They eat rice only once a year by Dino Crescini

This is a true story that was aired on Philippine television by Kara David, award winning journalist and daughter of Philippine Daily Inquirer columnist Randy David.

The story revolves around the life of abaca farmers in Sitio Banli, Sarranggani province. They harvest abaca and convert them into strong fibres used to make ropes.

But because of forest denudation, they are able to make the harvest only once a year compared to previous years when harvest of abaca could be done three times.

After a rigorous process of converting the pulp into fibre, the abaca is brought down from the mountainous region into the lowlands to be sold for a measly sum. The farmers do it on foot, carrying the heavy load of processed abaca on their shoulders.

Twenty-seven kilos of the fibre yield only PHP1,000 (AUD25), just enough to buy some rice and canned meat for the family to feast. Other than the once-a-year meal, they eat camote (sweet potatoes) all year round. The entire family subsists on root crops dug from the ground. The half-naked boy with bulging stomach in the photo below indicates lack of protein.

To be able to reach the area, Miss David had to walk up and down the hill for 6 hours because there were no roads except for a muddy and treacherous trail along the mountain side.

It takes another 6 hours for the farmers to reach the lowlands to sell their once-a-year crop.

Before you throw away excess rice on your plate, think of the poor children of Saranggani. They were deprived of pork barrel funds by Janet Napoles and our greedy senators.

Updated: 2014-03-01 — 17:55:12