Sunday, July 22, 2012

To Die For

It caters probably to the basest, most primitive and animalistic of of our appetites and hearkens back to the time when man before he learned to cultivate and harvest plants, when he was first and foremost a hunter and predator.  I am, of course, alluding to here to our craving and taste for roasted or broiled meat and in the case of most people in this country, our predilection for that requisite centerpiece of Pinoy party fare and the epitome of Filipino gastronomic delights - the lechon de leche or the roasted suckling pig.

For most Filipinos the term lechon may be the colloquial and generic term for all manner of roasted pig irregardless of the size and I have seen them come in all sizes from small piglets barely half a dozen kilos in weight to real heavyweights that would put a baby carabao or water buffalo to shame.  But the word is actually derived from leche which is Spanish for milk. Thus the term lechon de leche is actually a redundancy yet, in local parlance, it is used to distinguish piglets prepared for roasting which should be ideally between two to six weeks of age from their larger or older kin.

Real lechon, to be the culinary delight it is meant to be, must cooked to perfection, its skin dark and crisp, the meat tenderly moist and juicy.  This is something that is actually easier to do with the real suckling pig than with the full grown variety of the same animal since a young piglet has plenty of collagen in its meat which makes it juicily tender and it has still to develop the robust muscle fibers that, in an adult pig, can toughen the flesh.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


A wise and grizzled farmhand watching over a piece of coconut land belonging to our family came by to see me not long ago and sought my permission to cut down half a dozen coconut trees which he said had been struck by lightning.  The land is on the outskirts of the small, rural village of Salvacion in San Agustin town which is just north of Lianga.

"All six trees were hit by lightning?" I had asked.  "Not all of them," he replied.  "Only one was hit but the others were singed by the lightning bolt.  They all have to be cut down or many other trees will be affected."  "Which trees?" I asked naively.  "All of them. It's like a curse," he said, his tone that of a man explaining simple reality to a retarded child. "It can spread and many others might be struck again in the future."

Now, I have been brought up and educated to be a clear-headed and rational man.  Lightning, I have been taught, is merely the massive discharge of electricity between the ground and the atmosphere (or between clouds) that occurs when there is an imbalance in the build-up of atmospheric electrical charges.  It is a purely random natural event can be explained rationally and scientifically.

Certainly, it is not some supernatural or mystical force possessed of some degree of malignant intelligence that can suddenly and arbitrarily decide to cleave down from the heavens like a swift blade of mystic light to cut and burn down its victims whether man, plant or beast.  It does not leave behind the deadly, poisonous scorch marks of its passing on those it did not outright kill or destroy, marks that doom all those that have survive its path with the threat of a final finishing stroke, an inevitable coup de grĂ¢ce if you will, in the near future.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Not Good Enough

Last July 1 while at breakfast, a trio of related new reports caught my attention the way a steaming cup of extra strong black coffee can deliver a rousing, wake up jolt to the heart and brain after a bleary, listless morning.  It appears that Sec. Ramon Paje of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources had just announced the sacking from their posts of a total of 31 DENR officials in Region XIII (Caraga Region) and Region XI (Davao Region) for their failure to control illegal logging activities in their respective areas.

Removed from their posts were Leonardo Sibbaluca ( Region XI Executive Director), Jim Sampulna (Region XIII Executive Director), Musa Saruang (Regional Technical Director for Forestry for Region XIII), Hardinado Patnugo (RTD for Forestry for Region XI) and Claudio Jumao-as ( Forest Resources Conservation Division OIC for Region XI. The provincial environment and national resources officers (PENRO) of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Sur, Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley were also relieved of their duties together with at least 20 community environment and national resources officers (CENRO) including those heading DENR offices in Bislig City, Tandag City, Cantilan and Lianga in the province of Surigao del Sur.

Sec. Paje had pointed out that it has been over a year since President Noynoy Aquino had issued Executive Order No. 23 which effectively imposed a total logging ban covering all natural and secondary forests all over the country and yet the the anti-illegal logging task force also created under the same executive order has been able to receive and confirm reports of rampant illegal timber cutting operations in many forest areas supposedly under the monitoring of the relieved DENR officials.  The sacking of the 31 DENR officials, according to Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte, has the support of Malacanang and  is a move aimed to prove the sincerity and seriousness of the government's commitment to transparency and public accountability in government.