Food & Drink

Rice: The Filipino Staple

Written by Patrick

Rice is a staple in almost every Filipino household.

Filipinos may have varying opinions about which dish is the best in the country but they will surely agree on one thing… that rice is life.  Yes, rice is a staple in every household and you will see Filipinos eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner everyday.  A meal is not just complete without a cup (or more!) of rice.  Some even eat just rice during meals, especially when money is not enough for viands (ulam in Tagalog) to go along with rice.

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So what is it with rice and Filipinos?  Here are some of the things you need to know about rice, the Filipino staple.

Rice as a source of energy.

Planting Rice

Caption:   A worker planting rice.

Many Filipinos do hard labor for a living and eating bread or salad is simply not enough.  Rice, on the other hand, is a good source of carbohydrate which the body converts into energy.  A cup or two of rice and a serving of fish or meat which cost not more than P100 ($2 USD) can sustain the body longer than any bread or salad which costs way more.

There are different ways to prepare rice.

Rice Meal

Caption:  A Filipino meal with boiled rice.

There are more than one way to cook rice.  The most common is by boiling but people also love to eat tutong (burnt rice), bahaw (leftover rice), or sinangag (fried rice, usually from leftover rice).

Rice is also used to cook lugaw (plain congee) and arroz caldo (chicken rice porridge).

Rice comes in different varieties.

Some of the rice varieties in the Philippines.

Caption:  Some of the rice varieties in the Philippines.

There are many varieties of rice available in the Philippines but the most popular is white rice which also comes in several varieties.  The premium varieties are softer and whiter but cost higher than less softer varieties.  In the last few years as people have become conscious of the health effects of eating too much white rice, many of them switched to eating healthier options such as brown rice, red rice, and black rice.  However, those are more costly than the regular white rice therefore making it still the most popular rice variety in the country.

Glutinous rice or sticky rice (malagkit na bigas in Tagalog) is also a variety of rice but is not eaten during meals.  Instead, it is used to cook native delicacies and desserts.

Rice can be made into desserts.


Caption:   Puto | Image Source

Yes, several native delicacies in the Philippines have two common ingredients and those are glutinous rice and coconut milk.  Puto, bibingka, suman, and biko to name a few.

Unlimited rice promos.

Several restaurants in the Philippines have “Unlimited Rice” promos wherein the customer is entitled for unlimited refill of rice upon ordering a particular meal combo.  The most famous, and probably the pioneer in this promo is Mang Inasal, a fast food chain known for their chicken barbecue.

Rice is an ancient crop.

Banaue Rice Terraces

Caption:  Banaue Rice Terraces | Image Source

Filipinos have been planting rice for thousands of years and proof is the Banaue Rice Terraces that is said to be more than 2,000 years old.  Igorot, the people of Banaue, carved the terraces into the mountains with minimal equipment.  Banaue Rice Terraces, along with other rice terraces in Ifugao, are still standing and being used up to this day.  They’ve become popular tourist attractions too and the one in Banaue is even referred to as the Eighth Wonder of the World”.

Rice is so significant to almost every Filipino.  As long as there’s rice in the storage or there’s money to replenish the supply, a Filipino feels happier no matter what is going on in their lives.

READ MORE: Filipino Food & Drinks

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About the Author


Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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