A common sight for travelers and motorists passing by through Lianga is palay or newly harvested, unpolished rice spread out to dry in the sun like yellow-green carpets covering up to one lane of the concreted portions of the national highway. It is something the locals take for granted but visitors, especially those from the city, always end up up shaking their heads and clucking their tongues in disbelief at the audacity of it.
Imagine yourself finally on the concrete highway and itching to step on the accelerator after dawdling for what felt like eternity on rough, bumpy roads. Then you come upon your side of the highway blocked by carpets of palay while traffic is zipping by on the other lane. What do you do? Do you, like the rest of us considerate mortals, wait for the traffic to clear the other lane and leave the palay alone? Or do you just curse the heavens and drive roughshod over the whole thing. It's the highway after all, isn't it?
That may be but if you do run over the palay then be sure you drive very fast so that you'll not be seen and caught by its owner. Otherwise you might end up being chased by him with a long and sharpened bolo knife in one hand and a homemade shotgun in the other.
Rice, in Filipino culture, is a valuable commodity with almost sacred and mystical properties. Running over it on the highway, even in its raw, unpolished state and despite its being improperly spread out and dried on surfaces intended solely for vehicles and pedestrian traffic, is an act with almost sacrilegious connotations. Better leave the palay alone. Who knows what bad karma or bad luck brought by the wrath of the rice gods may befall those who dare defile it.
It is a frustrating, if not infuriating and exasperating, exercise in futility to try to explain to the local rice farmers and some rice traders here why they should not be drying their palay on the road surfaces of the national highway. After all, they reason out that the highways and the roads are public property and for public use. Therefore, their use of these public infrastructures for albeit a rather unusual purpose, is not improper but merely an extension of their rights as citizens to freely use or, in this case, misuse it.
Any attempt to argue about reciprocal rights and civic responsibility with them becomes ultimately mired in non sequiturs and irrelevancy. To stubbornly persist arguing against such rock hard obstinacy is to invite irritation if not exasperation then anger. Then it's back to speedily driving away or running very fast from either the bolo knife or the homemade shotgun. In the end, it is a better and wiser choice to just give up and leave with your dignity and body parts intact and whole.
Discretion, they say, is the better part of valor. I could not agree more.