The headlines these past days have been all about rice. I know rice, and not simply because I don’t feel satisfied eating without rice, just like any Filipino. Many years ago, while growing up in the province, I would walk the pilapil of rice paddies with ease, something which would probably come in handy when I try the “sangkilo” bridge at Isdaan. We have a modest tract of ricefield, with produce sufficient to last the family, and some, until the next harvest season. Just like any child, I loved playing with, and in, the ricefield mud, and I refused to understand, way back then, why such pleasure would merit punishment from my mother. I have cultivated rice — from the preparation of the field, preparing the seeds, planting, weeding, harvesting until milling.
I know the smell of rice. I know how the breeze smells when the ricefield is being attacked by certain pests. I know how riceplants easily break with strong winds, and we have lots of typhoons in our province. I know the sweet smell of newly-prepared pinipig.
Yes, I know rice.
I also know that the Philippines was a major producer of rice, which is probably the reason why the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) — the world’s leading rice research and training center — is based in the Philippines. I understand global trade, but I don’t understand how massive importation of rice, while at the same time neglecting domestic rice production, could result in self-sufficiency.
I know that there’s a present problem with rice production and supply, and some have gone to the extent of labeling it as a crisis. I fully understand that the Philippines has become one of the world’s top IMPORTERS of rice.
I don’t know exactly what went wrong. But no matter what caused this crisis, the inescapable fact is that the increase in the price of rice significantly cuts the buying power of the family. Coupled with the accompanying increase in gas, as well as other food products, this adds more pressure to the breadwinner, who is usually us fathers. So, how do we solve the problem of bringing extra rice to the table, sufficient to feed the growing family?