Monotok (planting rice seeds): Easy job! Make a shallow hole by using a sharpen pole, put in the seeds, and cover with earth.
Ma’ngngahgakom Karabau: Tiring! After the padi are harvested, the buffaloes are allowed to free range any where. This is the time when the cows get pregnant. After 3 months of freedom, and for the alpha male, enjoying his harem, the horned animals are not going to give up easily and be tied or fenced. Persumably they know what’s in store for them next: 2 months of back-breaking work pulling the ploughs. So, we kids got the job of chasing and chasing these beasts and tire them out before the adults can collar them. It took hours! Sometimes the alpha male will fight back. Woe to you if they escape to the rumbia trees or the rubber plantation. They know how to hide and keep quiet.
Ma’ngahradu: Tilling the padi field involves 3 implements: the radu, ragus, and surud. Radu is the first used (see pic below). The ground is soft but not mud yet so it is hard hard work. It needs special skill to tilt the implement left to right for just the right length of time so the earth is evenly tossed up. Woe to a kid who breaks the radu. Usually there is no spare and father have to wait for his kampong buddies to finish their fields first.
Ma’ngahragus: The second tool is usually two large and thick wooden boards stuck with nibong spikes laid side by side and pulled by the animal. Easily the best-liked work. You just sit on a stool which is stuck to the ragus and guide the buffalo concentrically around the field (would have been nice to have an iPod then) to break and flatten the ploughed clumps of earth. Still, if you are a kid, you better impose your will on the buffalo right from the start and show that you are the boss for it knows you are a kid. If it thinks it has the drop on you, you will be zig-zagging every where, and it will refuse to budge many times. Horror of horrors, one time the cranky animal just went running in a straight line, ploughing through and flattening the newly-made buluntung. Mother hollers! again from half a kilometer away, “KUROION NU NOH ILO KARABAU (What have you done to the buffalo)?!!!
[Update, 25th Nov] Apparently even a stool is a no no here for the old folks; you are supposed to stand on the ragus all day long and guide the buffalo. My elder brother, in a flash of innovative thinking, stuck a chair on the ragus, and over it a large colorful umbrella. Ah, now that’s meragus for you. Mother hollers again…
Mongosurud: The last tool, a comb-like implement, (see picture below) is used to break finely the last clumps of earth and to sieve the grasses and vegetation. This is the most fragile of the 3 tools. Light work, this, except when the danged animal is in one of its moods, then you have to walk as fast as the buffalo wants to drag the surud (no stool here, sorry).
Mamabas: Buluntung are the field bunds. After each planting season the bunds are eroded and in a state of disrepair. Before planting the seedlings, the bunds need to be rebuilt by taking mud hand by hand and pasting it over the old bunds. Sheer hard work. An acre has 208 x 4 feet of buluntung.
Mananom: Planting the seedlings (totok) one by one by hand after the fields have been nicely prepared (see pic below). Most often the kids are excused from this because they can not plant the seedlings in a straight line. Of course, that becomes the incentive not to learn, haha.
Mamagamas: This is heavy work. After 3 months since planting, the seedlings have grown to two and a half feet tall…and so are many of the weeds! And for some fields, the weeds have grown all over the place. Now you have to pull them one by one, clump them together, walk to the edge of the field and throw them away.
Popokotop Karabau: This is my least-liked part. During rice planting, all buffaloes must be fenced or tied for they love to graze on the padi plants. (Can you imagine if you are a buffalo, and as far as the eye can see is green green grass just across the fence?). But the poor but valuable animal still have to eat for 6 months before they are allowed free. Kids have the monopoly on popokotop karabau: you ride on the buffalo and lead it to where there are grasses for it to eat (at kampong common areas, not someone’s lands) with mother’s instruction still ringing in your ear, “Don’t come home until the buffalo’s stomach is distended to the max!”. Problem with this is the obstreperous buffalo will take its time grazing. Hours! Even if you bring it to a place with the most luxuriant growths of grass this side of Eden, it will still take its own sweet time munching.
Ma’ngahwas: Draining the rice fields of water after the plants are 4 months old. This is fun time for kids! There are lot of fishes in the fields and it is time to collect them. In the old days this is where kids get the most protein. Since there were no freezers then, extra fishes were preserved by pickling them with rice and Pangi—a seed of a local tree that contains minute amounts of cyanide—and presto, you have bosou/nonsoom.
Mongomot: It is harvesting time when the padi stalks become ripe. This is about the month of March when the season turns to the dry season. Each stalk of padi needs to be cut off by hand one by one using an implement called Lingaman. The womenfolk do most of the harvesting. Somehow the men were excused, or at least not yacked at if they choose not to join. Harvest work becomes easier because of Mitabang—people cooperate to help each other and harvest in turn.
Mongogik: I hate this work. This is where the stalks of padi are pooled together and stepped on to separate the seeds from the stalks. The padi seeds are sharp and can be painful for non-callused feet. Because I and my siblings are not full time farmers (parents insisted we go to school every day) our feet soles are thin-skinned. Ow, ow, ow!