Text and Photos by David Leprozo Jr.
ATOK, BENGUET — Cradled by the Atok mountain ranges to the south east and Kapangan-Kibungan mountain ranges to the northwest, Naguey village is naturally protected from typhoon seasons that cause heavy damages to crops.
These natural barriers are also a great opportunity for farmers to have two rice cropping seasons — one each for cold and warm weather.
Naguey is also blessed to be irrigated all-year round by the Amburayan Rver in those two planting seasons.
Unique in the Cordillera Region’s rice culture is Naguey’s farmers ability to plant six heirloom rice varieties namely Balatinaw, Kintoman a dark purple glutinous rice variety, Putaw, Davong, Konchot and Sipot.
These heirloom rice varieties have been passed down from their ancestors since time immemorial.
Despite the introduction of modern high-yielding rice varieties, Naguey farmers still prefer their time-tested and better-tasting, organically grown heirloom rice varieties.
Commercial rice varieties though high yielding requires a lot of farm inputs like chemical fertilizer and pesticides, a costly alternative so the strong unyielding farmers to embrace commercial rice varieties.
Stone-walled Naguey Rice Terraces is unique in itself. Handcrafted by their ancestors using crude farming tools, the Naguey rice terraces is a working system of water, soil and forest conservation.
Annabell Kiguis with her village folks performed a collaborative practice in helping out among the tribal Ibaloys “Aduyon” (Cooperation) while harvesting gamely named the six heirloom rice varieties.
Leo Pagit, while manually threshing glutinous Kintoman Heirloom rice, lamented that he fears that the young generation with the influx of other outside influences are not interested in farming thus Heirloom rice culture may soon be a thing of the past.
Meanwhile heirloom rice prices in the market remains high ranging from Php 100 to Php 120 a kilo surely a boon to Benguet farmers.