Saturday, March 19, 2011

Old folks have unique standards of measurement. But how reliable is their system?

Dr Abe V Rotor

Senator Juan Flavier, then director if the International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, in his books, My Friends in the Barrios, quoted an old farmer to describe a system of measurement used in the village.

“One hill is called a tundos, composed of three seedlings. A series of tundos in a column is called tudling, and four tudling is a saklong or a plot. Now in harvesting, when you take hold of the equal of one tundos it is called hawak (literally a grip) composed of 100 rice panicles.

One puno (stalk) produces 35 panicles so three seedlings make about 100 panicles equal to a hawak. Five hawak is equivalent to one beylita and four or five beylita make one bigkis (bundle). Depending on the number of bigkis the term varies. This is done by gathering (pag-iipon) or forming mounds (pagtitimbun). Thirteen bigkis make a talumpak while 50 – 100 bigkis are equal to a sipuk. Several sipuk form a mandala.”

Notice that the system is also a measure of yield. In a poor harvest it would need more than one puno to produce 35 panicles, and more than three seedlings to make a hundred, more than five beylita to make a bigkis, and so on.

In Ilocos when I was a young farmhand, rice harvesting was done by a hand-held tool (rakem). The stem of the panicle is cut one foot long. The leaves are removed, and the panicles are bundled with tie (patpat) made of bayog bamboo, the girth of which allows both hands to meet (bettek). The bundles are inverted like bouquet under the sun to dry before they are threshed and milled, or kept in the granary.

The Spaniards introduced a system of measurement based on volume. These are cavan, ganta (or salop), and chupa. There are six chupa in a ganta, twenty-five ganta to make a cavan. There is also litro, equivalent to four chupa, and gantilla, eight of which is equivalent to one ganta. Except for the cavan which is made of jute sack, these measuring tools is made of wood having the same dimension for all sides. Spain did not invent this system; it evolved from early Europe and the Middle East, which they in turn introduced it as a convenient system in the Philippines. It was popularly adopted for almost 400 years.

We now use the international standard based on the metric system. Today, one can find the ganta or gantilla only in the museum. ~ 

No comments: