When my nephew picked me up from the airport at midnight, he could not suppress a guffaw while telling me that his grandma has just called to say that the rice is ready (welcome home, auntie–I bet you’re not looking forward to see your bed). But that’s how it really is in the Philippines. Just as people could not imagine not having bread at home in the West, it’s the same in the Philippines–there should always be some steamed rice ready.
In typical homes people would eat rice for breakfast, for lunch and for dinner–not counting the rice-based snacks in between main meals (there are root crops too). It must be the heat that burns one’s calories quickly, or just out of habit and necessity–people leaving early to work the field, children starting school at 7am-12nn then 1pm-5pm (yes, we had a difficult start in life!) and eating rice builds one’s stamina. And of course it’s part of the culture. Very.
Below is just a tiny peek on our affinity with rice (if you hover over the pictures you can read the captions too). There is black rice that’s also made into a sticky-rice snack (kalamay), there’s the suman sa lehiya in banana leaf–lehiya is lye, and people make it by burning coconut leaves and extracting oil from it. Those brown circular cakes are kutchinta (yum! 😋 ) topped with shredded coconut, and the last is suman sa ibos (yum again! 😋 )–the sticky rice is wrapped in young coconut leaves (sometimes banana leaf) then boiled in pure coconut milk–it makes a lot of mess unwrapping the suman as you can see. For the ibos I like the salty version, and then dipping it in sugar for that sweet-salty combination.
“With coarse rice to eat, water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow–I still have joy in the midst of all these things. Riches and honours acquired by unrighteousness are to me as a floating cloud.” – Confucius