The best le­chon is Marinduque’s na­tive black pig

Agriculture - - Contents -

IT IS A WELL-KNOWN FACT among le­choneros (pig roast­ers) in La Loma, the le­chon cap­i­tal of the Philip­pines, that the best pig to roast are the na­tive black pigs of Marinduque. Be­cause of the big de­mand for this na­tive swine, the Marinduque State Col­lege (MSC) Tor­ri­jos Branch is prop­a­gat­ing it to meet the re­quire­ments of the roasted pig mar­ket in Metro Manila.

There is no bet­ter in­di­ca­tor of a se­ri­ously good party than a whole le­chon (roast pig). For cen­turies, le­chon has been the hall­mark of the no holds-barred cel­e­bra­tion. It is a time­honored in­di­ca­tor of so­cial sta­tus and gen­eros­ity in the Philip­pines. One of the largest sources of this del­i­cacy is in La Loma, Que­zon City.

The word le­chon orig­i­nated from the Span­ish term leche (milk), al­lud­ing to the im­ma­tu­rity of the piglet. In the Philip­pines, it has now come to re­fer to roasted pig in gen­eral. Suck­ling pigs are re­ferred to as le­chon de leche, which cor­re­sponds to co­chinil­loasado in Spain. A suck­ling pig is slaugh­tered be­tween ages six weeks to two months. The tex­ture of the meat can be some­what gelati­nous due to amount of col­la­gen in a young pig.

Le­chon is a pop­u­lar food not only in the Philip­pines, but also in the for­mer Span­ish colonies like Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Do­mini­can Repub­lic, and in the non-Mus­lim North Su­lawesi prov­ince of In­done­sia.

Le­chon is pre­pared through­out the year for many spe­cial oc­ca­sions, dur­ing fes­ti­vals, and the hol­i­days. Marinduque’s na­tive black pig is the most pre­ferred swine by le­choneros in the le­chon epi­cen­ter of La Loma in Metro Manila be­cause of its crispy skin when roasted and lean and tasty meat.

After sea­son­ing the pig, it is cooked by skew­er­ing the en­tire an­i­mal, en­trails re­moved, on a large stick and roast­ing it in a pit filled with char­coal. It is roasted on all sides for sev­eral

hours un­til done. The process of cook­ing and bast­ing usu­ally re­sults in crisp pork skin, which is a dis­tinc­tive fea­ture of le­chon.

“The Philip­pines has four en­demic species of wild pigs,” ex­plains Dr. Arnolfo M. Mon­leon, cam­pus direc­tor of the Marinduque State Col­lege Tor­ri­jos. “These are the Visayan warty pig ( Susceb­ifrons), the Philip­pine warty pig ( Sus­philipenen­sis), Oliver warty pig ( Su­so­liv­eri), and the Palawan bearded pig ( Su­sa­noeno­bar­bus),” he con­tin­ues. “Marinduque is the cen­ter of (prop­a­ga­tion) of Sus philip­pe­nen­sis, with a sub-species Sus marinduquen­sis. “Marinduque has a swine pop­u­la­tion of 3,000 sows.”

A male na­tive pig has a well-built body, with a coarse, thick black color coat. It has elon­gated snout, small ears and eyes. It is mostly feed on leaves, roots, tu­bers and other veg­e­ta­tion by mak­ing use of their mov­able snouts to dig the ground for their food. Its snout is used for their ex­cel­lent sense of smell. Un­like the im­pres­sion of many, pigs are very clean an­i­mals. They make sure their toi­let area is far away from where they eat, lie down, and rest, even a piglet will find a place to go to the toi­let far away from where they rest. They have a life­span of nine to 15 years.

At the nu­cleus farm at the Tor­ri­jos Branch of MSC, the pop­u­la­tion of na­tive pigs is 186, with 17 sows, nine of whom are preg­nant and the rest are boars, piglets, and grow­ers.

“Here, we feed the pigs with trichan­thera leaves,” says Mon­leon. “Na­tive to Colom­bia and Venezuela in South Amer­ica, it’s a shrub growing up to five me­ters and is cul­ti­vated as an an­i­mal fod­der and is fed to pigs, ducks and rab­bits,” he adds. Its leaves are rel­a­tively rich in pro­tein.

“Trichan­thera can re­place about 20 to 30 per cent of the com­mer­cial diet of growing pigs. Six kilo­grams of fresh leaves con­sumed by the pigs per day is equiv­a­lent to one kilo­gram of mixed feeds saved,” con­cludes Mon­leoan.

So, next time you bite a crunchy piece of skin of le­chon, for sure the roasted pig was a na­tive black pig from Marinduque, ge­o­graph­i­cally the heart of the ar­chi­pel­ago and the ori­gin of the tasty le­chon you are eat­ing.

Na­tive pigs feed­ing on Trichan­thera leaves. Trichan­thera (right) can re­place about 20 to 30 per­cent of the com­mer­cial diet of growing pigs. Six kilo­grams of fresh leaves con­sumed by the pigs per day is equiv­a­lent to one kilo­gram of mixed feeds saved.

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