STA. RITA, Pampanga—The heavy rains induced by the habagat (southwest monsoon) in August and the amihan (northeast monsoon) wind two months later had brought an unexpected bounty to local rice farmers who celebrated the ‘Duman’ Festival here on Saturday.
The lakatan malutu (red glutinous rice) variety withstood the habagat rains and had matured into a unique kind of sweetness because of the amihan (amyam to farmers here) in October.
“This enabled us farmers to make duman (soft and green native cereal),” said Councilor Felix Amio, also a farmer.
“We have enough grains this time, thank God,” said Arnel Galang, a 77-year-old duman maker.
Galang recalled that the red glutinous rice turned very scarce after Typhoons “Pedring” and “Quiel” battered Central Luzon in September and October last year. Habagat rains flooded 287 villages in Pampanga in August this year but the variety survived.
The festival, for the first time in 11 years, was moved to the spacious gasak (farmlands) at the foot of the western side of the lahar barrier, the FVR Megadike, instead of the traditional venue at the grounds of the Sta. Rita Parish Church. The venue change meant an open-air theater, backdropped by two old acacia trees and lit by the full moon.
“I am surprised that despite the change of venue, many, many people still came to watch the zarzuela,” said Andy Alviz, executive director of the ArtiSta.Rita, the private cultural organization that mounts the festival.
The new setting is the “town’s Amorsolo,” Alviz said, referring to rural landscapes painted by National Artist Fernando Amorsolo.
Aside from duman, native meals and snacks were sold during the festival. The second and third levels of the dike, designed to catch Mt. Pinatubo’s lahar, became dining areas, al fresco style. About 15,000 people came, organizers said.
“We are developing this place into a tourist destination. Here, people can view the whole of Pampanga and enjoy good food prepared by our cooks and residents,” said Mayor Yolanda Pineda.
Planted in May, the red glutinous rice variety sprouts grains before the amyam. These are planted in few plots in the villages of Becuran, Dila-Dila, San Basilio, San Agustin and Sta. Monica.
“They’re strong against the cold winds and rains but production is limited,” said Amio, 65. The harvest for every hectare averages 25 cavans, with each cavan weighing 50 kilograms.
But farmers earn from growing lakatan malutu when they opt to keep their harvest and instead hire others to produce duman for them.
While a cavan of the red glutinous rice sells for only P2,500, a wooden box of duman measured into a pati (more than a kilogram) sold for P2,200 to P2,500 on Saturday night.
The value was high because producing duman takes a week, employing more than seven people who share backbreaking tasks, said Galang.
Amio expects more farmers to grow the red glutinous rice variety as pinipig (roasted grain) to supply the need of top ice cream maker, Magnolia.
The bulk of duman buyers are Kapampangan based abroad.
The sweet smell of duman wafted at the new venue as Galang and his team made the final pounding of the grains on Saturday. While Dominga Guanzon, 79, and Teodora Santos, 80, sold these to residents and visitors, with some coming from Metro Manila, the zarzuela (musical play) played to an appreciative audience.
The 40 homegrown artists belonging to ArtiSta. Rita, aged 10 to 60, performed with the Ima at Arti, a group of 30 or so accomplished women who turned to performing arts.
To date, these are the only groups that regularly stage zarzuelas using current themes, like fathers leaving for jobs abroad. Yearly, new funny and sad scenes, as well as songs, are added to the play.