Rice in the Cordillera
Rice was domesticated 10,000 years ago in the river valleys of South Asia and China. In Asia, the growing and eating of rice has been intimately connected to the ideas of family, community, religious belief and ritual activity. For centuries, the early religions of Southeast Asia revolved around rice, ecology and the environment. Rice was considered sacred and the rituals of community rice production shaped all aspects of daily life.
There are two species of cultivated rice, Oryza sativa or Asian rice and Oryza glaberrima, which is grown as a food crop only in tropical western Africa; the rest are wild species. Based on morphological and physiological characteristics, and on geographic adaptation, Oryza sativa varieties have been separated into three eco-geographic races or subspecies: Indica (long grain), Japonica (round grain) and Javanica (medium grain).
Over 300 varieties of rice are presently grown in the Philippine Cordillera. Traditional varieties in the Cordillera belong to both the Javanica and the Indica subspecies. Varieties belonging to Javanica are found only in the rice terraces of the Philippines and the mountainous areas of Madagascar and Indonesia. The traditional varieties have a broad genetic base, as they are products of the continuous selection and breeding by farmers over the centuries.
These farmers have expressed an overwhelming preference for the traditional varieties because they are more resistant to pests and diseases, have low fertilizer requirements and have been adapted for low temperatures and ease in harvesting and storing. They are the preferred eating varieties of the Cordilleras because of their exceptional taste and texture, mild aroma and fast cooking qualities.