“Suwaan bay humay?” Has the Boholano concept of the sacred rice changed?

Across time, Boholano attitude towards rice and its consumption has apparently changed.

Rice, to Boholanos is as sacred as ubi, its ethno-religious root crop.

Such is so, that when farmer’s child trips and accidentally drops an ubi, the ubi gets a kiss, the child gets a whack in the butt.

When farmers dry the palay in pavements all over Bohol, people would make sure they do not step on it, or drive over it. Traffic accidents have happened because of this.

Such is the respect that when one spills rice on dirt, somebody has to scoop it, winnow and make sure dirt separates from the grains, and the salvaged rice is still good for another meal.

Which makes us wonder why across Central Visayas, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority said, Bohol consumes the biggest share of rice per capita at 103.37 kilos.

Here, where families are overly extended: the grandparents, aunts and uncles and their families sometimes live with a full family under one roof, and elders make it their mission to instil in the kids ways of saving rice.

When it comes as no surprise that these extended families sometimes find it hard to make both ends meet, teaching the kids to be content with what is on the table is good enough. No complaints. Just steamed rice or porridge dunked with asintibuok. That is fair fare.

So they would say, “suwaanba’yhumay,” if only to pound the truth in it.

Humay after all, is that new harvest which if often from the palihi patch: a small test planting patch which is harvested ahead in time for the dogmak. And that is another story.

Dogmak is a thanksgiving feast, or single table spread featuring the first harvest, for the spirits, the souls of the former tillers of the patch or the gods of the farm.

The thanksgiving roots from the quaint belief that among those
invited for the banquet who would be protecting the rice farm from pests infestation, weeds and calamities and a thanksgiving for a good harvest.

From this palihi patch comes the pilit (glutinous rice) for the suman, biko, putohumay, malagkit, all common fare for the padogmaksakalag-kalag.

It would then be no wonder why another expression comes to mind.

“Dilinakakan-on ogwakwakbastamakakaonkaog bag-ongani.” (witcheswont be after you if you’ve had the new harvest).

But that again is another whole new new story.

From that palihi patch, parents would make sure that the children get to know the farm work. So they have to join in the harvest, pile the kalero, thresh rice by hapos (smashing grain laden bundles of rice stalks against a makeshift bamboo slatted floor) or gi-ok (on bare feet, one twists over the piled grain laden stalks) to separate the grains from the chaff. The works, we would say.

Children have to be on it. For a full day or days even. For the itch and all, including tungaw.

Then towards early afternoon, it’smagpapalid: one scoops heaps of palay from the pile, place it on a nigo (winnower), face the wind and gradually pour the grains out to a hapag or an unrolled banigbuli, pinukpok or saguran.

Those that are carried by the wind are the empty grains, the ones that fall nearby are then collected to be dried.

When the grains have dried enough to be pounded, another laborious job awaits the kids: lobok.

Farm families here make it a habit to have wooden pestles weighted for kids, some even craft small pestles for the kids to train.

It is usually in the pinsa, or under some shade where you hit nothing when you raise the pestle.

To keep every grain safe, one unrolls a mat, places the mortar in the middle and there in that hub, is the pounding and grounding. Well, sort of.

Scooping dried palay with a paja (spoke-shaved coconut shell), the kids fill the pestle halfway and the pounding starts.

And that’s play-work.

With two or three kids to one mortar, they take turns lifting their own pestles to a rhythm. This is asud. No, you do not stop from pounding the middle of the palay inside the mortal, and you do not slow down on the rhythm or you hit another one’s pestle. Until the grains come out from the husk.Lug-as.Backbreaking.

And if they think, they’re off it after that, they’re wrong.

Tahop and alig-ig comes next. Here, kids need to multi-task. Manipulate the winnower and at the same time, drive the chicken off the pounded rice.

Not a grain should be lost. Generally.

Tahop is basically to separate the grain from the husk. All one needs to do is to throw the pounded rice into the air and catch it back with the winnower. Over 50 times.

ANd the step is done over and over until one gets all the polished rice from all the nilobok.

Alig-ig is when, from this already huskless load, one shakes the winnower into a rhythm and tilting it to one side: the polished rice tends to stick to the bamboo winnower and goes up while the unpolished tipasi slide down the bottom.

When the islagan comes out, this goes back to the mortar for another round of pounding, the polished rice, now ready for the pot.

When kids complain, elders would say, “daghan pa mo’gbugaskan-on,” although the truth is just right there, in hard work and saving for the family’s future.

And the dogmak.

So, when elders declare to the kids why they do not waste a grain, it never needs an explanation.

To nail it on, elders would say, “sausausiklugaskan-on, usakatuigsaempernoagwantahon.”

No, Boholanos do not want to over-produce. After filling the bandi (buri bag basket) or bakat (bamboo basket) with the year-long supply of palay, they stop.

“I-asa man na’ngdaghan, mabahay.” (What do you do with too much, you’ll just stale them.)

Boholanos are just that. Simple.Never complicated.

But, with rice abundantly growing here, Boholanos generally do not eat corn, unlike Cebuanos who have this as among its staples.

For Cebu’s per capita rice consumption, it is about 25 kilos less than what each Boholano consumes in a year. Beat that. But did we really waste rice?

Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Philippines says the average wastage is about three spoonful every day. That is across the country.

So where does the 25 kilos more of rice Boholanos cook go?

Boholanos are not so much fond of root crops as rice substitute. Unlike other areas.

There are few who use sinaksakan (boiled rice with sweet potato, cassava, gabi, ube or any rice extender), but farmers always complain they easily get hungry. Towards lunch time, magkutoyangtijan is a usual comment, when the breakfast fare is with a rice extender.

The usual remedy is to cook more. For mid-morning pamahaw-bahaw.An there topo is a mid afternoonpamahaw-bahaw.

It is now wonder why, per capita, Boholanos consume 109 kilos of rice a year, a figure which is 25 kilos more compared to Cebuanos.

That did not did not even include one serving for the dogs. And the cats. In one radio program when people were complaining about the NFA rice, one caller even said the government is inconsiderate for his dogs.

In recent years in fact, that 3 spoons or 16 grams of rice wastage in Bohol, considering that the one who cooks puts in mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, and a serving for the pets, is no wonder.

And then, there is that old teaching that resounds in every Boholano mind. Etiquette.

Anything served, it would be damn ill-mannered for you if you take all of it. Leave something for etiquette. Oftentimes, it is a spoon-ful. Or more.Wasted.

Dinner cooking is never as illustrative of a people than in Bohol then.

Reasoning that when one is asleep, one needs no energy, so that is the basis for how much to cook.

They cook, all right, just barely enough, if only, maybe to save. “Igoragudigujodhabol?” That, to them is a measure. Cook just enough to have the energy to pull up the blanket.

At 6:00 PM oracion, everyone must be in, because if one misses it, dinner is served right after and there is not much of anything to be left, even for the cats.

In Bohol then, (and maybe even now) dinner is that worst time to gate crash.

Hospitable as they are, Boholanos know that even when you are not part of the count for dinner, you would be invited to eat, of course.

But you are not expected to eat. Good manners dictate that.

Because, when you indulge with the invitation, you would be depriving a family member of his blanket-pulling energy.

Now, you, who did not inform beforehand that you are coming to dinner, would just be like the one carried by the bad winds from wherever they may come, to their dinner table.

And they have a term for that: hinampak. Do not ever be one. (rahc/PIA-7/Bohol)

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