Rice in the Filipino Diet and Culture

Filomeno V. Aguilar, Jr.
JEL codes: 

This paper deals with a basic question: How central is rice to the Filipino, what are its implications for understanding the way we approach and regard rice, and what do they indicate about Filipino culture? To answer this question, the paper focuses
on the structural position of most Filipinos vis–vis rice. The paper argues that, at present, most Filipinos relate to rice as consumers rather than as producers of rice. From that perspective, the paper explores certain cultural practices that may shed light on the role of rice in Filipino culture. In particular, the paper traces the transformation of rice from a prestige and mainly elite food to the staple food by the end of the nineteenth century. This was accompanied by a change in perception of the rice plant that removed the magical elements. Rice today is primarily a consumer product the consumption of which reflects the stratification of Filipino society, as supported by quantitative data on contemporary trends in rice consumption. The paper concludes with reflections on the diminished centrality of rice in Philippine culture as a consumer commodity. The commoditization of rice is linked to urbanization, industrialization, and the Green Revolution.