Monday, November 21, 2005
MY LIFE WITH A PIGIt was only for about a month one summer when I was 6 years old. Our barrio is the last of Subic; the next town, separated only by a river, is Castillejos. This is in Zambales. My aunt, unable to find me a puppy (or so she said) tied a rope around the neck of one of her piglets and let me have him as my summer pet. I reluctantly took it thinking she had gone batty from drinking the elixirs bought from a salesman who traveled through our barrio. That following weekend when my father came, I told him about his sister’s vice, but he ignored me. He paid more attention to my pet pig.
My father always gave me a puppy during the summer and just before school would start, it would be sent off to my aunt’s in the province. One summer, when I was about five, the puppy I had once taken care of had grown into a vicious guard dog and would only respond kindly to my aunt. When I arrived for my summer vacation, he saw me as nothing more than an intruder. He incessantly barked and snarled at me. I was upset by it. I thought he was an ungrateful scruffy dog worthy of serious discipline from his master—me.
The next morning, I grabbed one of the rakes leaning against the side of the tool shed and proceeded to scare him with it if he didn’t learn to hush at my presence. He only got meaner and his barking increased even more in intensity. I stopped when I heard my aunt calling me. She handed me two pieces of corn bread as late morning snack, which I decided to share with that scruffy dog chained under a tree. Stupid me, I pulled a stool to sit next to him so we could eat together like we used to when he was a puppy. Instead of going for his piece of corn bread, he went for my right thigh.
My aunt was worried to death; not because I got bitten, but how my father might react when he found out. Twenty-five excruciating shots I had to endure during that summer vacation. The doctor would always have a little plastic toy for me or a piece of candy, but I was always so traumatized by the needle that I enjoyed none of it. So, the next summer when I was asking her for a puppy, she thought I might be safer with a pig.
We became the laughing stock to some of the folks in that barrio, but I paid them no mind; wherever I went, there, tagging right along was my pet pig. He was a dark brown with spots of mostly tan and lighter shades of brown. I had trained him well enough that he no longer required a rope around his neck.
I would also regularly bathe him with soap like I did with my puppies. He was regularly groomed and kept clean that my aunt allowed him inside the house much to the envy of that vicious scruffy dog tied under the tree. In the afternoons when we went swimming at the river, he would occupy himself by sniffing along the bank. Sometimes, he’d find himself a shade and take a nap. He would awaken when it was time for us to go home.
People would also find us sitting by the sideline during the inter-barrio basketball games. Some of the players asked me to have him as their team mascot but I refused. I knew he’d end up as pulutan after the tournament. But my pet pig proved to be a great distraction to the opposing teams that we soon got the respect of the barrio’s comedians; we were no longer the butt of their jokes.
There was also the summer evening dance on that same basketball court in which the lights and music would be powered by a generator. My pet pig, cousins and I would be at the far corner where we would watch the barrio’s young ladies and men having the time of their life. We would poke fun at our older brothers on the dance floor while my pet pig next to me tried to make sense of the whole event.
Twice a month, a Sunday mass would be held in our barrio’s chapel next to the basketball court and my aunt would prepare the after mass breakfast. It was a big effort since other relatives would come over, including the visiting priest and his entourage from the church in Castillejos. I guess it was my aunt’s show of gratitude for having been blessed with a good income from her backyard poultry and piggery business.
My going back to the city coincided with one of those after mass breakfasts. It was actually a grander affair because my entire family was there to take me back home. Instead of immediately joining everyone for a hearty meal after mass that morning, I was running around frantically looking for my pet pig. I actually wanted to spend whatever time we have left together. And when my father heard me asking for him, all of a sudden he announced that we had to leave and would just have breakfast somewhere along the way. I found myself in this whirlwind of saying goodbye to everybody and then immediately getting whisked out and off on our way home.
The following week, when my father sensed that I was attempting to request for my pet pig to be brought to Manila, he told me the truth. Supposedly, my aunt had mistakenly turned him into a lechon de leche; the table’s centerpiece on that Sunday’s breakfast buffet. And as I cried, my father comforted me by saying that I was right all along; that my aunt had, in fact, gone batty from those elixirs she loved to drink.
Every now and then I’d still think about that summer with my pet pig. In New York, people I talked to about it were either puzzled or revolted by the idea of my having a pet pig. It wasn’t until later on when it became a more acceptable idea; the evening news during the ‘90s started to feature special interest stories about domesticated pet pigs. People started becoming more aware how smart these animals are. And of course, the movie Babe endeared pigs to a lot of people.
More recently, Oprah Winfrey featured a pet pig that ran out of the house and played dead right on the middle of the street. When a couple of people walked near him, he suddenly got up, made a lot of noise and headed back to the house, but kept turning to look at them. The people followed the pig back to the house and discovered lying on the living floor was his master suffering from a heart attack.
The doctor who treated my dog bite was given a distinguished award a couple of years ago for his services to the poor. I will blog about him another time.
The photograph of a sow and her piglets taken by Noel and featured on his NoelG blogsite inspired me to write this blog.
Labels: Growing up memoirs
posted by Señor Enrique at 6:22 AM
- NoelG said...
Enrique, what a nostalgic story. I enjoyed reading it. Thanks for the plug. I have also provided a link to your blog in that page.
- Senor Enrique said...
- niceheart said...
You must be heartbroken when you learned that your aunt cooked your pet.
I saw that Oprah episode about the pig. They must be really smart animals.
Eric, this is really nice. I kept wondering at the start why you would call your aunt evil if she gave you something that she thought would be better after that bite from the dog (i'm scared of barking dogs too by the way since i've been bitten 3 times already)that is until your father told you you'll take breakfast somewhere... so sorry!!! Was she really that mean or just plain insensitive???
I love Babe the movie. Just thinking of it makes me smile and how the 3 mice were telling the story was nice too (they were mice, right?). Sometimes you wonder if they could really communicate since one time I was at my aunt for vacation, she caught a chicken which we were suppose to bring home, she placed it in a bamboo cage and I'm sure I saw the duck laughing at the chicken (bad duck, laughing at the misfortune of others!)
I still don't think it was just my imagination. she was really chuckling... oh well, maybe they do laugh at us and at life... okay, your post has been long ago but i was only able to read it now. :-)
- Senor Enrique said...
My aunt was actually a sweet unmarried woman. She loved kids so much she adopted and raised two. She also loved animals, and that was why she had quite a collection during her younger days. She was also my father's favorite sister and helped her a lot with her home-based enterprises.
In writing this memoir, I had to put on the voice and speak from a perspective of a young child that I was then when it happened -- a technique I learned from watching French and Italian films while in NYC.
"Babe" is one of those movies I never get tired of watching again and again whenever shown on TV.
- aurea said...
Wow, that was traumatic. Good thing your father was thoughtful enough to whisk you away. Imagine how bad it would be for you to see your pet pig on the breakfast table!
I also love the movie "Babe." It's very clever for a kids' movie.
- Senor Enrique said...
My father would have never wanted to see me devastated by it, Aurea. He was the one who taught me the virtue of caring well for my pets.
I think I've already read the story in a book. I enjoyed reading it and I feel sorry for the pig.
- Senor Enrique said...
Strange, if allowed, I'd probably get a pet pig now. They're actually quite smart.
Are you serious, Anonymous? Would you remember what book and publisher? Some of my entries have been reposted in other blogs (most with my knowledge and consent), but being published in a book? Whoa!
[sigh]This is pretty much like what happened to my pet.Except he was a guinea pig and was left to roast in the sun.When i came home,i found him outside all burnt.I cried for hours,and im still not completly over it!I also had a pig when i was young.But somebody stole him!:(
I have been reading your blogs for days now and I really loved the way you tell stories about your childhood. They remind me of my young, happy and carefree days in a far flung barrio in Negros. And this particular story about your pet pig reminded me of a smiliar story my grandma once told me, about her per pig name Darigold who wgoes with her whenever she went. And it ended just like your story.