Chicken Inasar-A A +A
Saturday, May 12, 2012
HOPE this makes you smile and forget for a while problems that keep stalking you day in and out.
This story is a revision of the exchange notes I have had with a colleague, Myra, two years ago. We both were working for a special ministry for the street families of Manila. She kept helping me in making light stories about our ministry.
Once, she sent me a story about chicken and pork. With my own notes, I developed a merged story and came out with a true but funny one. Actually, another thing that inspired me and Myra to write light stories about livestock was our own livestock project, chicken and hogs, for the street families we have resettled in a farm village in Nueva Ecija. I took charge of developing the village and the transformation of the families settled there.
The story finally developed this way.
Chicken vendors have no respect at all for chickens. They pluck off all their feathers and display them on cold tiled slabs, naked, with pimply skin and with their feetless legs sticking up in the air. Then they call the poor hens dressed chicken!
Pigs are treated with more dignity. Hog butchers, at least, have the decency to disguise pig parts with non-explicit names such as pork belly or ham. Chicken parts, however, go around with suggestive names such as chicken thigh and chicken breast.
Just as recently as one century ago, roosters were treated with respect because they were responsible for waking up the sun and the entire Philippines. Every morning, according to legend, a rooster in Ilocos Norte would wake up, flap its wings, and loudly call, “Tiktalaok.” His voice would travel east, west, north and south, over the silent plains, over the Sierra Madre and Cordillera ranges, over the seas and lakes and rivers, until “mula Aparri hanggang Jolo”, roosters were crowing “Tiktalaok.”
Sooner or later the sun, wondering what the racket was all about, would yawn and stretch and get up. Rice farmers and their wives and children would also get up because roosters were not created with snooze functions.
Meanwhile roosters from the Babuyan Islands to Tawi-Tawi strutted about proudly, pecking at the hens in their harem and feeling kingly. But then someone in faraway Finland invented Nokia with alarm clocks and snooze functions, which had a devastating effect on Filipino roosters. This is the first reason why roosters in the Philippines today are in much need of psychological counseling.
The second reason is because male chickens never grow up to become Chicken Joy, Chicken McNuggets, chicken inasal and finger lickin’ good. All they grow up to become is manok na pangsabong and come under terrible tribulation from the wives of sabongeros.
Wives of sabongeros, we have found out, are extremely jealous of manok na pangsabong because their husbands spend more time caressing roosters than they spend caressing their wives. The sabongeros – many of them government employees – go to national derbies at the Araneta Center where they spend as much as one million of taxpayers’ money on bets.
Believe me. I am not making this up. I learned this from a taxi driver who drove me to the airport for a recent trip to GenSan. The day that sabungeros lose is a day of great rejoicing for their wives who then have the pleasure of boiling the roosters for four hours straight to make tinola.
Let me get back to the second reason why male chickens have a low self-esteem. Modern hatcheries have two or three employees who do nothing all day but pick up newly-hatched chicks and look quickly at their back sides to determine whether they are male or female. The females are given good food and pampered and they grow up to become egg-layers or the content of Styrofoam packages in fast food restaurants.
Meanwhile the males are put in muddy sacks and taken to a cemetery and left to die.
This practice would have gone on for the next two or three centuries, except that one fateful day in history, a lasenggero in Nueva Ecija was staggering and hiccupping about in the same cemetery where hundreds of poor little male chicks were staggering about, falling into freshly-dug graves, stepping into eye sockets of scattered skulls, and dying of tiny heart attacks at the sight of spirits.
The lasenggero, pulling himself out of a freshly-dug grave, could not believe his eyes. “Pulutan!” he hiccupped. He took the free pulutan home with him and made them into adobo… and that is where the delicacy called day-old chicks began. Believe me, I made up only 25 percent of this.
Today the day-old chick delicacy has spread to Manila. The poor chicks are dyed a hideous orange color, the same color as the gift of choice for Ondoy victims, another member of the animal kingdom with low self-esteem: sardines.
I was in General Santos City few times in the last three years. Do you think I got to eat tuna belly or tuna panga in the tuna capital of the Philippines? Do you think I got a year’s worth of healthful omega-3 fatty acids and burped tuna all the way back to Manila?
Naaaah! Only once. Most of the time, my hosts proudly treated me to dinner at a chicken inasal restaurant.
In my last visit, I proceeded to Davao from Gensan. In Davao I immediately discovered poultry persecution. Competing for appetites versus Jollibee barbeque are chicken inasal restaurants (Banok’s, Penong’s, Jo’s, Pard’s) and lechon manok stands (Kini Rogers, Sr. Pedro, Bounty Fresh, Cooks) – to name a few. I’ve been told that chickens in Davao wish they belonged to an endangered species.
This is not to say that chickens have not improved in their social stature. Years ago, no one kept chickens in cages. Chickens were allowed to run around freely to scratch dry carabao manure. If anybody wanted, say, pinaupong chicken for his birthday, he had to -- three days in advance -- catch one of those chickens, tie it to a post, and feed it a cleansing diet until it was finally cleansed of carabao manure.
Today chickens with the same old disgusting scratching habit are raised on special farms in Tanay, Rizal, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac, Batangas, Negros, Cebu, and many other places, are given special names like free-range, organic chickens, and sold at high-end supermarkets at four times the price of non-carabao manure scratching chickens.
So, what do you want to have for tonight?
Me, I want pork for my regular meals this weekend. Just this weekend.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 12, 2012.