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The Filipino Farmers - Philippine Ethnographic Collections and Artwork Showcasing Pinoy Food Production, Processing, Cooking and Storing

artwork portrays farmers doing their painstaking task of planting rice in a Philippine rural area

We celebrate the Filipino Food Month and Rice Festival Week by honoring the people behind the country’s food production with this oil painting on canvas by Miguel Galvez (1912-1989) titled “Planting Rice” (1951) from the National Fine Arts Collection (NFAC).

The artwork portrays farmers doing their painstaking task of planting rice in a Philippine rural area. Often taken for granted, our farmers play a very vital role in national food security and economy as the Philippines is considered primarily an agricultural country. Our farmers endure long hours of work in the searing heat to ensure we have food on our tables. Apart from rice, they provide supplies of various crops to feed the country’s population. The National Museum recognizes their importance and would like to pay tribute to them especially during this time of global crisis.

This artwork is painted by Miguel Galvez who was born in 1912 in Paombong, Bulacan. He was known as an art instructor and as an outstanding landscape painter. He established his studio in 1950 and studied art under Teodoro Buenaventura in 1993. Galvez received several recognitions in the art scene including being the first ever Filipino to win a silver medal in the South East Asia Art Festival in 1957. “Planting Rice” is on display at the executive floor of the National Museum of Fine Arts.

Ethnographic Collections used for harvesting, processing, cooking, and storing Filipino food


traditional tools used by the different agricultural communities in the Philippines to harvest unhusked rice

Our first feature highlights the traditional tools used by the different agricultural communities in the county to harvest unhusked rice (Oryza sativa), locally called palay / pagay / paray. Husked rice or bigas / bagas / bugas is a staple for majority of the Philippine population, and an essential food item included in relief goods distributed during the community quarantine. 

In communities conducting rituals related to cultivation of rice, rakem, a rice cutter with its metal blade attached to a wood or bamboo handle is used in harvesting the stemmed rice grains or panicles. These are bundled using bamboo strips and transported to the storage house. 

In other areas, sickle or kumpay (Ilokano) or karit (Tagalog) is used to cut the panicles including the leaves but leaving the roots behind. The harvested rice is gathered and the grains are removed from the panicles manually or by using a mechanical thresher. The grains used to be stored in buri or pandan woven baskets, are now kept in plastic sacks. Traditionally, different shapes, sizes and weights of wooden or concrete mortars and wooden pestles are used in separating the grains from the panicles and in removing the hulls.

Some of the rice harvesters, baskets, mortar and pestles are exhibited at the Rice, Biodiversity and Climate Change Gallery while baskets used as rice container or storage are displayed at the Entwined Spheres: Baskets and Mats as Containers, Conveyors and Costumes at the 4F of the National Museum of Anthropology. This month, aside from celebrating the diversity of Filipino food and heritage, we also honor and acknowledge our farmers and fishers for their contributions on food security, particularly during the pandemic.

Earthenware Pots (Palayok)

Earthenware pots (palayok in Tagalog, banga/tayab in Ilokano, kolun in Bisaya, kurey in Teduray)

Earthenware pots (palayok in Tagalog, banga/tayab in Ilokano, kolun in Bisaya, kurey in Teduray) are used in slow-cooking our favorite Filipino dishes such as sinaing na tulingan, pinakbet, kare-kare, laing, and even steamed rice. Pots with perforations at the bottom are used as steamers for kakanin (rice cake) and flat ones are used for cooking bibingka (also a type of rice cake).

Water jars made of clay and locally called malabi in Ilokano, and tapayan in Tagalog, are used to collect drinking water from nearby streams or rivers. Women carry the jars on their heads with a cloth ring as support. The jar has the ability to keep the water cold, and as reminisced by older people, sweeter than filtered or distilled water. Besides being used as storage, the tapayan or banga is also the preferred container in germinating munggo sprouts or toge as it provides the cool and dark environment ideal for its production.

Large stoneware jars locally called burnay in Ilocos and are made in Vigan City are used in the fermentation of bagoong (fish paste and sauce) and vinegar from extracted sugarcane juice mixed with dried leaves, fruits, barks, and yeast. These jars also serve as storage containers for rice and corn grains, beans, and salt.

In some households, aside from electric or gas stoves in their kitchen, they have a separate kitchen located outside the house with wood or charcoal burning earthenware stove. Among the Ilokano, the dalikan is used when you need to boil the meat or cook the fish for hours to save on electricity or gas, or when you want to cook pinakbet (vegetables with fish paste) or nilingta (fish arranged over layers of mango leaves) in the banga. Sinaing na tulingan, a Tagalog fish recipe, is also said to be best cooked in earthenware pots to make it more flavorful.

These cooking pots, jars, and stoves are made from locally available clay, formed using wooden paddles, aired, and sun-dried before baking or firing. The pots, jars and stoves are sold in local markets for domestic use or supplied to restaurants and resorts as added attraction in tourists’ dining experience.

Celedonia Ongpin’s Bodegon

Bodegon Still Life Painting pastel on paper depicting a basket full of fruits such as mangoes, cashew, chico, papaya, chesa/tiesa and siniguelas

We also feature here one of the earliest paintings by a Filipina artist to be included in the National Fine Arts Collection.

Completed in 1912, and registered as a public collection in 1949, Celedonia Ongpin’s Bodegon was done when she was 16 years old—quite a feat for a woman of her age at that time when most artists were men. This pastel on paper depicting a basket full of fruits such as mangoes, cashew, chico, papaya, chesa/tiesa and siniguelas was completed during the American occupation wherein landscape, portrait and still life paintings were popular and served as souvenirs for visitors in the country. 

Celedonia Domingo Ongpin (1896-1989), also known as ‘Doni’ is a descendant of Damián Domingo (1796-1824), considered the Father of Philippine Painting and the local artist who began formal art education in the Philippines. She is the youngest daughter of Roman Tanbensiang Ongpin and Pascuala Encarnacion Domingo. 

Roman Onpin was a philanthropist, businessman, and nationalist who strongly supported the Katipunan and the propaganda movement. He owned El 82, a store which sold art supplies such as paint, brushes, canvas and materials for framing, becoming good friends with Filipino painting masters Juan Luna and Felix Hidalgo, who we surmised also frequented this store for their art needs.  These two painters and may also have greatly influenced Doni’s interest in art. 

Bodegon is Spanish for “still life” derived from storeroom or bodega. These type of paintings represent and illustrate common natural or man-made objects of daily life—fruits, food, books, jars and other household items, to name a few.

Art historian, writer, and academic Alice Guillermo mentions in the National Museum Visual Arts Collection (1991) that it was not at all surprising for women artist to create ‘bodegones’ or still life paintings. This is because it was a traditional training for young women from well-off families to include nature designs such as fruits and flowers in their embroidery and other arts, being mostly homebound as it was the norm of that period.

The National Fine Arts Collection (NFAC) of the #NationalMuseumPH has several ‘bodegones’ in its custody. Apart from Celedonia Ongpin, another female artist, Anabel Alejandrino also has two still life paintings in the NFAC.  The rest of the ‘bodegones’ were done by male artists such as Zosimo Dimaano, Tomas Bernardo, Constancio Bernardo, and National Artists Ang Kiukok and Hernando R. Ocampo.

This #FilipinoFoodMonth, we take a closer look to the bounty of our natural resources. The Philippines, being an agricultural country, is abundant with these and because of their availability, these are sometimes ignored. As the number of COVID-19 cases continue to rise and we are put under another community quarantine, we realize the importance of having a continuous supply of fruits and vegetables to stay healthy and #BeatCOVID19. Today, we dedicate this post to our agricultural sector that ensures we have enough of our local fruits and vegetables to put on our table during this pandemic.

Local fishers as one of the essential food providers

local fishing Filipino fisherman

Fish, as one of the basic staple food in the Filipino diet is an important source of animal protein that is abundant in bodies of water such as bays, lakes and rivers. It is often served fresh as kilawin (cured with calamansi/dayap/vinegar), sinigang (in tamarind, calamansi, kamias, bayabas or miso), inihaw (grilled), pinirito (fried), sarciado/escabeche (fried with sautéed tomato and egg), tocho (fried with tofu and black beans), paksiw (cooked in vinegar), pesa (with soup and vegetables), sinaing (slow-cooked with dried kamias), pinangat (slow-cooked with tomatoes), tinupig (steamed small fish wrapped in banana leaves), sa gata (with coconut milk), pinaputok (stuffed and steamed), daing (salted and dried), tinapa (smoked), buro (fermented), or as condiments in forms of paste (bagoong) and sauce (patis). 

Traditionally, rituals and offerings are made to conciliate with the spirits associated with fishing. In Batanes, a person who catches a lot of fish is called “masagal”. An exceptional skill in fishing is very useful among the Ivatan, especially when the migratory arayu or dorado (Coryphaena hippurus) and dibang or flying fish (Exocoetidae) pass through their waters from March to May. The former is harvested following the Ivatan sacred tradition of hook and line fishing by an elite group of fishers called mataw. These are filleted and sun-dried to be shared at the end of the season among the mataw, their shareholders or those who provided equipment and capital, and the local Ivatan consumers. The seasonality and exclusivity of mataw fishing somehow undercuts the popular Filipino notion of daing or tuyo as poverty food due to its relative cheapness.

Our fishers have varied knowledge on the techniques in catching fish individually or in groups; through the use of hook and line, nets, and traps; in season, or for everyday consumption. They also weave and repair nets and traps, build and repair their boats, and process the extra catch of the day for the rainy months.

“Lanzones Vendors” Oil Painting by Paete, Laguna-based Manuel Baldemor (1968)

“Lanzones Vendors” Oil Painting by Paete, Laguna-based Manuel Baldemor (1968)

Baldemor, in this artwork, depicts the vendors and the lanzones (Lansium domesticum Corr.) in simplified geometric forms colored in green, red, yellow, light brown and blue. Light green spheres or circles fill the canvas as two vendors occupy the core of the painting. Baldemor, throughout his career has been highlighting Filipino culture and tradition portraying the dignity of Filipinos from rural communities. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) classifies street and market vendors, tricycle and jeepney drivers as the informal sector workers. They are self-employed workers and may be considered as some of those greatly affected by the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Painter, printmaker, and sculptor Manuel Baldemor, born in 1947 in Paete, Laguna, known to some as the “Carving Capital of the Philippines” came from a family of artists. This influenced his love for art. He studied fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas and his first known works in the 1970s are pen and ink drawings of his hometown. He apprenticed with Mauro Malang Santos and eventually won awards from the annual art competitions of the Art Association of the Philippines in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1992, he was selected as one of the recipients of the Thirteen Artists Awards of the Cultural Center of the Philippines. For 18 years, his works were reproduced by UNICEF (United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund) for their greeting cards and were distributed worldwide. 

This #LaborDay2021, the DOLE will hold a nationwide virtual job fair to help those who are looking for employment and those who have lost their jobs because of the pandemic. You may visit for more information.



First Photo: Text by NMP FAD and photography by Bengy Toda

Second Photo: Text and poster by the Ethnology Division, NMP

©The National Museum of the Philippines (2021)

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