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Rice deeply ingrained in Boholano culture

Boholanos generally love rice. 

Rice is deeply ingrained in Boholano culture, be it on the dinner table or in the way of life.

Rice is even incorporated in the way Boholanos express themselves.

Here are some of the popular Boholano rice-related expressions that prove this point:

DI MAHIMO’G SOBRA KAY MABAHAW, MAKAGABA. (Boholanos do not overproduce. If it gets stale, you will suffer the consequences.) 

The Dagohoy rebellion left something worthwhile for Bohol: rice farming for food. For sympathizing with the revolution, insurrectos who fought with Dagohoy received tracts of land, which they wrestled out from the Spanish missionaries, who forcibly took these from the natives.  

After the rebellion, the rebels settled in the vast fields of central Bohol, producing palay. They also believed that as long as they could be self-sufficient, there is nothing much more to do. 

This accounts for why most Boholanos do not overproduce, even if they own land, considering the belief that after planting what is enough for the year, anything in excess can stale and would not be good.  

SUWAAN BA’Y HUMAY. (With rice, you don't need anything to go with it.) 

For several Boholanos, if they have rice, then there is little to worry. 

Known to be frugal in almost everything, Boholanos can be a bit stingy when it comes to food. The local dish, tinola nga isda, is a perfect example of that. With tinola, one can have fish and soup, which could be counted as another dish. 

Another example is the sinaksakan, also called sinabakongan. This is basically boiled rice cooked with crop extenders like sweet potato, ube, gabi, apale, wild ube, green cooking bananas, and cassava. The extenders fill the pot when it is cooked, saving enough rice for another meal.

Or having boiled rice, sometimes flavored with a pinch of salt, is already enough. The protein from the red rice is all that the farmers who toil daily in the field need. What more can one ask for?

SINAKSAKAN. Using camote (sweet yam) as extender, a cup of red rice could now feed more. It is packed with protein, fiber, fats, proteins, Vitamin B plus, iron, phosphorus, potassium, and zinc. (PIA Bohol)
SALINI INTAWN ANG IRING. (Leave something for the cat.)

Frugality among Boholanos may be a thing, but when it comes to caring for pets and livestock, this can be useful. 

A Boholano household will always have a pet: a pig for slaughter, a few chickens, a dog, and a cat. Many would consider these pets as part of the family, christening them with names and endearments. So they occupy a certain space in the house, or under the house, and would get a share of the day’s cooking. 

No matter how poor a family is, an allocation for the cat is assured, even when it would mean scraps from the table. 

When Boholanos host guests and serve them food, many consider it good manners to leave some for the cat. 

MANGITA POD OG MIMIS. (One will look for ‘mimis.’)

For a meal of only boiled rice to work, it has to be the best of harvest. 

Mimis is that newly-polished, glistening, robust grain of red, white, brown or black rice that has a starchy, sweet taste to the Boholano palate. 

For those with discriminating tastes, the mimis would only be the pearly white grains cooked to boil or steamed. No matter how much red, brown or black rice is available in the markets, expect the local folks to pick the white grains. 

This also means one has to chew and savor the goodness of freshly polished rice, something that could be lost when the harvest is industrially milled. 

For this kind of rice to be truly mimis, it has to be pounded in a wooden mortar and pestle, winnowed just right to retain the starch and the nutrients that can be discarded during milling. 

WALA’Y SUD-AN, PERO LUTO, DUGANG-DUGANG. (There might not be enough viand, but the rice is unlimited.) 

That penchant for not demanding too much is well documented in this Boholano expression. 

This is roughly translated to “there may not be enough viand, but for rice, they give extra servings.”

As for social gatherings such as birthdays, weddings, christenings, and burials, Boholanos are known to be lavish with rice. 

There is a popular story where it is said that a man, who was on his way home from a social event, met people along the way. A friend then asked, “Kumusta ang kaon? (How was the food?).” He replied, “Aw, wala gyud hinuon kaayoy daghang sud-an, pero, luto, dugangdugang. (There may not have been enough viand, but the rice was overflowing.)”

DILI BUSOG KON DILI KAIROKA’G KUTO ANG TIJAN. (You’re not full until you can crush a flea on your stomach.) 

When in Bohol, how full can a person be? 

Another Boholano standard for fullness, at least in food, is this: until you can crush a flea with your full stomach, you are not full yet. 

This puts to the fore a new kind of fullness, one that can go very visual to the point of belt-snapping full. 

That is why one can still hear expressions here like “hugot og busog” when one eats boiled or coconut milk-cooked mongo, and root crop alternatives for the staple food: cassava, sweet yam (camote), taro (palaw), gabi, apale, the wild boot,  and even the boiled banana variety of the sab’a. 

KADA LUGAS NGA MAHIBILIN, USA KA TUIG SA IMPERNO. (Each morsel left untouched is a year in hell.) 

One of the most unforgettable ways for grandmothers to connect with their grandchildren could be the permanent fear they can instill in them. 

It would always start with making sure the child ate everything their parents put on their plate. 

First, they would describe what a day in hell would be. Or that a day on earth is a year in hell. Then they expertly transpose the situation to the rice on a child’s plate. Any grain left unconsumed would be counted, and that would be converted into hell days. 

MURAG GITILAA’G HAAP. (Like a blind-licked plate.)  This kind of explains why children are forced by circumstance to overeat. If only to please the eagle-eyed lola, children would be obliged to eat every grain on their plate. 

BROWN AND BLACK. Unpolished rice retains nutrients that get lost during the industrial processing. Consumers can get a more filling sensationw with black, brown, and red rice. (PIA Bohol)

If one asks where Boholanos pick the habit of overeating rice, chances are it is a carryover from these ages. 

If by any chance, one grew up in this culture and you wipe your plate clean after meals, this is the graphic way of showing how semi-blind people consume what is on their plate: lick the plate empty.

PILA RA GU’Y IGUYOD OG HABOL? (It doesn’t take much to pull the blanket.)

Roughly translated, it means “you do not have to eat much, as you don’t need much energy to pull the sheets up to cover you from the cold.” 

So when a household in Bohol serves two cups of rice per meal, expect this family to cook half of that for dinner. 

And the family gathers at 6:00 p.m. for the oracion (the Angelus), and then it’s dinner time. 

Children have to be home by then so they can join the prayers and then dinner. If they do not come home on time, there will be no more food waiting for them, and they will go to bed on an empty stomach. 

And then the grandmothers would talk of hungry spirits detaching themselves from the body to seek food in the kitchen. If by any chance, it finds food, it could be accidentally trapped in the pots. It could be terrifying to find a soot-blackened soul going back into the body. 

Overall, whether it is a campaign to produce more or to eat less, culture dictates how people respond and the decisions they make. 

Becoming “riceponsible” can just be casually taken with a grain of salt or chewed well for the province to absorb the nutrients from this campaign.

But, seriously, it is a campaign that everyone has to take a stand. All rice! (RAHC/PIA-7 Bohol)

About the Author

Rachelle Nessia

Assistant Regional Head

Region 7

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