Monday, October 5, 2015

These Fields of Gold

When I was young, I, with my sister and childhood friends, would pluck out some kuhol (snails) pestering the greening rice fields and earn some dough out of it. We were paid one peso per kabo (container) of kuhol. Yes, we were snailmongers. Those kuhol, especially their eggs, were such a headache, as they would proliferate in the fields like wildfire. Mom would always ask us to help every time kuhol were already eating up and laying pink eggs on rice stalks.

Dipping our feet into mud was, to us, just a game, not even close to a sore chore. I had always been with an army of friends -- the same children who after school would stay out on the street -- play all Pinoy games imaginable, and only tire out early when we had to do homework. Much more on weekends did we have to get extremely physical. Sweaty, soiled, burned, hurt. That was a part of our being hyperactive kids. We never really ran out of activity. No wonder I never had any obese friend back then.

If lucky enough, we could then catch halwan (mudfish) in rice fields. They are the kind of fish that hibernate during summer, burrow into mud, and stay there until the land gets soggy. They have an amazing ability to survive out of water for months.

I can recall the plowing and harrowing of rice fields with the use of carabao or tractor. Also, I can remember the incubation of rice grains inside a sack soaked in water. Placed inside an empty water reservoir, our kitchen would reek of urine or rotten fruit or the like because of it. After 24 hours or even longer, when the seeds had finally germinated, farmers would strew them all over a seedbed.

When the fields had finally turned gold, farmers would cut the stalks using a sanggot (sickle), place them on a mat where they would do the manual threshing with their bare feet. The grains would then be sundried for days, which would be spread on a trapal (tarpaulin) with a wooden rake.

I have very fond memories of rice fields.

Narrative: Matalom, Leyte, Philippines
Images: Carcar City, Cebu, Philippines


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