Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Rice" by Manuel Arguilla

"Rice" by Manuel Arguilla  (1938, 5 pages)

Short Stories of the Philippines
A Reading Life Project in Conjunction with
A Simple Clockwork

1911 to 1944

My posts on older, mostly pre-World War Two, short stories of the Philippines are the most viewed  items out of over 1200 posts on my blog.  At first I thought the large number of viewers must be students but the high level of readership has persisted too  long and the location of the readers is too diverse to support this idea.   I am happy to see there is a wide real interest in these older stories, all written in English, the second language of the Philippines.   I think these stories are the real literary treasure of the Philippines.  They also are a great resource for those wishing to see how their ancestors lived and an invaluable resource for students of colonial Asian literature.  They are also a great pleasure to read.   

I have already posted on a story by Manuel Arguilla  "How Brother Leon Brought Home a Wife".
Manuel Arguilla (1911 to 1944) was from  the big island of Luzon, in the north in  Barrio Nagrebcan, Bauang, La Union.   He grew up speaking Ilokano,  the third most spoken language in the Philippines.   Most of his stories are about the common people in the small town he grew up in.   After finishing high school he moved to the Manila area (this had to have been a two or three day at least commute in those days) to attend the University of the Philippines, not far from where I live, in fact.   He received a B.S. in education, was president of the University literary club and married Lydia Villaneuva, another talented writer we hope to post on one day. 

After graduation he taught creative writing at the University of Manila and also worked for the government at the Bureau of Public Welfare as the editor of their publication.   He was a dedicated patriot and during the Japanese occupation he organized and led a secret intelligence organization.
He was captured by the Japanese who tortured him to death.    

"Rice" is a terribly sad story set among very poor rural people who make their living from growing rice.   The story starts out with Pablo and his beloved carabao (water buffalo).   These animals are normally very gentle and are often almost parts of the family inspite of their huge size.   The description of Pablo taking the carabao to feed was very beautiful and moving.  We see the house Pablo shares with his wife and family.  "As he looked at the house Pablo did not see how squalid it was."    He calls out to his wife but she does not answer so he asks a neighbor woman if she knows where his wife went.  The woman has no rice in the house.   For those outside the country, rice is the basic foodstuff of the country, often eaten with every meal.   To not have rice is basically to not have food.  The only food they have in the house is some snails they collected in the rice fields.   They have to hide them from the guards of the plantation owner as they are supposed to pay for taking even snails from the fields.  The families have only one way to get rice to hold them over before the harvest comes in.   They can borrow sacks of rice from the plantation owner, to be repaid back two sacks for one.    

Pablo tells his wife he is going to rob the truck that carries the rice.   You can read the story here to find out what happens.

"Rice" is a very moving story that shows us how dominated the lives of rural workers were by the owners of the plantations on which they worked.   

My date of publication is a guess.  If anyone knows the publication history of this great story, please leave a comment.

Mel u
The Reading Life


claire said...

Thanks, Mel, for directing us to the site. Do you know of this one as well?

It's a good resource for many Philippine short stories there.

valerie sirr said...

Good to see there's interest in the Phillipnes in the short story. This one sounds similar to the Irish peasants' situation in the 18th and 19th century

OOMG said...

Has anyone knew when this story was written? What could have insipred Manuel Arguilla? Please reply to this, I need it for a report. Answers will be very much appreciated. Thank you and God bless. :)

Unknown said...

thanks po ... nakakuha ko ng another idea para sa report ko :)