OR MAYBE it should just be rice rising. And we all thought we had a rice crisis at the height of the El Nino reign of terror.
It turns out, the National Food Authority (NFA) had bought sacks upon mountain of sacks of rice, stored them in warehouses, and the rest is an exposé at the latest State of the Nation Address (Sona).
President Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) shocked the madlang pipol (the public) when he said during his Sona that the Philippines over-imported P171.6 billion worth of rice in 2004 and 2007.
National Food Authority administrator Angelito Banayo has asked the National Bureau of Investigation to help in the probe and systems audit of the NFA following PNoy’s revelation.
It was really disheartening to see rice sacks upon rice sacks stacked like Mexican pyramids in dark storehouses, while the rest of the country’s poor people made bitter queues just to buy a kilo of rice in some NFA-authorized retail stores.
TV 5 showed clips of rice crawling with bukbok (rice or wood bugs), which means that the stored grains were more than a year old.
Life and rice are interconnected. There are festivals around the world in honor of rice, such as those in Texas, the international rice fest in Louisiana, and right here in the Philippines—the Panagyaman rice fest in April.
Rice is given homage with the to ritual offerings to the ampo’t paray or rice god, and the Pahiyas festival in Lucban, Quezon.
The latter is a colorful community activity that injects in the people a dose of courage to go on with life.
The white grain impinges our consciousness, art and language.
How can we forget our rice terraces? The grandeur is world-renowned and the beauty should have been enough to inspire our telenovela scriptwriters to weave a story around this world wonder.
In Cebuano, an early rising star is called a kabugason, or something like rice-in-the-blooming or rice-rising.
We have a mind-boggling variety of ways to treat rice: biko (sticky rice cooked in coco milk and brown sugar); puto maya (steamed sticky rice); lugaw (congee); budbod (sticky rice rolled into sticks, and wrapped in banana leaves), just to name a few.
The Ilocanos have invented strong vinegar out of rice wine. It goes well with raw fish, and fish stew with vinegar as base.
Cooked rice in Japanese is gohan, which means “meal,” a telling word of the prime place that rice has in the lives of the Japanese who have been raising the grain for over 2,000 years.
They treasure rice so much they have created words such as hakumai (white rice, which sounds like our humay or raw rice), and nuka (the outer portion of the grains polished away). Unpolished rice is gemma.
Not to go too faraway, and to just to come back to where I belong, rice for me is always tied up with childhood stories about how God gave man gold he can eat: rice.
Rice was important to me as a kid. I used leftover rice as glue whenever we were without the store-bought variety. I’d mash the soft grains and spread them over photos I clipped from our old National Georgraphic magazines.
I’d paste the glossy pictures into a piece of paper, and present my artwork to my Science teacher the next day. I’d get very high grades, but not from my dad. He’d scold me: “You should never vandalize magazines by cutting out the pages.” He should tell that to our leaders.