Nayong Pilpino Park
Taal Volcano in Tagaytay
Bohol Day 1
Bohol Day 2
Departure / Arrival
Sabin Beach Resort
St. John's Day
Comotes Islands Day 1
Comotes Islands Day 2
Back to Manila
Let's Talk Food
Bloopers and Out Takes
Not in Kansas
The morning of Thursday, June 28th, Marietta and I went to Neneng and her brother Floriano (Lo-loy)’s school. Kids stared at either my white skin (or my unrelentless beauty). I was getting use to this by now and smiled back.
The school children seemed very disciplined. The teachers had no qualms about leaving their class of 60+ students to work on their own while they chatted with me.
In the principle’s office, I had my first taste of young coconut. Served in a mug, it is the liquid and shavings from - you guessed it - young coconuts. The sweet, refreshing taste was perfect for the hot day.
Behind the school, the rice paddies stretched out before us. Marietta, dressed in white, stood on the bank out of "harms" way, camera in hand. I kicked off my sandals and plunged into the knee deep mud. Bundles of young rice plants lay on the surface. I picked up one and looked to Lo-loy for instruction. He called to the workers in an adjoining field. "Come over and show her how it’s done." No one moved. Marietta translated their responses, "They said, ‘No, we’re too shy.’" Lo-loy called again, this time to an 11 or 12 year old student, Danny, (who wasn’t in school that day because he had to work). He responded with an enthusiastic "Sure!" and started plodding over to join us.
Danny picked up his bundle of rice plants, swished the roots in one of the puddles of water, which stood on top of the mud, then separated two or three strands and stuck them into the mud. With a smooth, unbroken rhythm he would pluck a few plants and plunk them in. Pluck, plunk, pluck, plunk.
My turn! Swish my roots. Swish, swish, swish. No problem. Separate the plants. I pulled a few strands. Hmmm… Maybe that’s too many. I put a few back in my other hand. Perfect. Plant them. I bent over and pushed them into the mud. I plucked a few more plants and pushed them into the mud. Hmmm… I planted them in the indentation left from one of my footsteps. Is there enough mud there? I moved some mud over the top.
Soon I got the hang of it and got a rhythm going. Needless to say, he finished his row of eight across long before I finished my row of three across. And strangely, his rows were nice and straight, whereas mine weaved like a drunken sailor. Let’s call it self-expression.
I climbed out and washed off in water piped from a spring. I asked Marietta how much a worker made for a day’s work. "100 Pesos." She laughed, "But you would only make 1 Peso ‘cause you are so slow."
It is sobering to realize that their pay doesn’t include food. The cost of a kilo of rice (one meal) is 23 Pesos, which doesn’t leave much left over, especially if you want to eat three meals a day.
Although exhausted from my two minutes of planting rice, I still felt ready to ride a carabao (rhymes with cow). Farmers use this muscled animal, which resembles a bull, to help plow their crops.
At Lo-loy’s call, a farm hand came running over. After a brief conversation, the farm hand said something and headed to a nearby building. The only word I understood, or thought I understood, was "tackle." I figured he was getting a harness and perhaps some sort of saddle, which was more than I expected. The carabao lounging under a nearby tree had a rope tied through a piercing in his nose. I had seen this tactic used on camels before. The nose is more sensitive and gives the owner a lot of control.
The farm hand returned with a saddle in the form of a pink burlap sack. Considering the carabao has a hide with sparse bristly hair, like a pig, and I was wearing shorts, I felt pleased for the protection of the sack.
The farm hand led the carabao to a stump and I mounted. With nothing to grip, I felt unbalanced as the farm hand led me around the field and the animal swayed beneath me. I imagine eventually one would get use to the rhythm, but my short ride wasn’t enough to help me acclimate. After a few photo ops and a small circuit in the field, I dismounted onto another stump.