Kalinga’s traditional rice shines in ‘Cordillera paella’

Kalinga’s traditional rice shines in ‘Cordillera paella’

/ 05:04 AM May 31, 2024

Kalinga’s traditional rice shines in ‘Cordillera paella’

HELPERS This giant paella, using ingredients from the Cordillera, is cooked over an open flame in Baguio City on Thursday with the help of Department of Agriculture (DA) Cordillera director Jennilyn Dawayan (hidden at left), DA Assistant Secretary Daniel Atayde, DA Undersecretary Christopher Morales and Kalinga Gov. James Edduba. —NEIL CLARK ONGCHANGCO

BAGUIO CITY—Local chefs prepared a giant paella made of Kalinga’s traditional “chong-ak” rice at Burnham Park on Thursday to promote the Cordillera’s heirloom grains.

The Spanish and Cordillera fusion dish was cooked over an open flame in a 3-meter diameter pan and required about 100 kilos of rice mixed with vegetables grown in Benguet, “kini-ing” (smoked pork), “pinunog” (smoked sausage from Ifugao) and “pinuneg” (blood sausage from Benguet).


The “Cordillera paella” was shared by officials and employees of the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a culminating activity of this year’s farmers’ and fishermen’s month celebration.


Kalinga Gov. James Edduba, who joined the event, said promoting unique grains that grow only in the Cordillera would accelerate the economies of indigenous Filipino communities, and expand awareness about the region’s shared culture.

Chong-ak, he said, is a staple crop grown in his hometown of Pasil and has been certified organic food. It is among Kalinga’s “unoy” (traditional) varieties that the DA’s heirloom rice project is trying to preserve.

“These rice varieties were what we used to eat when I was a child, and they are our symbol of our heritage,” Edduba told reporters.

Rice for many Cordillera families, like the “tinawon” (meaning “once a year”) planted by Ifugao farmers on the centuries-old rice terraces, is tied to their ritual culture, according to lawyer Ronald Calde, Cordillera director of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, who gave a recorded speech that was played at the Melvin Jones Grandstand. Calde said he grew up planting rice in Mountain Province.

Heirloom rice also enjoyed a short stint as an export commodity, Edduba said. Unoy used to be shipped to Montana in the United States, he said.


Kalinga is the Cordillera’s traditional granary and generated 3,762.9 metric tons (MT) of rice last year, up from 2,014 MT in 2022, Edduba said.


The region’s targeted rice production this year is 355,774 MT, although the region’s rice farmers suffered a production loss of 3,653 MT from February to April 29 (or a 1.03 percent drop) amid the dry spell due to El Niño, according to DA data.

Daniel Atayde, DA assistant secretary for logistics, said the Cordillera’s food growers “are the backbone of the food system” and are essential to the region’s economy.

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Edduba also noted the growing demand for heirlooms in the domestic market, thanks to health buffs seeking healthier grains. INQ

TAGS: Kalinga, rice

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