I HAD wondered what they were giving thanks for...
That is, in the high-profile Thanksgiving Day celebrations in the United States – and in other countries – with huge turkeys on the table, and all...
And so I checked online, and here is the top-of-the-page backgrounder:
“The most prominent historic thanksgiving event in American popular culture is the 1621 celebration at the Plymouth Plantation, where the settlers held a harvest feast after a successful growing season. ... The Pilgrims celebrated at Plymouth for three days after their first harvest in 1621.”
So Thanksgiving started out as a farm get-together for giving thanks at harvest time! In pre-USA times – some 115 years before the founding of the United States of America in 1776...
They thanked God for their good harvest...
Once a year? Harvest of what? Grain?
If so, their grain was like Ifugao’s “tinawon” – equal to “tinawwen” in Ilocano. Meaning, once a year...
In this rice-producing nation, there were times in years and decades past when the agriculture news headlined twice-a-year harvests – and even thrice a year!
And so, if we were to adopt the Thanksgiving culture ala USA (and Canada?), we could be celebrating Thanksgiving 2x or 3x a year!
That is, if our farmers are still having the time of their lives harvesting twice or thrice in one “taw-wen” (year)!
But how many hectares remain planted to rice? And how many farmers remain farmers dedicated to producing the Philippines’ staple food?
The price of rice has been spiralling – which means supply must be short... [Or is the apparent supply just the supply that seeps out of the granaries and bodegas?]
I remember visiting the Banaue Rice Terraces in the late 1990’s with the Ifugao Terraces Commission (ITC) headed by the late ITC chief Juan Dait of Kiangan, Ifugao. He had mentioned that the terraces were then slowly dying because the youth – instead of continuing with their parents’ livelihood of planting rice – now had other ideas on how to earn a living, and leaving town...
“Planting rice is never fun,” goes our childhood song in school... But the current crop of youth may not have heard this line, nor that song, for that matter...
And so there’s hope!
We can make planting rice attractive to the young ones and the young once. We can make it fun – and make it sound like fun for starters!
Even now, native upland rice varieties are being marketed as “heirloom” rice – which make rice connoisseurs cough up more cash per kilo for these multi-color rice varieties in red and black and violet and what-have-you colors...
Just branding the native rice varieties with their actual native names seem to sell the grains off the rack!
As for our farmers in the lowlands, how can we make them realize their importance in the scheme of things in this rice-eating country which used to sing an anthem marvelling at the “amber waves of grain”?
They have their famous “sinandomeng” whose packaging they have to guard to prevent these grains from becoming “sin-sinan-domeng” – and vice versa...
They have glutinous varieties that would make delicious “puto” and “kakanin” and “suman” and “dudumen”...
We don’t need rice in spanking white color – whose vitamins and minerals have been scraped off just to make them look mestiza.
With the ongoing health bandwagon, people now welcome non-white rice – no need for a thorough scraping of the grains in the rice mills!
It started as a harvest festival – a three-day harvest festival – this Thanksgiving Day/Week/Month that is now seemingly feverishly celebrated in a wide swath of the earth every November – what with the heavy advertising/marketing that makes people feel like they are losing out on something if they don’t join the bandwagon.
We could go agri-touristic–organizing harvest festivals and feasts on the ground – on location, right in the remaining rice fields – up in the mountain rice terraces and down in the plains...
This will make farmers and rice entrepreneurs.
And, soon, who knows? There would be more hectares planted to rice – and more people going into farming – and rice supply in the markets may yet increase – and rice prices slide down to affordable levels.
So, how about it? Officially celebrate Thanksgiving in the Philippines, too? Even just at the time of the traditional initial harvest?
An official day of Thanksgiving would surely spread and extend good cheer and tidings to a week, a month – or even to a season as long as the longest Christmas season in the world – the September-to-December “brrr” season in the Philippines!
As for this September-born moon watcher, I would go by the Harvest Festival time in Britain, for starters:
“In Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times.
“Harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (22 or 23 September).
“The celebrations on this day usually include singing hymns, praying, and decorating churches with baskets of fruit and food in the festival known as Harvest Festival, Harvest Home, Harvest Thanksgiving or Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving.”