Category: Farming

Woven Rattan Baskets

Rattan basket, photo by JMorton

Woven Rattan Baskets

Rattan is some sort of a climbing bamboo looking plant which grows profusely in the mountains of Ilocos and other parts of the Philippines.

Thank goodness that they do grow abundantly as they provide materials for weaving so many things necessary to the farming communities of the Philippines.

Rattan basket, photo by JMorton

Bilao in Tagalog is a winnowing flat basket which is called bigao in Ilocano.  This flat basket is necessary in separating the husks or hulls from the rice grains, especially when a mortar and pestle had been used to manually dehusk the palay into rice.


Rattan basket, photo by JMorton


Malunggay, Leafy Superfood

Malunggay, photo by JMorton

Malunggay, Leafy Superfood

There have been a lot of studies and testimonials regarding the health benefit of Malunggay or its scientific name of Moringa Oleifera.

Studies have found that malunggay (Filipino/Tagalog name) has a very high nutritional value.  This may be true as a young child in Marag, our diet often included marunggay (Ilocano name for the malunngay).  The tree grow almost everywhere in Marag, thus providing us a microbiotic diet which complements most soupy viands in an almost vegetarian existence.  I supposed as children, we did not get sick, except for malaria, brought about by mosquitoes, which is another story. 🙂

Malunggay is a superfood as well as super-herbal-medicine.

Lactating women are advised to make malunggay soup as part of their diet to produce more milk.

Apparently 1 cup of mallunggay, in terms of nutrients, is equivalent to 10 cups of broccoli.


Pili Nut Brittle ~Recipe~

Pili Nut brittle, photo by JMorton

Pili Nut brittle, photo by JMorton

In my opinion, Pili nut is the king or queen of all nuts.  Its taste is something that you will appreciate.  It is delicious, it is actually indescribable.  It is buttery and floury with its clean nuttiness, if that make sense! 🙂  Once you have tasted it, it is almost impossible not to be hooked.

We were in Bicol when I had my first taste of pili nuts courtesy of my extraordinarily generous, angelic sister, Marilou.  She said it was delicious and it was.

We bought jars of the pili nuts and loads of pili tarts.  I am afraid I did not really like the pili tarts.  I thought there were not enough pili nuts over a rather tough and chewy dough which doesn’t really taste much as it was rather bland.

Anyway, when I unpacked our luggage from the Philippines, I found a jar of the pili nut.  I started eating it while watching back-to-back episodes of The Good Wife.  Well I finished the jar before the second episode of this favourite show.

The caramelised pili nut was so good; you won’t stop at just a small handful.

It might be hard to get Pili nuts from just any shop because it is not widespreadly farmed just yet. Only the Philippines do it commercially.

Lance Catedral from Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines - pili nut

Lance Catedral from Quezon City, Metro Manila, Philippines – pili nut

Canarium ovatum, commonly known as pili, is a species of tropical tree belonging to the genus Canarium. It is one of approximately 600 species in the family Burseraceae. Pili are native to maritime Southeast Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Northern Australia. They are commercially cultivated in the Philippines for their edible nuts. (Wikipedia)

If you happen to get lucky and find raw pili nuts, there is no better recipe to cook it with than as a Pili nut brittle.

Below is the recipe from

Pili Nut Brittle ~Recipe~

Pili, Photo by JMorton

Pili, Photo by JMorton


2 cups of raw pili nuts
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of water
2 teaspoons of vegetable oil

Part 1
Prepare the Pili nuts

1. Boil water in a saucepan. Bring the water to a full boil.

2. Add the Pili nuts to the boiling water.

3. When the skin of the Pili nuts starts to peel off, stop the cooking process.

4. Remove all of the Pili from the water.

5. Peel the skins from the nuts.

Part 2
Cooking the Pili nuts

1. Add vegetable oil to a clean saucepan.

2. Add the Pili nuts.

3. Fry the Pili nuts. Be sure to constantly stir the nuts while frying.

4. Add sugar when the Pili nuts are golden brown.

5. Caramelize the sugar. Allow the caramelized sugar to coat the nuts.

6. Remove the Pili nuts from the heat. Be sure they’re coated in the caramelized sugar evenly and thoroughly!

Let is cool; caramelised sugar is dangerously hot.

Time to enjoy (and share?!!!)

Rice Field – Planting Rice

Rice Field – Planting Rice

Planting Rice by Keeve Neo

Planting Rice by Keeve Neo


Planting rice is never fun,

Bent from morn to the set of sun

Cannot stand and cannot sit,

cannot rest for a little bit.

From Filipino folk song: Magtanim Hindi Biro (Planting is no joke)


When Jean & I were staying in the Philippines to visit her family in January 2013, Jean, her sister Malou, Bert her husband,  Jean’s Mother, Jean’s niece Ellah Mae & I took a fun 12 hour comfortable  coach ride  from Manila to the sea resort of Pagupud, Ilocos Norte in the far north of Luzon.

The overnight, to early morning, journey was enjoyable as we stopped every hour or so to stretch our legs and eat short meals at rest station/stops on route.

Jean really enjoyed the journey. We enjoyed the amazing beach and deep blue sea, coral pieces were strewn on the beach.

We took small excursions and on the final day of our visit,  we had a ride to the coach pick up location. The friendly driver in the people carrier vehicle containing just our family, took some detours to shows us local sights around Pagupud. One such location we stopped off in the  verdant countryside had rice fields, also called paddy fields.

I hopped out of the carrier with my trusty camera companion and took some photos. The workers planting the rice were very friendly as I found most Filipinos are.  🙂

They paused from their work, waving  and smiled, posing and allowed me to photograph them at their labours.

This was the first time I had seen as rice field and it was a privilege to observe the important planting of this most important staple food of the Philippines.

Rice growing production is also a major industry is SE Asia.

We in the UK  have the staple wheat to provide our daily bread.

Sadly, The Philippines is no longer a major exporter but rather imports rice now from neighbouring nations. This is rather extraordinary as the Philippines has the best agricultural university in  SE Asia, and has pioneered GM Rice products.

Countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Korea sent their students to the University of The Philippines-  Los Banos. These counties have now overtaken the Philippines in rice production;  how strange and a lost opportunity.

As can be seen on the photos, planting rice is a labour intensive  back-breaking effort. The planting is done at an efficient steady & fairly leisurely pace as it is a task that cannot be hurried.

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