Rice planting tradition lives on with 'Malsikiti'

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Saturday, December 27, 2014


STA. RITA -- Just before the break of dawn, when everybody else was still asleep from the Christmas revelry, a group of farmers, businessmen and young people donned their work clothes to participate in a festival that is bereft of the usual flare of dancing and merriment. It was after all a back-breaking festival of sorts that celebrates land and toil all together.

The seventh year of the Malsikiti Festival here aims to promote awareness on the importance of palay (rice) planting and being one with Mother Earth. The festival derives its name from the word “malsikiti,” which literally translates to “planting rice” according to international choreographer Andy Alviz, who started the festival four years ago with the help of fellow organizers from the theater arts group ArtiSta.Rita.

The festival started at 6:00 am with the traditional planting of sinabud (young palay) into newly prepared rice paddies. The festival is a challenge as those who participate would plant along with real farmers.

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The event is held at the farms around Bale Ng Juan, owned by a Miss Saigon officer, and sits as a solitary island in a vast rice farm owned by Alviz who is a Miss Saigon choreographer. The house was constructed as a “retirement” home for Alviz’s boss who fell in love with the rustic ambiance of Sta. Rita.

Participants later joined in sharing a unique Kapampangan farm food feast prepared at Bale ng Juan.

“Most people who join the event are businessmen and individuals who have stayed long in the cities and who would like to be re-acquainted with rural life,” Alviz said as he joined others in the back-breaking process of planting palay.

Master sculptor Willy Layug said he brought his whole family to the event. He added that he wanted his children to be attuned with nature once more.

“Children now know so little about rural life. Even some children have no idea of how rice is produced, most of them are more concerned about technology and gadgets that they become even more detached from real life,” Layug said.

Layug said that the activity also gives due attention to the rustic ambiance of Sta. Rita town. Sta. Rita is known as a sweet-tooth town, specializing in varieties of Spanish influenced delicacies. The town is the birthplace of the Duman Festival, which celebrates the native delicacy duman and the hometown of the cultural performing group ArtiSta.Rita.

Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on December 28, 2014.

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