Jon-Ellis and Rolando with their pagmamaan – the pouch that holds the fixin’s of their mama, the betel nut “chaw” to which many of the barrio men are addicted. It’s probably dangerous to swallow this stuff, so the barrio road is spotted with permanent red stains put there by the guys who don’t really care where they spit.
Irik, rice still in the husk, is dried along the barrio road before going to the mill. Of course, it is not surprising that we sometimes find tiny stones in the stir-fry. Rice, by the way, has many names here in rice country, depending on where it is in the process between seed to stomach. Bunubon, pagay, irik, bagas, innapoy and kilaban are some of them.
Lumber being made the hard way with a chalk line and a chain saw. In the cities, steel studs are increasingly being used. But out here in the hinterlands, the building project starts by cutting down a tree.
At the weekly market in Curva, you can buy just about anything from fruit, to meat, to rope, to knives, to clothing to all the necessities of life out here in the boonies. Here, Manang Seling lays out her produce.
Pandesal, that yummy fresh baked bun, is delivered early in the morning along the barrio road. The delivery boys are using motorbikes these days. But they are still tooting their traditional poot-poot horns to announce their arrival. My Sweetie, who is an early riser, flags the kid down and makes her purchase.
Waiting Sheds are located along all rural Philippine roads to provide shelter from the elements while waiting for a bus or public van or tricycle. Along our barrio road, they also provide a convenient meeting place to exchange gossip and have a few beers with the guys.
Jon-Ellis and Guano enjoying a few mid-afternoon cool ones. That’s my Girly Beer.
The family motorbike. Cars are expensive to buy and
expensive to maintain. But a motorcycle is affordable and can carry the whole family. And, of course, getting there is half the fun.
The rice thresher is a machine past its time. Several years ago the thresher made its appearance in the barrio, assisting the large crews of workers who used to cut, stack and thresh the rice by hand. The mechanical thresher still required a crew of about 30-35 men and women who cut and stacked the rice stalks and fed them into the machine. Each worker would receive a portion of the harvest. A crew with a mechanical thresher could harvest one hectare in a day. The mechanical thresher was a simple machine that could be maintained by a farmer with only minimal mechanical ability. This versatile machine has been replaced by the mechanical reaper.
In the old days, men used to climb the coconut trees to harvest the fruit. But these days, coconut buyers with their long hooked poles do this work from the safety of the ground. The wholesale price for a coconut is about 6 pesos, twelve U.S. cents.
The rice reaper made its first appearance in our barrio in 2013 and by 2015 had rendered the old mechanical thresher obsolete – along with the large crew of workers that depended on the harvest to feed their families. Where a thresher crew of about 30 could harvest one hectare a day, the new reaper could do it in less than an hour – with a crew of only five. Naturally, not everyone was happy to see this new machine come to the barrio and in a few neighboring towns there have been some instances of sabotage, setting the machines on fire. Progress is not always pretty
Ruben is bringing the kuliglig into the yard with a few sacks of just-harvested rice. Rice in the field is called pagay. After it has been harvested it is called irik. When it has been milled, it is called bagas. After cooking, it is innapoy. As a leftover, it is kilabban. There are many other words that describe this Philippine staple.
Farmer taking a few sacks of irik to sell to the rice buyer. The kuliglig they are driving is the workhorse of Philippine farmers. The front end – the motor – can be detached from the trailer. Various implements can be attached to the motor for plowing or making mud. No license is required for a kuliglig, so many farmers use it for local transportation. It is very slow and bulky, which adds to a chaotic traffic situation in most small Philippine towns.
In the open market in Aparri you can buy almost anything. The Public Market occupies an entire city block next to the river. Here are the maize vendors loudly extolling the fine qualities of their product to all passersby.
Farming is tough work. Rain or shine, the farmer has to tend to his business. Here on the main street of Aparri, rain suits are displayed for sale. These suits are made of a plastic material that has a strong chemical odor and, if you ask me, might be toxic. I have never seen a barrio rain suit that wasn’t blue.
Neatness and forethought are not qualities one would easily associate with the Philippines. If a new electrical circuit is required, the power company just squeezes it in wherever it will fit. All intersections in the Philippines have this jumble of power lines.
Our barrio road is a beehive of commercial activity these days. Vendors continually ply these back roads selling everything from stereo equipment to brooms to mattresses to clay cook stoves to fresh meat. Here, Manang Moning, a local woman, pedals her tribike, selling an assortment of vegetables.
Here is a rice thresher at work. The work crew will cut the rice stalks, stack them in a central location in the field, feed them into the machine, fill the sacks and haul them to the road for transport to the buyer. Each worker will receive a share. This kind of thresher is no longer used for rice, but is still suitable for harvesting corn.
The marunggay tree is ubiquitous in the remote barrios. The leaves are edible and constitute an important part of the local diet. The flavor is non-descript, just sort of green and leaf-like. In this photo, my Sweetie is on the ladder, assisted by two of her barrio buddies.
The Simayung Elementary School is just down the road from our house. The multi-purpose “room” is an open air affair that is used for school programs, including graduations. There is no need, in a tropical place, to put up walls. A water-tight roof is sufficient.
This is part of a thresher crew after a hard day in the field. Remarkably, after 8 hours of hot, itchy work handling rice stalks, and looking forward to a couple of hours building a fire and cooking dinner, they seem in a pretty good mood.
Andoy, a local man, has laid out his net in the barren rice field next to our house and is doing a little maintenance work. Our barrio is on the western side of the Abulug River, so many of the men, in addition to field work, also go fishing, either with a net or with a car battery.
Rice seeds are broadcast thickly. When the seedlings are about 2-feet tall they are uprooted and replanted in orderly rows in flooded fields where they will be fertilized and weeded until harvest time. Here, women are uprooting the seedlings, called agsikka.
After rice fields are harvested, stubble, weeds and a scattering of missed rice kernels remain in the fields. Great hordes of ducks, called itik, are brought in to the fields to do a proper clean-up – and, as a bonus, deposit a helpful layer of duck poop.
The kapasanglay tree, also called a cotton tree, loses all of its leaves when the pods are fully formed. In another month and a half, these pods will dry out and crack open, revealing a cotton fluff inside. This cotton is used to stuff local pillows.
Nipa is the leaf that is used in the typical “grass hut.” It is a relatively durable leaf that, when properly installed, is watertight. But it has to be replaced every three years. A somewhat more expensive, but much more durable plant is sometimes used for the roof. The labig is a type of palm, the trunk of which resembles the coconut palm. But the branches have fan-like leaves, very different from the coconut branches. Here, a worker is climbing one of these very tall labig trees to harvest the branches. He will be careful to cut only some of the branches, which will regrow.
Dragon fruit farms have begun to spring up here in northern Luzon in recent years. The dragon fruit is a climbing cactus, the fruit of which contains hundreds of tiny seeds that resemble sesame seeds. It has a mild, not-very-sweet taste. Poles are sunk in the ground in a grid-like arrangement, upon which the cacti can climb. We have planted some dragon fruit in our yard, but so far there’s nothing to eat. In case you’re wondering, this is what dragon fruit looks like:
Rice farming requires a lot of water and we can’t always rely on the weather. An irrigation canal runs through our valley, carrying water many kilometers from the mountains. In this photo, Ruben is taking me for a kuliglig ride along the irrigation road.
Although our remote barrio is becoming increasingly mechanized, there are still jobs for the carabao – plowing the edges of the rice fields where the machines can’t reach and hauling the sleds through the mud, piled with sacks of rice.
Along the northern coast of Luzon, in the area of Pagudpud, roadside vendors sell locally made salt, along with soy sauce, garlic and onions.
Vendors of fish, vegetables, pandesal, and household items regularly ply the barrio roads by bicycle, tricycle and on foot.
When the harvest is in, the field workers receive their share of the crop.
Sixth grade graduates perform a traditional Philippine dance.
No matter how large the family, they all manage to squeeze into the tricycle.
The men will spend eight hours a day planting the rice seedlings
The Family Coach and Friends
Another beautiful morning in the barrio.
Before mechanization, rice was harvested entirely by hand, cutting and stacking the stalks, then beating the grains loose in a net. Hard work.
Wilfredo on his way home from a hard day’s work.
This overburdened tricycle makes the run down the barrio road a few times a year selling brooms and baskets.