Upon entering, the very first sense that will be stimulated, in a vastly understated use of the word, will be one’s sense of smell. In the beginning, your nose already has the barrage of aromas that Payatas offers to grapple with and the additional volley of smell coming from the animals creates an almost palpable atmosphere. To put things into context: I chose to observe backyard hog raisers in Payatas as my fieldwork for Sociology and Anthropology. As it happens, I have weekly area insertions into Payatas Dos so I was quite familiar with the smell and some parts of the community. Recently however, I was assigned to a manner of market research in hog raising and among the contacts presented to me were backyard raisers in the Payatas area, Molave in particular. Since it was a very new experience for me and given the proximity of the locale to my own area in Payatas, I decided to go along with this particular activity.
I met up with Ms. Regie Elefan, my contact, at around two in the afternoon at the waiting shed at Majaas, the place where our group usually gets off our fourth jeep from Ateneo to get to our families. She was a former hog raiser who was now the Sibol coordinator for the Gawad Kalinga community in Molave. Sir Nonong Velasco, Ateneo Alumni coordinator for GK Molave, referred her to me for the market research. We started off in familiar territory but when I thought I already knew Dos, I was sorely mistaken. She led me deeper than the collection of houses that we usually visit towards a creek I did not even know existed. It was a scene straight out of a postcard, a bubbling brook passing through a canopy of trees overhead, with just two things out of place; the amount of trash floating downstream and the shanties that pervaded on either side of the creek. Walking further, we reached a small cluster of low-lying shelters built together like a compound of corrugated tin and cement. I thought nothing of it until Ate Regie brought me to a cramped entrance going downwards into an almost zero-visibility area. As my eyes were still growing accustomed to the dark, I could already smell the pigs dwelling inside. I could tell it was their particular smell because they did not smell of the Payatas garbage that I was used to. Squeals and grunts also greeted my arrival. When I could finally see, I could make out the divisions and “cells” that housed many different kinds of pigs of varying sizes, ages, coloring, and so on.
Frankly speaking, it was not the kind of operation I was expecting. I’ve always imagined livestock raising, even of the backyard variety, to require at least a nominally wide track of land under the sun. This 96 sq. meter facility that could house almost 100 pigs was astounding for me, to say the least. As I floundered about in the darkness, Ate Regie and two of the local hog raisers who were staying at the pens explained the mechanics of their operation, their business profiles, and so on. I also learned that going into backyard hog raising is not as steady as one might think. Aside from the varying prices you may get from negotiating with customers given the lack of “formality” in the business, disease also comes seasonally as the great destroyer, erasing whole batches and, given the close proximity of pig operations to one another, the contagions are sure to spread.
Fortuitously, during the time that I arrived, a new batch of piglets was being suckled. Hog raisers should always keep a close watch during this period because a lot of dangers were present for the fragile investments. I was going to ask to participate in taking care of the piglets however as I motioned towards the big sow, it suddenly bucked and squealed and the neighboring cell, containing two pigs, suddenly broke out in a fight. The resident hog keepers, taking this all into stride, simply raised their voices to calm the animals and hurriedly went over the piglets to make sure they were okay. In the midst of the commotion, the mother stepped on a piglet however after a quick diagnosis, “wala namang pilay,” and it was deemed okay. Needless to say, I was a disruptive influence for the animals and it might be quite hazardous to attempt any interaction, especially in the presence of a new litter. The keepers themselves were not fazed much or scared of my interference, they were simply curious about my real motives for the visit. Truthfully, I was not very forthcoming about the real reasons for the market research for reasons undisclosed and I simply came in the wrappings of a study for school. In effect I was a curiosity for the community, and for the animals, as well.
by Tan, Christian 113843
Sir Labastilla SA 21 – P