Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Once Upon a Pig Raiser in Isinay Land

AGAIN, MANY THANKS for the finger wound I got for chopping chayote fruits to cook as supplemental food for our dogs. Had it not been for this mishap, I would not have also remembered that once upon a time chopping and cooking food for animals, particularly pigs, was part of my boyhood life.

Yes, unlike most if not all kids in Isinay land today, when I was little, part of my activities was raising pigs -- or rather helping my mother raise some -- when piggeries were still very wise and practical things to engage in in our part of Isinay country.

Not that no one is keeping swine in Dupax anymore to augment their income. But for the few that still do, it's already an entirely different world from what we had when I was a boy.

In my mind's eye come rushing -- and competing to be discussed first -- the following images:

We used for our piggery the ground floor of our rice granary (kamalig in both Tagalog and Ilokano, eyang in Isinay). To enclose the space, Papa nailed planks of lumber that had survived termites and rats for decades and augmented them with slabs I salvaged from the then FCA Sawmill that I mentioned in a previous post to have occupied the idle land across the Dupax cemetery.

For feeding trough, Mama used her dilapidated batya that also survived my penchant then to sell scrap metals, used bottles, and old kaserolas to the man from Malasin (or Bambang?) who went around Dupax occasionally carrying an assiw with a tiklis on each end and shouting "botte landuuukkk!"

We fed our pigs mostly with rice bran (duhi in Isinay, tuyo in Ilokano, darak in Tagalog). We sourced the rice bran from the rice mill (kiskisan in both Ilokano and Isinay) of the Mercado-Lim family whose operator was Ama Norio Salirungan who older guys called Utlo^ (Isinay for young leaves).

To make the rice bran more palatable, we had several menus to prepare it. Depending on their availability, we had a repertoire of rice bran cum green papayas, gabi runners (daludal in Ilokano and Isinay), kangkong leaves, galyang stalks, and the seasonal herb Amorphophallus campanulatus (stink herb in English, tigi in Ilokano, imbayang in Isinay, pongapong in Tagalog).

We sourced the supplemental feed mostly from my grandparents' bangkag (farm) in I-iyo and Langka. We got the kangkong and daludal from our solar near Pitang which often had water -- plus mudfish and tadpoles -- in its swampy lower part. For the imbayang, I had good exercise outdoors and special treats of such edibles as mangoes, guavas, anonas, and sapang while looking for them among the thickets in Pitang and Abuwew.

Cooking the items into what they call binugbog in Ilokano and seyor in Isinay was itself fun. It included chopping the organic veggies and in the process getting awed at the star-shaped cross-sections of the papaya, and occasionally enjoying a half-ripe fruit for my lonesome. The task also included building a fire in the side stove meant for cooking the feed items -- and in the process get an excuse to delegate taking care of baby sisters on weekends so I could go gather more firewood (itungu in Isinay, pagsungrod in Ilokano, panggatong in Tagalog).

Firewood was at the time plenty and free in the wilderness areas close to home. Among my foraging spots were Pitang, Gabaldon, and Abuwew near our house in Domang, but occasionally I went with my cousin Nelson Castro and neighbor Jude Calacala to the Reyes area near the cemetery and as far as the Dupax Subsidiary Nursery. (Sorry for the antsoan dilaw, gubas and other refo species we pilfered in the Nursery, but Nelson and I had no inkling we would become foresters then.)

Some more memories...

It was part of my chores even when I was already in high school to feed the pigs, clean their pen, and to splash water on them especially when the weather is hot. I recall I had a favorite black male that I named Arob-ob-ob that we subjected to castration by Inang Feliza (she used sharpened bamboo called bulo in Ilokano, uhaw in Isinay, boho in Tagalog). During feeding time, I would scratch the back of this pet and it would stop feeding and would arch its back to enjoy my rubbing.

I also recall that we once had a wild pig (bavuy si eyas in Isinay, baboy ramo in Tagalog, babuy ilahas in Bisaya, alingo in Ilokano) among our pets. I had the luck of catching the fellow one time I joined Mama in helping weed my grandparents' upland rice farm in Langka. It was only the size of a cat then and one of the weeders was about to shoot it with his shotgun when we heard it grunt among the rice plants. But when I called "piiigg!" to it, the piglet came to me. It was tame and had a rope on its neck -- indicating that it had an owner. Since no one lived nearby, we presumed the piglet got lost and so I took it home in Domang. It must have tremendously missed feeding on wild tubers and fruits in the wilderness because it didn't get fat with the guavas, kamote tops, rice bran and binugbog that I pampered it with. For many months, it grew to a size not bigger than a small dog.

As for the other pigs, when a sow would get "in heat" (mammaya in Isinay, agmaya in Ilokano, naglalandi in Tagalog), Mama and I would bring it to be impregnated by the gigantic Duroc White Jersey bull at the Dupax Cooperative piggery at Balzain. Picture this: a scrawny boy would pull the rope tied to the neck of the pig while his mom would goad the pig to walk faster with a stick. The Isinay term for this pig-escorting activity is dundunon.

At the time, we referred to Balzain as Dereya and the piggery was managed by Uwa Bilyong Bastero. I recall a story went around that when they were clearing the ground for its construction, it was Father Gilbert van Huisseling who took up the cudgels of felling the gigantic tree there.

Isinays called the tree tatawwa then and it was believed to be haunted. It was only when I was already taking up Dendrology at the UPLB College of Forestry that I came to know the tree's scientific name to be Sterculia foetida (bangar in Ilokano, kalumpang in Tagalog, wild almond in English).

What happens when the sow gave birth? Mama and I would of course be very happy because the litter meant fruits of our labor. We distributed some females to friends for a pig-raising and co-ownership system they call paiwi in Tagalog. The system calls for the raiser to share half of the litter when the sow gives birth for the first time, then return the sow when it gives birth for the second time. I don't recall if this system had ever been profitable for my mother.

Oh yes, we never had our pigs butchered; we instead sold a grown up one for a hundred pesos or so to a slow-moving truck that occasionally visited our part of Dupax and whose buyers shouted "babuyyyy!" for all pig raisers in the neighborhood to hear.

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