The Ricefields of Allah Valley, Mindanao
Rice is the basic food for many countries. more than 80 percent of the world's population depends on rice, not only for their income but also as daily food.
The Island of Mindanao is often named the food basket of the Southern Philippines, The rich and fertile lands of Allah Valley in the province of South Cotabato are an agricultural Eden. Ricefields or paddy fields are a common sight in this Province. Here time is measured by the growth of the rice fields. Each planting of the rice field marks the start of a new season.
In the Philippines rice is served at every meal, putting rice on the table is just as important to Filipinos as it is for Europeans and Americans to have bread on their dish. However, before the rice will reach your plate, hard and back breaking work has to be done in the ricefields. Work done by strong men and women using their bare hands, simple tools and water buffaloes to prepare the paddies, to plow and to till soil until ready to plant the young rice plants.
Most rice farmers in South Cotabato own at least one Carabao which is one of their most treasured possessions. The carabao is a multitask animal, almost maintenance free and environment friendly. These water buffaloes are normally used to plow rice fields, as well as pull wagons or sleds. The sight of a plodding carabao, hauling rice from the fields is a daily sight in many Mindanao village.
The rice plant takes about four months to mature. When the rice turns golden yellow and the stems are straw coloured it is ready to be harvested. The paddies are drained and the fields are allowed to dry. Harvesting means cutting the plants, moving the crop to another location, threshing and cleaning..
After the harvest is collected, the ricepaddies are taken over by native ducks, known as Itik. These ducks are usually taken to the field in the morning to pick the left over grains and taken home in the afternoon. The Itik is also known for the balut, a half-hatched egg that is a speciality in the Philippines. Balut is an fertilised egg with a developed embryo of 17 to 19 days, which is boiled and eaten. By selling the eggs the Itik tenders will earn an extra Peso.
Mindanao is filled with rice fields, but in South Cotabato these lowland ricepaddies expresses the harmony between nature and mankind. All ricefields are pieces of breathtaking and impressive natural sceneries, waiting to be discovered. The tranquility and charm of the ricefields will make Allah Valley an exceptional destination to visit.