Getting to know my meal

Fiesta. It’s a huge deal in the Philippines. In a country where 95% of its population is Catholic, fiesta is the celebration of Santo Nino, or Baby Jesus. Each barangay (neighborhood/village) has it’s own and celebrates it during different times of the year. And in our neighborhood, Barangay Inalad, it just happens to fall on the last weekend of January. It also serves as an excuse to invite all your family and friends over to eat. Eat a lot. A lot of pork. Pork in different forms. All forms of delicious. And drink. Drink a lot. A lot of grown up elixirs. Elixirs that make daddio act funny. Funny like his face.

This little piggy...

This little piggy…

But like any good party, preparation is key. It’s an epic undertaking of equal parts planning, labor, and play. That being said, I’ve compiled a checklist of things that need to be done in the days leading up to Fiesta Saturday:

  1. 2-3 weeks in advance: Secure a cook as early as possible. I cannot stress how important this is! He/she will dictate the success of your event. They must possess explicit knowledge in both how to butcher a pig and prepare various dishes using Miss Piggy as the primary ingredient.
  2. 1 week in advance: Forecast how many people will be passing through. This will decide…
  3. …how many kilos – Yes, kilos. The Philippines uses both metric and imperial systems – your pig (or pigs) must be. In our case, that would be roughly 80 kilos. Or 175 pounds.
  4. Monday: Drive an hour to Dumaguete City to hit up the supermarket and buy a laundry list of items that either cannot be bought in Siaton or must be bought in large quantities. When finished, make sure to bring back pasalubong (homecoming gift) for your family back home. In this case, that would be 2 dozen assorted donuts from Dunkin.
  5. Tuesday: Relax. You’re going to need to conserve energy for…
  6. Wednesday early morning: Go to Malatapay (livestock market) to stake your swine. This place is CRAY CRAY! You’ve got pig and goat farmers showcasing their product and frenzied consumers engaging in frantic bidding wars. It’s loud. It’s stinky. And it’s scary, to be quite honest. People shouting over each other. Pigs squealing in terror, fighting their handlers as they get tied up and placed into tricycle side-cars once they’re sold off (they stay in your backyard until their day of butchering). You can’t help but feel sorry for your future breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
  7. Wednesday evening: Head over to Inalad Outdoor Auditorium to watch my Ate Kyra take part in the opening ceremony and compete in the swimsuit and evening gown portion of the Miss Teen Inalad 2016 competition.
  8. Thursday morning: Buy any last minute items that may have been overlooked in your initial grocery run.
  9. Thursday evening: Make our way over to Inalad Auditorium for the continuation of Ate Kyra’s Miss Teen Inalad 2016 competition. Watch her impress in the Native Costume introduction, wince in horror as she fumbles her way through her dance routine in the talent showcase, and laugh uncontrollably at her as she fails miserably in the Question and Answer portion.
  10. Friday morning: Here’s the tough part. Where the pig dies. Its not a pretty sight. But I learned that she sacrificed her life so we would not go hungry. That her death served a greater purpose. And her soul went to piggy heaven. After that sobering, new, life experience, the pig is drained of it’s remaining blood, shaved clean, then butchered. And the cooks begin the initial stages of preparation.
    Shaving the pig clean

    Watching my cousins shave our pig clean

  11. Friday evening: We once again find ourselves at Inalad auditorium for the dance party (or “disco”, as it’s called here) that, literally, lasts until the break of dawn. It’s like an all ages, hallucinogenic-free rave. Babies nestled in their carriers as mothers shake their groove thangs. Father’s hanging back, playing it cool while sipping on San Miguels (San Migs for short) and Red Horse. Teenagers holding hands with their significant others, being lambing-lambing (sweet-sweet), oddly, slow-dancing to uptempo dance hits. The toddler to pre-teen demographic cutting a rug, shaking their tail feathers to 120bpm versions of “Whip/Nae Nae”. Everyone spending calories, working up an appetite for tomorrow’s feast.
  12. Saturday in it’s entirety: FIESTA!!!
    Chicken afritada over an open flame

    Chicken afritada cooking over an open flame

Sweet and sour pork spare ribs. Chicken afritada. Pork tocino. The parental’s personal favorite, humba. Dinuguan. Housemade chicharron. Naked fried chicken. Pork, jackfruit, and black bean stew. Embutido. Ground pork with pineapple sauce. There’s usually lechon too – Tony Bourdain proclaimed the Philippines make the best in the world. But considering how big our pig was we decided to save the lechon for our despidida instead. And let’s not forget the copious amounts of Fundador Brandy, Tanduay Rhum, and red table wine for the old folk.

Some guests eat and run without offense to the host. That’s just how it is. But most hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Even passers-by like the traveling ice cream men and delivery guys who dropped off our purified drinking water are invited to feast. It’s a cultural thing. If you ever go to a Filipino house the first thing out of their mouth, without fail, will be “Did you eat?”. And in a poor fishing village where the main staples are fish and vegetables and people work their behinds off to make just a couple of bucks a day, they almost always humbly accept.  It really is a beautiful thing.

Friends and family enjoying the fiesta

Before the party really got jumping

Me? I bonded with all of my cousins. My mom? She did the rounds making sure everyone was well fed. My dad? He went camera crazy. He also got drunk. The three of us together? We got fat. and we porked ourselves out. So much, in fact. that I can’t believe I’ve actually gotten to the point where tomorrow…

…I’m eating veggies, man.

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