But this time, it’s not sugar but about the more important commodity: rice.
When I was still with the Sunday Times Magazine of the Manila Times, I wrote a feature story called “The Filipino Farmer and His Grain of Rice.”
It was about how our farmers’ back-breaking effort to produce the rice we eat and how, in the palay’s marketing, our farmers always got outwitted by the palay businessmen, and they always got the unfortunate end of the bargain as the supply is shipped from the plains of Cotabato to the ports of Davao, Cebu, and Manila.
The businessmen, who were both Filipinos and Chinese, with the use of the then sophisticated radio communication—“the over-over thing,” so cried a farmer in Tacurong, Central Cotabato to me at one time--controlled and dictated the price of the palay per kilo of any shipment that moved from port to port, including the quantity unloaded in each port of call by the cargo boat, until the vessels’ final destination.
It was how captive the rice producers were then.
This is how we see our rice supply in the country: as being in the hands of people who presumably care only for their profit and not for their moral or social responsibility to the people, particularly the millions of consumers who are living below the poverty line.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2013.