Between El Nido and Coron: Tao Expeditions
Chapter Six: Killing Pigs
The method for killing what you eat, at least on this island, was to pierce the throat with a long spike and thrust it downwards to the heart.
I wanted to do it.
They brought the pig to the outdoor kitchen at the Tao Center. Two islanders held down the pig and another put a strap around its mouth pulling back its head for the kill. The pig shook, wept, squealed—he knew. He tried his best to jump and shake free. He discovered the movements of his body were no longer his own. His cries echoed through the island air reaching the shores and the seas beyond. On the second day, God’s voice hovered over the waters and created form from the void. On this day, the pig’s voice hovered over the waters and cursed the form.
I lost my nerve.
Earlier in the day, my shipmates and I enjoyed our coffee on the lower deck of the bangka. We heard pig cries and glanced humorously at each other. At first, I thought someone was playing a video on their phone. But, the cries were too persistent and no one on this trip was annoying enough to replay squealing pig videos early in the morning.
I walked around the bangka and found a pig —pig-tied—on the side deck. The boat swayed and heaved due to the waves from the distant typhoon. The rain was light, but cold, uncomfortably so for a tropical climate. There was no cover for the pig. His skin was exposed to the outside elements and his head rested uncomfortably on a wooden beam. The pig’s screams were only muffled by the constant foaming and vomiting from his mouth. The saying goes, “you look like a fish out of water,” but it’s much worse to be a pig out at sea.
The typhoon marooned us on the island for another night. We returned to camp and the pig returned home. He must have thought he had one more day to put his affairs in order until they fastened a rope around his mouth. He suffered the anticipation of two deaths in one day, more than enough for one lifetime.
His uncontrollable squealing turned me away. One girl, filled with tears, ran deep into the camp; she could not escape his cries. To my surprise, only one of the Americans watched the slaughter. The French, with their beautiful language and sophisticated culture, were the most ardent observers. Europeans will always be more adept at accepting the nuances of life than Americans.
Later, I asked Javoni, our expedition leader, if it surprised him to watch westerners act horrified from the killing of an animal they eat all the time. He told me it did. He explained that in the islands they always kill what they eat; it’s simply part of life.
With this statement of truth, I realized he could always kill the pig I eat and remain more innocent. Humans are the victims of a universe of harsh conditions, physical laws, and the need to survive. The problem is not abiding by this reality like the local islanders, but the dissociation from it. Killing the food we eat will always be nobler than dissociating meat from animals.
Steak. Bacon. Sausage. Ham. Hamburger. Bologna. Kebab. Salami.
Fried. Broiled. Pan-seared. Grilled.
I expected more blood. Roy, who we toasted later that night with pineapple juice and rum, lay prone on his belly with a hole in his throat. His eyes were empty. His body twitched violently —the last fleeting remnants of his life.
They cleaned Roy. Ironically, a shipmate named Angus, shaved Roy with a knife. They cut Roy into neat little pieces —the transformation of beast, living creature, to food.
Later that night, we ate Roy. His meat was tasteless and fat. I’m unsure how pig meat becomes so lean after processing back home. More than likely, I don’t want to know.
Levi, the only Kosher among us, enjoyed a lean serving of bony fish, rice, and fresh vegetables with a delicious Filipino variation of soy sauce. I tried his food. It tasted better, felt cleaner, and was more fulfilling. I doubt Levi is a fervent practitioner of his faith, but he, like many others, carry on certain practices and customs honoring his traditions and heritage. Nevertheless, the legalistic religion of Judaism, with its seemingly irrelevant and infinite number of laws for the modern world, was absolute truth on this night —nothing good came from killing and eating a pig.
However, my brief state of enlightenment quickly fell victim to my physical needs, routine, and convenience.
We ate another pig the next day for New Year’s. The following day, we ate what remained of the pig. The fatty cuts of flesh tasted better with sauce.