“Planting rice is never fun. Bent from morn’ till set of sun.
Cannot stand and cannot sit. Cannot rest a little bit…”
It’s a song that many of us learned when we were still kids in schools. And you probably do not know that this song was originally a Tagalog song called “Magtanim Ay Di Brio” that got translated into English?
Unless you have grown up in an agricultural environment, chances are you have never experienced planting rice. There is actually a place where you can find out for yourself if planting rice is indeed fun or not. And, there’s no place more apt to do that than in The Philippines.
Located in Malay, Aklan and a short ferry ride away from the main Boracay island is a place called The Motag Living Museum. Don’t let the name fool you; it is not a stuffy concrete building where you walk around looking at boring exhibits. The Museum (I personally think the use of the word ‘museum’ here is not exactly accurate) is the brainchild of Nenette Aguirre Graf, who has set up the place to offer visitors a glimpse of traditional Filipino culture and crafts, and some of the ways of life of rural Filipinos.
The tour started with our guide showing us how a basic Aklanon home looks like and functions — from their toilet to shower area to how they retrieve water. This is certainly not for the prissy; baths are taken out in the open at a seemingly makeshift bathroom, sharing the space with bugs and all under the trees.
Our guide led us to a traditional nipa hut of bamboo and palm-weave walls, revealing more of the basic lifestyle of the people before the advent of modernisation. An old lady sat by a window, nonchalantly rolling tobacco and smoking the occasional stick. Another lady gently moved a cloth baby hammock in which her child sat, reminding me of the days when I was rocked to sleep in one as a kid.
The highlight of the visit, though, is probably the rice paddy field. The more adventurous in the group decided to get their hands – and feet – dirty and waded out into the muddy field to try planting rice. Some even took a ride ploughing the field with the carabao (water buffalo). We were literally immersing ourselves in the farming experience.
Back on drier land, the local folks demonstrated the other processes in the whole rice harvest. Once harvested, rice is separated from the stalks by threshing; the locals stomped on the rice by foot on a rice thresher. The rice is then laid out on mats to dry in the sun.
One might feel that the Motag Living Museum is a tad commercialised and touristy, especially when all the locals broke out into a song at the end of the session. But on the other hand, the Museum instils a sense of pride in the local community through sharing the local culture, traditions and crafts with visitors, not to mention giving the locals a purpose and a job.
By visiting the Motag Living Museum, you’ll not only get a glimpse of the rural Filipino culture, you are also helping to contribute to the local community in a small way. You may leave the Museum a tad dirtier and sweaty, but you’ll also leave with your heart fuller than when you first arrive.
How to Get There:
The Motag Living Museum is located on the main land of Aklan. It is accessible via a half-hour boat ride from Boracay to Caticlan.
Cebu Pacific Air flies to Caticlan (Boracay) from Singapore via Manila.