Living in the Land of Rice and… Rice?

It’s that time of year again, when the farmers and their friends and families flock to the fields. On my island, the rice harvest season strikes twice a year (some regions have just one or even three or four annual harvests); one around October and one starting now. The first telltale sign of the season is the yellowing of the lush green rice fields that you find across the island. Normally empty rice terraces are suddenly stocked with helping hands, family and friends working together to pick the plump grains. The whole grains are then laid out to dry in the sun; from town center to remote village you’ll find tarp after tarp of fresh picked rice sunbathing on the side of the roads. The grains are raked and turned and dried some more before finally being bagged and taken to a “cracker”—just kidding, they don’t call it a “cracker” —they’re taken to a “de-shelling facility”. After the grains have been freed of their casing, they are placed in giant burlap sacks ready to be distributed to their vendors.

 

My host family doesn’t harvest its own rice, but they have friends and relatives that do. At some point during the last season I came home to a few tarps of rice lying out in the sun in our front yard. This was followed by a pretty obvious switch from the black rice we had been eating to our local strand – a white, fluffy grain with a little black dot at one end of the grain. I may have had some hesitation about rice becoming a staple in my diet, but I have really come to enjoy experiencing the variety of rice and rice products available in the Philippines. There are black rice, red rice, brown rice, pink rice, yellow rice, and about 100 varieties of white rice.Then there are 100 different ways in which you could cook your rice. Traditionally it’s boiled or made in a rice cooker, or even cooked over a fire wrapped in bamboo or palm leaves. You can have puto, steamed rice cakes; or puto maya, sticky rice made with coconut milk; or chomporado, a black rice pudding with chocolate. But before we delve too much into food (that’s in the works for the next post) let’s go back to the harvest season…

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The different harvest seasons across the Philippines

Rice is an extremely important product of the Philippines; it’s such a staple in everyone’s diet that despite accounting for ~22% of agriculture in the country, more rice is imported in to feed the masses! The Philippines really depends on their rice and yet, this livelihood is already being threatened by climate change in some areas. An increase in frequency of floods and droughts has wrecked havoc on harvests in entire regions and farmers have struggled to make ends meet (and this is happening all over the world with different crops). Some regions have gone from four or three harvests a year to just one or two. On an island in my neighborhood, fields that used to be rich with rice are now unusable, as increasingly dynamic weather systems have prevented crops from being successful. Small-scale local farmers must turn to alternative livelihoods to make ends meet, which may, in turn, push them towards other threatened or unsustainable jobs. While climate change may still be a topic of debate and controversy in America and other developed nations, in the Philippines—a country that does relatively little to contribute to the issue—the negative effects are starting to show themselves more often.

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Fresh-picked rice drying in the sun on a public court

So you might not live here, but anyone can make mindful decisions everyday that help combat the effects of climate change in countries like the Philippines. Some small steps to reduce your green house gas emissions and shrink your carbon footprint:

  1. Bike, walk, or even carpool instead of driving yourself!
  2. Eat more locally produced and organic foods – better for you and the environment 🙂
  3. Make sure your house is well-insulated if you use AC or heating.
  4. Get energy-efficient lights or appliances.
  5. Try and go solar, even just a little bit!
  6. Ditch single-use plastics (cups, cutlery, bags and straws)! Plastic bottle production in the USA alone uses 17 million barrels of oil annually… That’s enough oil to fuel 1.3 million cars for the year! So remember to refuse, reduce, reuse, and then recycle (in that order).

For more information on ways to reduce your carbon footprint, check out this site. Otherwise, consult Google or feel free to ask a question in the comment/contact section and I will do what I can to help 🙂

Well, it appears this post took an unplanned environmental twist… but I hope you’ve enjoyed and maybe learned a thing or two about life in the Philippines! Remember, despite the size of the globe, all our actions have the potential to impact others. Being more environmentally conscious on one side of the world can help a farmer and their family on the other; it’s kind of crazy and it’s kind of cool!

Anyway, thanks for reading yet another scatterbrained post of mine. Take care,
S

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More rice sunbathing!

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