Once upon a time, deer roamed all over the Kapampangan region. There were more deer in the forests of Pampanga and Tarlac than what hunters and their families needed, wrote Fray Martinez de Zuniga in 1800.
In one town alone in Tarlac, more than 7,000 stags (male deer) were killed in just one year,1819. Our Kapampangan ancestors had no choice but to preserve the excess meat as “pindang usa” (sun-dried strips of venison) which ancient Chinese traders considered a delicacy.
Fray Zuñiga wrote, "Native and even Spanish women who have just given birth eat nothing else but deer meat, claiming that chicken meat gives them gas pains, and fish induces mucus, and beef is not palatable. And so it is only dried venison that can save them from a kind of hysterical passion locally known as ‘suba-suba,’ from which very few survive."
Was this what we know now as postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis? The mother’s hormonal shift following delivery, in rare cases, triggers hallucinations, delusions and violent behavior, including inability to bond with the baby and sometimes a tendency to harm the baby.
The word “usa” comes from the Malay word “rusa” which means deer.