Tag Archives: daily living

Rice (Oryza sativa)

There is an elementary Tagalog song that begins, “Planting rice is never fun…” and goes on to say, “cannot sit or stand,” in reference to the back-breaking work of a day spent bent over in the rice field.
There is an elementary Tagalog song that begins, “Planting rice is never fun…” and goes on to say, “cannot sit or stand,” in reference to the back-breaking work of a day spent bent over in the rice field.

There are 3 different words for rice in Tagalog: kanin (cooked rice), bigas (unhusked, uncooked rice), palay (rice plant). Furthermore “ulam” literally means “food eaten with rice” and is a general term for everything else. And the word “kain” means “to eat.”

American food culture revolves around bread as the major source of carbohydrates, while Filipinos eat rice with every meal (so much so that a meal without rice is not a meal and a Filipino will likely want to eat again a short while later). Which is better? Bread and rice offer similar nutritional content, especially when eating white bread or white rice, which generally lack the vitamins and minerals found in their brown counterparts. Rice deals a higher dose of carbohydrates per serving, which may or may not be advantageous depending on your specific dietary requirements. Wheat bread and brown rice differ more significantly in the amount of micronutrients: brown rice has more magnesium, used to make lipids and DNA, regulate hormone balance and support cell communication; wheat bread has more iron needed to transport and store oxygen; both contain similar amounts of fiber.What about gluten?! Read this article and decide for yourself whether choosing rice is preferable merely because it is gluten-free: http://toitangata.co.nz/uploads/files/Gluten-free_Julia_Buhs-Catterall.pdf

Be it production or texture, America is more of a bread culture, but the Philippines is very much a rice culture. In an attempt to more fully understand rice culture, I recently visited a rice field and learned to harvest rice alongside Filipinos.

Harvesting my first few stalks of rice!
Harvesting my first few stalks of rice!
The labor intensive process: after cutting the stalks with a sickle-like blade, they are passed through this machine to separate the rice grains, which then need to be laid out to dry.
The labor intensive process: after cutting the stalks with a sickle-like blade, they are passed through this machine to separate the rice grains, which then need to be laid out to dry.

While living in the Philippines has not completely cured me of my tendency toward bread, I do eat rice (at least a little) for lunch and dinner everyday. To explore another carbohydrate option, I have found corn to be available, cheaper, and more nutritious than rice. So why does rice account for 85% of Filipino cereal consumption, while corn is a meager 10%?* Corn is generally considered ‘poor man’s food,’ while rice is historically associated with the elite. In pre-colonial times2:

  1. Rice was a prestige food, produced in limited quantities by labor-intensive means.
  2. Rice was given as tribute to chiefs and overlords.
  3. Rice was consumed in large quantities in postharvest feasting.
  4. Rice was an article of trade.

*Note that the remaining 5% is bread and pastas. Some traditions may be engrained in culture, however in urbanized areas, like Metro Manila, a much higher proportion of bread, noodles, biscuits…etc. are consumed regularly.2

I got to try! Be careful, the machine sucks stocks so fast it wanted to take my hand too.
I got to try! Be careful, the machine sucks stocks so fast it wanted to take my hand too.

Sources:

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/448451-rice-vs-bread/
  2. Aguilar, F.V. (2005) “Rice in the Filipino Diet and Culture.” Philippine Institute for Development Studies. Discussion Paper Series No 2005-15. http://scholar.googleusercontent.com/scholar?q=cache:ew0S16d60EYJ:scholar.google.com/+philippine+diet+rice&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5.

Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero

Yoga!!
Yoga!!

Check out my newest video with my host family here in Romblon entitled, “Ang Gabi ng Pamilya Famero” which means “An Evening with the Famero Family.” From my experience the most common evening activity in middle class Filipino families is watching TV. Soap operas are very popular as are singing competition shows similar to American Idol. The soap operas are in Tagalog, however many commercials are in English. I asked a Filipino about this and apparently it would take too long to say the same things in Tagalog. Although the TV is always on in my home as well, I have not had any time to partake in the tv dramas. My family seems to share my energy and many evenings we have instead found ourselves ballroom dancing, doing yoga or playing music. I teach yoga in exchange for lessons in swing, cha cha, and other forms of dancing. Watch my youtube video to see our family in action. I also brought some uno cards with me from the States and they have been a big hit for the young kids in my extended family.

More Yoga!!!
More Yoga!!!

Here is the translation for the Tagalog song we play together in the video entitled Bahay Kubo:

My Nepa Hut, even though it’s small

With varied plants around

Turnips and eggplant

Winged beans and peanut

String bean, hyacinth bean, lima bean

White melon, sponge gourd

White pumpkin and squash

And also there is more

Radishes, mustard

Onion, tomato

Garlic and ginger

And all around are sesame seeds.

This song is extremely appropriate to my life here in the Philippines because I am always eating fresh, delicious, cooked vegetables. Some interesting foods include ampalaya, a very bitter, green vegetable and papaya if cooked before it ripens is served green with other vegetables. I am also a huge fan of malunggay, small green leaves used in teas or soups packed with vitamins and minerals.

Many thanks to my host brother Andrew for letting me borrow this bike. I ride it everywhere!
Many thanks to my host brother Andrew for letting me borrow this bike. I ride it everywhere!