January 1, 2018

Rice Culture in the Town of Cuenca, Batangas by Ananias L. Chavez, 1920

This page contains the complete transcription of the 1920 ethnographic paper written by one Ananias L. Chavez from .jpeg scans of the originals made available by the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections. Corrections for grammar had been made in certain parts but no attempt was made to rewrite the original paper. Original pagination is indicated for citation purposes.

[Cover page.]

Tagalog Paper No. 241.



Ananias L. Chavez

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  1. TAGALOG: Cuenca, Province of Batangas, Luzon.
  2. Economic Life: Agriculture: Rice-culture.
  3. Folklore: Beliefs.
Manila October 18, 1920

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Ananias L. Chavez.

Before the field is put into cultivation, the first thing that the farmer does is to make a single continuous furrow across it. He then observes which variety of weed grows abundantly and carries with him to his house a plant of that species including roots, stems and leaves. This plant is hanged from the ceiling over the native stove. After several weeks have elapsed, he would carry it back to the same field and burned. The farmer is done with the belief that the destructive animals will not be able to enter the field when planted and the latter with the hope that the species of the same plant will not grow anymore and that the entire field would be free from weed.

Plowing is done with the native plow, pulled by either a cow or a horse. The first plowing ranges from one to two inches in depth. This is followed by harrowing to remove the dried weeds and other garbage. At the interval of five or six weeks, plowing is performed increasing the depth with the number of times at a maximum of five inches. The native harrow, which is sometimes made of wooden frame with wooden or iron teeth is employed in pulverizing the soil, in breaking the plods into places, and at the same time leveling the surface.

When the month of April comes, the entire field is ready to be planted. Rainfall determines whether the planting season would be earlier or later. But before anything is done, the

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farmer makes a cross out of a piece of small fresh bamboo1. In making this cross, he selects the lower part of the stem and uses only a part of it composed of even smaller joints, usually a 4, 5 or 6. On this cross, he is accustomed to insert another small cross of coconut leaf which has been taken from the church on Palm Sunday2. He then chooses a definite day during the month of May, that is, an odd number of day of the month, for example the first, the third or the fifth, with the exception of the sevent, seventeenth, and twenty-seventh, which he regards as the worst kind of planting, and sets this cross in the middle of the field. The setting of this cross is accompanied by planting around its base small amounts of seeds with some common salt and scraps of coconut leaves which he believes to be sanctified. This performance is usually done in the late afternoon, which marks the beginning of the planting.

The farmer makes furrows over the entire field in which the seeds are sown by an expert hand. In bringing the seeds to the field, the farmer selects from the members of the family the one who eats and [the?] least. This person will carry the seeds in order that the amount of grain to be planted should be less. After the seeds are scattered, the native rake is used to cover them by dirt. At the closing of planting, that is, if the farmer has finished planting all his plots, the whole family with the person who has done the sowing enjoy a Gruel3 party. This is done in order that the


1 There are several kinds of species of bamboo but the one used in making the cross is called [blurred word].
2 Palm Sunday. Sunday previous the Holy Week. At that time

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the grain to be harvested should not be thin.

After the germination of the seeds, the works to be followed are to pick the seeds and cultivate the soil. Cultivation is done by troweling and by plowing the spaces between the rows. Cultivation is stopped when the plants are half [a] meter above the ground.

The harvest time usually comes in the month of September or October. Whent the grains appear to be yellow, they are ready to be harvested. The farmer recollects at once the date of planting, and on the same day of the month, that is, if the date of planting is May third or fifth, he usually uses the third or fifth of September or October for starting the harvest. In an early morning, with him he carries a knife4 of wooden handle, a coconut shell5, and a basket6. Reaching the cross, he faces to the east and with closed eyes he graps with his right hand the rice stalks in his front. Opening his eyes, he counts the number of stalks. If the stalks are of an even number, he will not cut them but repeat until he fortunately grasps an odd number of stalks. Then, he begins to harvest the grains with his knife, and after filling the coconut shell and the basket, he starts to go home. In going home, he usually traces the same path on which he passed before


it is customary to carry palm leaves to church.
3 Gruel: Rice (native called Malagkit) cooked in coconut juice with some sugar or sweet.
4 Knife: A thin piece of iron having sharp blade on one side and with wooden handle on the other.
5 Coconut Shell: Shell of coconut which was once full of meat (native called Makapuno.

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and speaks not a single word to anybody whom he [blurred word]. [blurred] stops on his way but goes directly to his house. In reaching home, the first cut grains with long stalks are hanged from the ceiling while those in the shell and the basket are threshed separately. If the threshed grains fill the shell and the basket respectively which very seldom occurs, the whole family is brought to a sudden joy because they are expecting to have a greater amount of crop, but if the containers are not full, that believe that the plantation will yield [a] smaller amount.

Just before the time of harvesting the entire crop, some farmers gather small amounts of palay from one of his fields. Few of them change these into Pinipig7 or into cooked rice and carry to the church. These are placed in front of the Patron Saint as a gift or reward as they called it. This is done because the patron saint in my town was believed to be a successful farmer during his lifetime. According to the stories of the spanish priests, he was the only one in the whold country of Spain that produced the most crop that did not suffer to any natural damages such as drought, storm, and flood.

Harvesting is done by hand with the knife or scythe. Laborers are not hired nor paid by day's work, but share system is


6 Basket: A basket made of bamboo strips woven together with square base and round opening (natives called it takuyan.)
7 Pinipig: Roasted rice pounded in a mortar until they are flattened. Rice used is Malagkit.

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practiced. Laborers receive a certain part of the harvested grain, usually one fourth of the amount harvested. Sometimes, each person has to thresh the grains for the farmer, but often these are stored in heaps called Sipok. In storing these, the first cut grains are placed in the center of the heap with a piece of iron, a piece of Share8 of the plow and a round stone with smooth surface.

I have asked several old farmers in the vicinity what virtue does the stone possess and the object of placing that piece of iron in the storage of the grains. No one was able to make an explanation on this matter. They said that their fathers and grandfathers had taught them to do so without explaining their belief. The stone used has been handed down from father to son.

The farmers practice seed selection. Before harvesting the entire crop, the farmers select a good spot where the grains are taller and bearing greater heads. They are harvested separately from the other for the next season. After they are thoroughly dried under the sun, they are kept in separate baskets to avoid the mixture of the others. On Resurrection Day9, Saturday between the Holy Friday and the Easter Day, these grains are again placed under the sun to enliven the tiny plant within the seeds. But if the sun does not shine on that day, he only


8 Share: Share is the pointed part of the plow that furrows in the soil.
9 Resurrection Day: Saturday between the Holy Friday and the Easter Sunday.

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shakes their containers at the very time he hears the ringing of the bell on that morning.

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Notes and references:
Transcribed from “Rice Culture in the Town of Cuenca,” by Ananias L. Chavez, 1920, online at the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.

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