Random Travel Snaps: Threatened Heirlooms

Upland palay (unhusked rice grains) left on the road to dry —  somewhere between Kiangan and Banaue, Mt. Province.

Kalinga Unoy Sun Dried Rice – Red heirloom rice from the terraced fields of the Philippines.

Kalinga Unoy is a rusty-red, speckled colored rice grown with organic methods on ancient terraces in the Philippines, then naturally sun-dried for three days.

Cook Kalinga like you would other rice. A delicate, sweet, nutty aroma lifts off it when it’s cooking and follows right through to the flavor of the finished dish. Great as a side or even as a focus of the meal. Its aroma and flavor will get you excited, I guarantee.  

~ As described on Zingerman’s Mail Order, an on-line shop

Kalinga Unoy, Ulikan Red, Tinawon Fancy, Tinawon White – these are some the varieties of traditional upland rice grown in the Cordillera region, cultivated by their ancestors for hundreds of years.  For generations, planting, cultivating, harvesting of rice have been the foundation of their culture.  But in the last decade or so, both the terraces and the indigenous culture have been slowly losing its durability.  The century old rice terraces are gradually deteriorating brought about by man’s carelessness, disuse and the changing weather. The terraces are too steep for machineries and the absence of which makes terrace farming back-breaking and hard.  It has lost its appeal to the younger generation who are leaving the mountains, abandoning strenuous farming for “greener pastures” elsewhere.

Rice supply of late comes mostly from lowland rice as upland or heirloom rice are low-yielding due to low tilling capacity.  Besides this, various problems related to changes in weather and infliction of rodents, pests and diseases, have had traditional rice farmers replacing traditional rice with high yielding, early maturing hybrid varieties.  Heirloom seeds and terraces however are considered a connection to their ancestors and the elders are anxious of losing this heritage.

Through upgraded technology provided by Department of Agriculture and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), farms in the uplands see hope of becoming self-sufficient once again.

Upland rice holds its own characteristics, uniquely ingrained through farming traditions that has been protected for thousands of years.  It has formed a niche in the world market given its distinct delectable taste and health benefits particularly from the organic conscious consumers.  Through the help of the Revitalized Indigenous Cordillera Entrepreneurs, Inc (RICE), Kalinga’s Unoy Red rice is now being sold in the US.   There’s light at the end of the tunnel for the threatened heirlooms, it seems.


One thought on “Random Travel Snaps: Threatened Heirlooms

  1. never encountered this rice before. i do remember palay being scattered on streets in the barrio to dry them. the chickens continuously trying to get to the palay so the farmer has to be vigilant 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.