Arsenia Bontoc, an Ifugao farmer
In the ricefields of Banaue, in the famous mountains of Northern Philippines, Ifugao farmers descending from an ancestral tribe exhaust themselves daily. Usually, men work the soil and the dykes, women the rice. Arsenia Bontoc, 42, is one of them..
Six days a week, she goes to the terraces from 8am to 5pm, but the day we met her, she was still there past 6pm, working until the light disappears. The owner of the plot pays her 165 pesos a day (less than 4$), a meager salary that sometimes makes her borrow rice from her neighbours to feed her 5 children.
She raised them alone for 7 years, abandoned by the husband. Her eldest, 13 years old, is a scholar at Noah's Ark school, a children's foundation. She wants him to later go on to College for the hope of better work to improve their dailies.
If water flows on the terraces, unfortunately there's not enough, because of El Niño, a climate pattern that brings drought to South East Asia. Levels are so low comparing to the necessary values to grow the rice, the whole community gives help to improve the irrigation system, to use the water as much as possible.
Arsenia is also a volunteer in the Health Center of the village, supplying medecines and vitamins to the community.
Also, sometimes she can perform in a local band for the Banaue Hotel, the little money (4$) and the possible tips she earns, improves then the next days .
If she and her family are catholics, there are many churches and missions around, their Ifugao culture is very persistent. Besides the dances, they perpetrates some customaries and rituals like animals sacrifices or the conservation of ancester's bones. Her children are also attaching great value to their culture, so we can hope those field terraces and traditions will last.
From an interview by Ellen Mercado.