Ulikan, as it is called in Kalinga Province, is a native race variety of the species Oryza sativa subsp. indica. It is a red colored, non-sticky, aromatic long grain variety. It is high yielding (between 2.2 to 3.8 tons per hectare), with a higher than average number of rice grains per flower cluster with an average of 315. It is non-shattering and resistant to pests and disease. The plant is tall, growing 120 – 140 cm in height, and has a growth cycle of 4 – 7 months from transplant to harvest. The variety is adaptable to both low and high elevations and is known for its low input requirements. It can be grown in both the wet and dry season. The main cropping is in December or January with harvesting in May or June; but a secondary crop can also be planted in July with a harvest in November. The variety has a wonderful earthy aroma when cooking, and a mild eating flavor. The grain is substantial and with a consistency that holds together well when cooked. Red rice from Kalinga and Ifugao is a staple as a plain cooked rice served with dried legumes, mungo beans and wild-gathered river greens.
In Kalinga, the red rice is synonymous with the municipalities of Lubuagan and Pasil, in the valley of the Pasil River. The variety has multiplied and has become the source of food for the surrounding communities, as it is often given as gifts to newlywed couples as a sign of prosperity and food security.
The importance of this rice variety is documented in oral stories of the area. In the Pasil area of Kalinga, one legend states that when the great leader Likan of the Taguibong tribes was lost after a hunt, this rice variety grew from his remains. The tribe brought the seeds home, and planted them in remembrance of their leader. It was said that the red color was a sign from Likan that he was happy that his descendants honored him. The name “ulikan” means that Likan will live on, as long as the rice does. In the Lubuagan area of Kalinga, another story tells that this variety was has been found growing wild since time immemorial. It was domesticated by the local people who were fascinated by its red grain. According to local legend, the seeds should be planted before the break of dawn, and Kabunyan’s (god of the indigenous peoples) bright daylight turns the grain red.
This red rice variety is planted mixed with other traditional varieties over about 200 hectares, though it is not known exactly how much land is dedicated specifically to this variety. It is grown both for personal consumption and sale on the market, and represents an important source of income for growers in these remote villages. However, younger generations are leaving the area in search of work in other areas, abandoning the high elevation rice terraces, and this unique native variety.