Taste the "Terrior" of the Philippines

“You want to taste the Philippines; you want to taste the food? By eating heirloom rice, you taste the food that grew on our land, tilled by Filipino farmers. You are eating the ‘terrior’ of the Philippines.”

While many in the Cordillera have opted to leave, the rice terrace farmers of the Cordillera have heeded the voices of their ancestors and followed the call of their culture. They have continued to tend their historic high elevation terraces and the grains of their ancestors. Because of these farmers, a rich biodiversity of traditional rice varieties continues to exist in the Cordillera.

Traditional rice grains of the Cordillera

“But if we lose the farmers, if we lose the terraces, if we lose all these heirloom grains, we will be poorer. The DNA of these grains comes from our forefathers,” states Amy Besa, award-winning chef, author and early supporter of the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project.

“We call on our kababayans to help preserve the Philippine rice terraces by buying Cordillera heirloom rice that is available here in the US,” Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. said in a press release from the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. The Philippine Embassy is urging Filipino Americans and all nature-loving people of America to help preserve the centuries-old rice terraces of the Cordilleras as a world heritage site by patronizing the heirloom rice that the region is exporting to the United States. 

This is food to feel good about. The sale of this rice supports the indigenous people in a culturally appropriate economic initiative; works to preserve the historic Philippine rice terraces; and to conserve heirloom grains.

This is the vision of Eighth Wonder, Inc. and its Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project. Since 2006, Eighth Wonder has been working to create a domestic and international market for heirloom rice varieties by introducing home and professional chefs to its unparalleled taste, texture and aroma. Finally, the heirloom rice of the Cordillera, with its spectacular range of flavors, aromas and textures, is capturing the attention of growing number of chefs in North America and the Philippines.

Chef Margarita Fores, Executive chef at CIBO and recently named the #1 female chef in Asia, has been a passionate advocate of the heirloom rice. At the 2012 Salon del Gusto in Turin, Italy Chef Fores, along with a farmer representing the ominio producers of the Cordillera, showcased a traditional dessert made from the dark purple sticky rice to a the sold-out Taste Workshop on Asian rices.

Chef Chele Gonzales, Executive chef at Gallery VASK, one of the top 50 restaurants in Asia, said, “When I found heirloom rice, my mind was completely blown away! There are not many new ingredients like this you can find in cuisine. I call them a treasure of the Philippines. Any chef in the world will be blown away when they use the heirloom rice in their restaurant.”

“These heirloom seeds are easily the most flavorful, aromatic and unique varieties of rice I have ever had the pleasure of cooking.” Michael Hollerman, InHarvest Corporate Chef, California, USA.

With the growing demand for heirloom rice, farmers see that traditional farming in the terraces can have a future. Through the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project, farmers have labored and cooperated to produce and sell over 170 metric tons of heirloom rice and earned P10,500,000 (nearly a quarter of a million USD).

In order to help rehabilitate abandoned terraces and increase planting areas, the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project has distributed over 100 grants through its Adopt-a-Terrace program, resulting in nearly 11 hectares of terraces being repaired. From these reclaimed terraces, the farmers realized an additional P230,000 in sales. In 2016, the project is embarking on another round of Adopt-a-Terrace rehabilitation grants, this time funded by businesses that wish to purchase the rice.

20 MT of rice ready to undergo organic fumigation prior to sale

Yes, positive change is happening in the terraces. This is food to feel good about. This is the ‘terrior” of the Philippines.

Chef Chele Gonzales, Executive chef at Gallery VASK, one of the top 50 restaurants in Asia, said, “When I found heirloom rice, my mind was completely blown away! There are not many new ingredients like this you can find in cuisine. I call them a treasure of the Philippines. Any chef in the world will be blown away when they use the heirloom rice in their restaurant.”

“These heirloom seeds are easily the most flavorful, aromatic and unique varieties of rice I have ever had the pleasure of cooking.” Michael Hollerman, InHarvest Corporate Chef, California, USA.

With the growing demand for heirloom rice, farmers see that traditional farming in the terraces can have a future. Through the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project, farmers have labored and cooperated to produce and sell over 170 metric tons of heirloom rice and earned P10,500,000 (nearly a quarter of a million USD).

In order to help rehabilitate abandoned terraces and increase planting areas, the Cordillera Heirloom Rice Project has distributed over 100 grants through its Adopt-a-Terrace program, resulting in nearly 11 hectares of terraces being repaired. From these reclaimed terraces, the farmers realized an additional P230,000 in sales. In 2016, the project is embarking on another round of Adopt-a-Terrace rehabilitation grants, this time funded by businesses that wish to purchase the rice.

Yes, positive change is happening in the terraces. This is food to feel good about. This is the ‘terrior” of the Philippines.

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