About the book:
Except for its economic use, we know very little about the role of rice in Filipinos social and cultural life. We take this grain for granted, not realizing that it is central not only to our economic survival as a people but also to the patterning of our cultural life. Almost all activities we do centre on the procurement and use of rice. In the olden times, the domestication of rice triggered the rapid growth of our precolonial society. Archeological records show that rice cultivation took place in our country around 3240 +/- 160 BC. It is slightly older in Thailand which was dated at about 4000 BC. Since then, the cultivation and use of rice became widespread in Asia and other parts of the world.
In the Philippines, rice figured prominently in the formation and development of precolonial communities. Small coastal and river-ine villages became large trading centers, with rice as one of the most important items in the barter transactions. Upland communities exchanged their rice for lowland coastal communities’ products (called bolok in Iloilo) for additive materials in preparing coconut sap into wine, called tuba. The sacred bond of marriage was solemnised through the exchange of handful of rice between the bride and the groom. Social status was measured by the quantity of rice a family had stored. Peace pacts and alliances were sealed through blood compacts, performed amidst drinking of rice wine. The gods were appeased with offerings consisting of cooked rice and rice wines. Burt rice grains were used as medicine for stomach aches and convulsions among babies. Funeral rites also included especially prepared rice packs for the baon of the soul on its way to the land of the dead.
These ancient practices are still observed by Filipinos living in the upland and rural communities. In the lowland villages, cooked rice prepared in a Spanish way, called arroz ala valenciana, is central to all fiesta meal preparations. Rice grains are thrown over the newlyweds for good luck. Violet-colored rice, called tapul in Panay, is used to feed the sorcerer’s pet, called barang. Powdered tapul rice mixed with coconut oil is a very potent antidote against the mangkukulam’s annihilating powers. The Pahiyas in Lucban, which is a celebration of the Feast of San Isidro de Labrador, has a full display of rice cakes and other rice preparations.
Rice figures prominently in the symbolic realm of Filipino culture. It is a symbol of love. Its procurement to feed the family is paramount in the mind of all married Filipinos. In the rural areas, it means spending more time in rice cultivation. In the urban centers, the jobs may be different, but their ultimate goal is to provide rice on the table for loved ones. Rice is also a symbol of social status and power. The more grains one has stored, the higher his status in the community. Which high status, one can exercise power over those who do not have.
Publisher: Centro Escolar University
Publication Date: 1999