In defense of pork-A A +A
Wrapped in Grey
Monday, September 9, 2013
WITH apologies to vegetarian readers, let us admit that pork is a sweet succulent meat. It is easy to cook and versatile enough as a dish to respond to one's craving.
You can grill, baste, and sauté; add vinegar, sugar, or rosemary, and in the process of a simple culinary dialectical alchemy, the meat absorbs the ingredients and transcends its lowly origins to become more than what it started to be. There is a sweet spot to the taste of pork that is achieved when cooked with care and attention. The point when the meat and fat coalesce in a tender union of flavor and texture is incomparable to the satisfaction provided by other meats especially when it is roasted whole in fire for hours.
In a recent conversation with Anthropologist friends, I learned that the humble pig is actually a venerated animal in our indigenous culture. Understandably so since a cattle has never been an endemic animal in the Austronesian region and the baboy ramo or wild boar was the only source of meat in these parts. Our pre-historic forefathers relied on this animal as their source of important protein and accorded it the respect it deserved in their culture. There is even a local deity of a woman with many breasts akin to that of a sow or a female hog with a litter of pigs, perhaps a recognition of the nourishment that our forefathers received from this animal.
This veneration continues to this day when a family feast can never be celebrated without the roasted pig or lechon at the center of the table. Seeing that crispy brown lechon skin and underneath it, the mouth-watering layers of fat and meat salted just right, with the unmistakable aroma of lemon grass and spices, brings forth feelings of shared happiness and contentment. Partaking of the lechon's bounty should actually bring us back to a certain primal collective joy that we share with our forefathers across time.
However, the honorable pig has been receiving a bad rap in the light of contemporary political discourse in relation to the controversial pork barrel scam. And it is a development that is interesting since it steers us away from a recognition of the nourishing values of the animal to one that is rife with images of the greedy swine. This makes it a point of reflection for sociologists and anthropologists. Where does the term "pork barrel" come from? Who wields the discourse and against whom?
The term "pork barrel" is one that is constructed from elitist and colonial origins. It was first used to allude to Negro plantation workers who fought over their rations of salted pork in barrels during the period of slavery and then to American politicians as they scrambled madly for government funds for their districts.
But what should be noted here is that the critique emanates from a condescending standpoint of plantation owners over their Negro slaves and when it was adapted to politics, the ruling party over the minority hungry for federal resources. Thus, the critique of the pork barrel comes from entrenched interests looking down upon other less-entrenched formations.
Fast forward to an American neo-colony wracked by incredible tales of systemic corruption, there are a lot of interesting parallelisms here in the light of how the pork barrel scandal is managed by PNoy, the scion of landed interests, as his administration attacks other elite formations as represented by the Honasans, Enriles, and Estradas and others who, for all intents and purposes are johnnies-come-lately in the business of governance long under control of the oligarchic elite.
What is actually taking place is the assertion of the landed elite's control and monopoly of government resources as represented by PNoy and the Liberal Party by using Napoles as some sort of a "trojan pig" in the public consciousness.
The targets are other political formations especially those who built their electoral power not through land ownership but through the military establishment and mass media and other emergent bases of power. What confirms this is the adamant refusal of the ruling party to abandon its own pork barrel of special purpose funds amounting to hundreds of billions of pesos as if the people's money was their feudal birthright in the same way that the Aquinos and Cojuangcos regard Hacienda Luisita as the family heirloom.
The central role of the roasted pig or the lechon in our feasts represents our forefathers' openness to sharing and our old communitarian ways of living. It also speaks about our indigenous respect for the bounty of nature and how she provides for our collective nourishment. But something happened along the way and pork has assumed a new meaning.
In a manner of speaking, pork now represents the greediness of various factions of our elite as they fight over the choicest parts of the succulent and tender roasted pig which stands for the people's funds. While we, the ordinary Filipino people, stand outside the hacienda gates of Malacañang and heeding the call of our forefathers to respect the bounty of the earth for our collective nourishment, are also whipping up an appetite for social retribution.
Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on September 10, 2013.