This is my nephew. He is an engineer. Like everyone else in our hometown, he is helping in the rice fields during harvest time. He had to carry those bundles of freshly-harvested rice through steep and narrow rice paddies to reach the house of the rice owner. Looking at the organic string beans planted where he was standing reminded me of my mom. She was very industrious in planting vegetables while waiting for the harvest time of rice, the staple food in the Philippines.
There you go! He arrived at his destination, our ancestral home. Those bundles of rice are heavy because they are still raw and wet. Talk about balancing and strength.
The bundles of rice need to be dried before being stored in the native house.
This is my oldest sister, the mom of my nephew carrying those heavy bundles of rice. She taught us to value rice and to not waste food. She told us to eat every single grain of rice on our plate and to get only what we can consume. So literally, we eat every single grain of rice on our plate since our childhood. She said, “Think how hard the farmers worked for every grain of rice on our plate, from the moment the rice is planted until it reaches your plate.”
I told my sons about the instruction of eating all your rice. I added, “We keep asking God for blessings. He bless us with food. Let us not put His blessing into the rubbish bin.” One time, my youngest son did not finish all his rice. My oldest son said, “Babyboy, you need to eat all your food.” “Why?” he asked. “Because Auntie Mercy said so,” my oldest son replied. To this day, my sons aged 27, 25 and 19 eat all their rice on their plate because according to them, “Auntie Mercy said so.”
Pounding rice and separating the husk from the grain photos in our ancestral home.
The rice is being prepared for pounding by separating the grains of rice from the stalk by hand. I tried and it actually hurts. The grains with their hulls on are rough.
Pounding rice on a stone mortar and wooden pestle. Two people can do it alternately. This is the task I was spared from doing when I was young since I am the youngest in the family so my parents said only my older siblings can do it. Yes! 🙂
The pound native rice is now ready for cooking. The grains are larger and the rice bran is still intact so the pound native rice still retains its nutritional value.
This is how cooked native rice looks like. It smells very aromatic and is soft to chew.
This is our way, just a portion really because it takes a whole mountain of hiking, to go to the ricefields to plant, tend and harvest rice. Our family members just cleaned the pathway for us, but normally it is full or weeds.
Harveting time at our ancestral ricefields. My dad built them by hand. These ricefields were passed on by my parents to our oldest sister, then she passed on to her oldest child. That is the tradition in our place. The oldest gets the most of the inheritance. If there are still properties left, they will be divided among the children. There are many people harvesting. They help one another in what is called bayanihan, a Filipino culture meaning working together as a community to achieve a common goal. They are not paid monetarily, but are compensated either by bundles of rice or the owner will help each one during their own harvest time.
This is my nephew who is featured in this story. He doesn’t know but one of the reasons why I love him very much, aside from him being my nephew (to love him is a given), is because he was the only one in our whole clan to teach my mom, who did not go to school at all, count from 1 to 10. One day, my mom was reciting 1 to 10 in English (she only spoke our dialect). I was surprised and asked her who taught her how to count in English. She said, “Houston taught me.” The boy just started school when he taught her. After knowing that, I give Houston special treatment. He taught my mom! I didn’t even think of teaching my mom but he did.
To me, that is very special. So thank you, Oston.
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