Pacete: The naked farmers

WE HAVE been inspired by the recent visit of the students from the University of Gastronomic Sciences based in Italy. They were here to know more about our organic farming and the use of endemic ingredients in our food. They were able to meet personally Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. who is serious in making his province the organic capital of the Philippines.

The students were also able to have a vivid talk with Chin Chin Uy, the proprietor of Fresh Start Organics in Silay, about organic farming and the preparation of organic food. Chin Chin is preparing a document on indigenous farming. He requested me to be involved because of my personal and various experiences from the “naked farmers”.

Who were the naked farmers? They were our ancestors who were the guardians of the soil and the protectors of nature. They were animistic in their farming beliefs, and their farming strategy and procedure were based on sound judgment and reliable instinct. Someone out there who is a schooled agriculturist may claim that what our ancestor did had no scientific basis.

After the “direct appropriation stage” in our economy, our ancestors learned to settle in a community where they could domesticate animals and plant seeds and cuttings they gathered from the forest. In the time of our ancestors, only men were considered major players in farming and they only knew organic farming. The women were simply assisting them and did minor roles.

Our farmer ancestors were “naked farmers”. Most of their farms were located near the bank of the river. Before doing a routine work, they would have their early naked swimming (a warm-up exercise for good health and “to wash away” negative energy from the body). They were animistic and believed that they could easily communicate with the spirits of nature with a clean body.

My grandfather would look up to high heavens for ball of clouds (altostratus, rain likely) before planting camote cuttings. Planting should be done at sunset especially before the rain. He would do the first planting (“panudlak”) while naked. It was the ancestors’ belief that in planting camote cuttings only those with big penis and testicles be allowed to do the “panudlak” so that the edible roots of the camotes would be huge.

After the “panudlak”, other male farmers could help in the planting. Some who were having qualified “properties” like my “lolo” could also perform the “panudlak”, not only with camotes but also with other crops and vegetables. Men with small “properties” were allowed to help on the planting but they were not removing their clothes so as not to expose the obvious.

In a rice harvest blessed by the spirits of nature, our farmer ancestors believed that the best gifts to be offered are: native chicken egg (symbol of purity of intention), lemon grass fashioned in a form of a cross (to show thanksgiving to God), and a newly rolled tobacco (intended as a special gift for the fairies). Variety of food could just be added to invite the spirits to fest with the humans.

Before sunrise, the owner of the farm would go around naked in the paddies to be harvested. He would go around talking to spirits… thanking them for the expected good harvest and requesting them for good weather with a hope that no accident will happen during the harvest. He would also invite the spirits to partake in the “duso-duso” (food offering for them).

A ritual would be performed before harvesting usually with a “babaylan” (herbolario) or with a “busalian” (someone with a gift of power over matter). In areas in the field where there is “bungsod” (mound), believed to be the habitat of the “kama-kama”, the workers would chant “tabi-tabi” (excuse me). They did not want to be pinched by the small people.

We know that many practices done by our “naked farmers” are defied by our modern agriculturists. Chin Chin and I are coming to have an explanation on the indigenous practices. Women were prohibited, for instance, during their menstrual cycle. The “naked farmers” believed that the women were unclean and might contaminate the vegetables. Scientific farmers should look into this… not just laugh.

Always bear in mind that when tillage begins, other arts follow. The farmers, therefore, are the founders of civilization. The basic satisfaction in farming is manure that always suggests that life can be cyclic, chemically perfect, aromatic and continuous. At the end, we will always remember the “naked farmers”.
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