When I was younger, in every Christmas or New Year’s celebration, I always insisted on putting apple in the lechon’s mouth. My father’s explanation for why he found my suggestion foolish was quite simple: only rich people did it. Also, an apple would surely not go with a lechon wrapped not in foil but in corrugated cardboard cut from old boxes of cigarettes. It was far from the “ideal” preparation and presentation.

Growing old, I discovered several explanations for why we put an apple in a lechon’s mouth. Most prominent was that no one wants to look at the ugly snout of a pig, its mouth wide open to expose its tongue. It’s basically to beautify a disgusting animal. I wanted to tell my father this, but I was sure he was going to tell me we could barely afford the spices for a lechon and we bother ourselves buying an apple? With or without it, it would taste the same. To beautify a disgusting animal is just some rich person’s rhetoric.

I remembered my father when days ago I read the news of a man reprimanded for having roasted five pigs despite their area being at risk of African Swine fever. The sanitation and preparation of his lechon was also questioned, for he apparently did not complete the paper works needed to be allowed such business. Insofar as rules are concerned, the arguments of the reprimanding officer were understandable, but I could not help seeing the desolation and despair in the man’s face as he was told to either dispose of what he had prepared or take them for their own consumption instead of selling them. It was his only source of livelihood.

I felt the same thing when hours before new year, Divisoria vendors were arrested under the directive of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno. Their stalls dismantled, their only sources of subsistence being seized, the vendors could only beg to be spared of the clearing operation. This has been going on since Isko Moreno’s term and at the surface level, his intentions may be sound: he wants citizens to be disciplined, to maintain cleanliness. It was no different from putting an apple in a lechon’s ugly snout.

However, is it the most effective response to the poor’s desperate attempt of surviving a miserable condition they did not choose to have? They may be undisciplined, unsanitary, unruly, or disruptive, but are these who they really are or are these the effect of the government’s failure to create an environment for which the aforementioned attributes are unnecessary? Only a man desperate for survival would risk roasting a pig amidst a viral infection or sell on the sidewalk despite knowing its repercussions. The more important question is, why is it called the lack of discipline when the poor desires to earn money for their sustenance but not when some big businessman excessively amasses wealth that is obviously inessential for his survival? It is so easy to put the blame on the vulnerable, for they can conveniently be apprehended, but it is so difficult to start a systemic change, especially when the radical overhaul essential to realize such change would hurt the rich.

The start of another year might mean hoping for brighter days, letting go of preceding problems, improving for the year ahead. But for the underprivileged, it would just be another same year of trying to survive – like a task without ending. They can only hope for better services, an improved system that does not ignore them, rules that are not void of empathy. As of now, they need to endure an undesirable condition. And no apples could conceal it.(davaotoday.com)

comments powered by Disqus