I wanted to see the rice fields but the rain was just too heavy. So we stayed indoors most of the time.
Our gracious host is an old Bulaqueño family. They’re farmers since the early days owing to their barrio’s location, the vast flatland on the borders of the agricultural towns of San Rafael Bulacan and Candaba of Pampanga.
Locals of Vizal are mostly farmers and duck raisers. Most of them trace their roots back to San Rafael in Bulacan.While Candaba is Pampanga, Vizal is the border barrio that sees itself more Tagalo than Pampango.
A Tio recalls many beautiful memories of the farm fields located at the border of two great provinces. How farmers would earn enough to afford them and their families with the simple comforts money can buy, education for all their children and folksy homes for their growing family. Most of the families he knew “had many sons and daughters”, having more than four children but none ” would go hungry” and “almost all would attend public schools nearby and later on colleges in Manila”. They were practical and wise with their money.
These days you’ll rarely hear such stories. Our farmers has become one of the poorest sector in our society. Some say that they had been this way since the beginning but you get to speak with actual people that tilled land for generations and they’ll tell you that life was much better a few decades ago. It seems that the farther we get, as a nation, the worst it gets for these folks.
The truth is that our government and their pet capitalist forgot about their own farmers and their well being. To let agricultural products from our neighbor countries get imported and sold almost half the price of the locally grown produce is just is just simply unfair and unjust. And this is just one example of how our government and the policies it creates are slowly killing our agri sector.
How is it possible that farmers from China and other neighboring countries export and still maintain their cost low? The answer is that their government plays an instrumental role as a subsidizer – from growing to shipment – while ours puts the burden on the farmers who, because he had to pay more than his Asian counterparts, are left to sell at a higher price because if he gets his price any lower he would be selling for a loss.
In that barrio I heard that a “sili” farmer abandon his produce to rot because the market price for his sili is so low (bagsak preso) that selling them would cost more.
Speaking of sili, I noticed that Bulacan dishes are never spicy. They prefer the mild flavor. Which reminds me a lot of the Ilongo dishes that I now miss…
While it rained the whole time I was in Candaba I still had a grand time soaking in traditional Tagalog cooking and lifestyle that very few urban souls get to experience.
The rain was good in a way, it heightened my appetite more!
My Tagalog family had prepared some fine examples of traditional dishes you rarely get to taste in Manila. Native adobo chicken, guinisang ampalaya with durog na tinapa, lechon pacsiw, their version of “bachoy” and, first time for me, fried “itik” (bought from the next door neighbor), which I found out to be tastier compared to chicken.
The secret must be that everything is “sariwa” (fresh). People around these parts raise their own chickens, fowl and swine – not all of them do but the family I stayed with does which makes the weekend sleepover more enjoyable for someone unfamiliar with life in a rural Tagalo barrio.